AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Domestic drones sound like the stuff of science fiction, but hobbyists are using them now. And there's a bill in the legislature to limit how law enforcement might use them.
Most people think of drones as military weapons, but commercial drones cost as little as $300 and can be as small as a child's toy airplane. A bill before the legislature would ban law enforcement from using drones without written consent or a warrant except in an emergency. The ACLU of Maine says the bill is necessary to protect Mainers' privacy.
ACLU of Maine executive director Shenna Bellows said, "We've seen it time and time again when legislators have failed to act around new technologies, individuals have found themselves with less privacy than before."
Law enforcement officials agree this is an important conversation to be having. But Lt. Col. Ray Bessette of the Maine State Police say his agency isn't aware of any law enforcement agencies in the state that have immediate plans to use drones. They'd like to do some research and work with lawmakers on a broader bill to govern all drone use. "We do believe there needs to be more discussion and a more comprehensive view of this issue for the state of Maine," Bessette said.
Domestic drones have become an issue on the national scene. Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to select 6 sites around the country to test whether air safety could be affected by drones. The agency has been ordered to integrate rules for drone use into the national airspace system by the end of September 2015.
A number of other states are considering bills around domestic drones as well.