November 26, 2014

State regulations for drones now under consideration in Iowa Senate

It appears the Iowa Senate’s approach to regulating drones may be far narrower than the plan outlined in a bill that cleared the Iowa House in late February.

A three-member Senate subcommittee has advanced an alternative that businesses say will give them more flexibility to use “unmanned aerial vehicles” to do things like check wind turbine blades. Marc Beltrame , a lobbyist for the Nationwide insurance company and the Agribusiness Association of Iowa, said his clients favor the narrower approach.

“I think any time you have new technology that comes on the scene in society, there’s sometimes a tendency to want to jump to conclusions and over-regulate because of unwarranted fears and misinformation,” Beltrame said.

Fred Haskins, an insurance industry lobbyist, said the approach House Republicans crafted was a bit like “conducting a meeting of the ‘Flat Earth Society.'”

“There is a privacy issue, but to propose a straightjacket right now seems like a mistake,” Haskins said after the subcommittee meeting.

Senator Rich Taylor, a Democrat from Mount Pleasant, told reporters the senate’s goal — just like the House — is to protect the citizens of Iowa from unwanted attention and from “overzealous” law enforcement.

“We’ve got this new technology, you know, and they could possibly abuse it a little bit,” Taylor said, “and this will protect everybody and should make everybody feel pretty secure in their own homes and on their own property.”

The House bill would ban the flying of drones over private property to record video or take pictures unless the owner permits it.  Both the House bill and the developing Senate approach would force law enforcement to get warrants to use drones when collecting evidence for criminal cases.  A senate committee may discuss the issue later today.