Florida’s state Senate is close to passing legislation that would ban Floridians from using UAVs for surveillance–but provisions in the act create broad exceptions for law enforcement who have search warrants and are dealing with “emergency situations.” The Miami Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Department were among the first in the nation to purchase surveillance drones after the FAA gave the green light for law enforcement to use UAVs. Florida Sen. Joe Negron (R-Naples) is sponsoring the Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act, which in its original form prohibited Florida law enforcement from using drones for any purposes. The loopholes for warrants and “emergency situations” were made following pressure from law enforcement lobbyists; in statements, Negron said he feared that low-cost drones could be purchased by homeowners’ associations for code enforcement purposes.
“Drones are fine to kill terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they shouldn’t be hovering in the sky, monitoring Floridians–that’s not something we believe is an appropriate role for government,” Negron said in a statement. UAVs have rapidly declined in cost over the past two years, with warzone-tested technology making its way (sans weapons) to the United States. Aerial photography drones with a $100 list price are currently under development, and UAVs are becoming increasingly common for real estate photography.