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Regulating Drones in California: State Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Padilla Bill

Senator Alex PadillaSACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 15 by California Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima). SB 15 would establish standards for the domestic use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as “drones.” The federal government has taken action to accelerate both the public and commercial deployment of drones in U.S. airspace.

Some of the commercial applications being proposed for drones include advertising, pipeline and farm fence inspection, traffic monitoring, real estate photography and crop dusting. Some public safety agencies envision using drones for search and rescue operations, hostage situations, and forest fire suppression and inspection. The Federal Aviation Administration is projecting that the number of commercial drones in U.S. airspace could exceed 10,000 by 2020.

“When it comes to domestic drones being deployed in such large numbers, I believe there is legitimate reason for concern about privacy, civil liberties and public safety. We need clear guidelines in place that protect Californians from surreptitious surveillance activities. SB 15 establishes both civil and criminal penalties for operators who would use a drone to violate an individual’s privacy rights,” said Senator Padilla. “SB 15 also prohibits affixing a weapon to a drone or containing a weapon within a drone in California,” Padilla said.

“The pace at which government reacts to developments in science and technology is often too slow. Far too often, technology is deployed before issues such as privacy and safety are considered. While public and privately operated drones may have legitimate applications in areas such as agriculture, scientific research, forestry and law enforcement, such systems present new challenges to the privacy and due process rights of all Californians,” Padilla said.

Drones have come to the public’s attention during the last several years through their use by various governmental agencies in the war on terror. They range in size from model aircraft to semi-automated aircraft that contain sophisticated command and control and data recording systems capable of operating within the National Airspace System. They can be fitted with cameras and sensors and collect data across a broad range of electromagnetic spectrum, both within and beyond the range of the human eye.

Recently, the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued its first national advisory on the use of unmanned aircraft by local law enforcement, and urged that the aircraft not be armed.

Senator Alex Padilla (http://dist20.casen.govoffice.com/), 40, graduated from MIT with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He currently serves on the Board of MIT and as President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. He is Chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee and represents the more than 1,100,000 residents of the 20th State Senate District which includes most of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.

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“When it comes to domestic drones being deployed in such large numbers, I believe there is legitimate reason for concern about privacy, civil liberties and public safety. We need clear guidelines in place that protect Californians from surreptitious surveillance activities,” says Padilla.

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