Task Force Starts Work On New State Drone Regulations in Wash.

Jun 30, 2014

Imagine looking out your window to see a drone hovering outside. That happened earlier this month to a partially-dressed Seattle woman who was startled and outraged. That incident came up Monday as a Washington state task force convened for the first time to develop privacy rules for drones – something Oregon and Idaho have already done. The Washington task force quickly narrowed its focus.

A Washington state task force convened for the first time Monday to develop privacy rules for drones.
Credit Chris Lehman / Northwest News Network

That focus is on government agency use of drones. Back in April, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed the Washington Legislature's first attempt to regulate in this space. He then convened this task force.

It's now making another attempt to strike a balance between privacy protection and cost-efficient aerial data collection for jobs like counting elk or monitoring an oil spill. Mitch Barker of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs is law enforcement's representative on the panel. He fears a rulemaking "quagmire."

"We can fly to wildlife, but if we happen to see somebody murdering their wife at a campsite, we can't use that,” said Barker. “It becomes very difficult for us."

Washington's drone task force is mindful that the Federal Aviation Administration is already in the midst of writing rules for commercial drone operations.

Last year the Oregon Legislature passed a measure to limit police use of drones for surveillance. The Idaho Legislature approved a broader ban against photographing or recording over private property without the owner's consent.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network