A bill aimed at protecting Hawaii residents’ privacy rights from the potential abuse of unmanned aircraft, or drones, is dead.
The House committees on Transportation and Public Safety did not schedule a hearing for Senate Bill 2608, resulting in it missing the deadline last week to stay alive.
SB 2608 would have prohibited the use of drones, except by law enforcement agencies, to conduct surveillance, and attempted to establish certain conditions for law enforcement agencies when using the technology to obtain information.
It also would have required all law enforcement agencies using drones, as well as the courts, to be transparent in their use of the technology.
In a statement, Chairman of the Transportation Committee, Rep. Ryan I. Yamane, D-Mililani, Waipio Gentry, Waikele, said: “The House committees of Transportation and Public Safety have taken feedback from farmers, ranchers, citizens, law enforcement, universities from all over the state. There were various concerns and both committees are working with all the stakeholders on addressing those concerns with the federal government.”
Kurt Kendro, a major with the Traffic Division of the Honolulu Police Department, was among those opposed to the legislation.
He said his department eventually would like to use drones to investigate critical and fatal crashes and the bill, which would have required law enforcement agencies to acquire a search warrant before conducting any type of investigation, conflicted with that goal.
“Let’s say you have a crash on the Saddle Road. Somebody is dead, and body parts and cars are strewn across two lanes of traffic. We’d like to take aerial photographs of the accident and the bill is written in such an order that I would have to get a search warrant first,” he said.
“What I’m trying to do is get criminal evidence so I can help to open up the roads quicker. The bill would require a search warrant first. We think that’s unpractical.”
Although Kendro is opposed to SB 2608, he said some regulation of drone technology is needed.
“I believe it should be regulated,” he said.
Kendro said his department is waiting to see what happens in the Legislature and what directions and mandates the Federal Aviation Administration issues before adopting the technology.
“We’re waiting to see how the dust settles before we decide what our next step will be,” he said.
Sen. Clayton Hee, who represents Hawaii’s 23rd Senatorial District, introduced the bill. Hee did not return phone calls for comment on the status of SB 2608.
Recently, the FAA named Hawaii as one of six drone research sites in the U.S. The University of Hawaii at Hilo is currently working in conjunction with the proposed Hilo International Flight Training Center to develop a degree in Aeronautical Science, where a course on drone technology could be offered as soon as next year.
A spokesperson with the Hawaii Police Department said the agency does not have plans to use drones.
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