Eye on the Sky: Local Group Looks to Regulate EC Drone Use
“To take up an ordinance without a concrete and immediate plan for using drone technology makes it very difficult to craft the proper language.” – Kerry Kincaid, on an ordinance that would place preemptive regulations on drones
Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a drone? That third option has been ruffling some feathers nationally as unmanned, flying objects have become cheaper and easier for local governments to use, which brings up lots of questions about citizen privacy. While the city of Eau Claire does not own any drones (and has no plans to purchase or use any in the near future), the Chippewa Valley ACLU Chapter wants to preemptively set some guidelines for the use of drones in the city. However, but the City Council has decided to wait until a need for such legislation arises. The Chippewa Valley ACLU – with help from the Wisconsin ACLU – authored an ordinance that would allow Eau Claire’s City Council to put laws on the books about when and how drones could to be acquired and used by the city government and within the city limits. The group is not against all drone use – in the ordinance, they outline a number of situations, such as time-is-of-the-essence emergencies, where drone use would be OK – but hope to protect local citizens’ rights to privacy. The ordinance was sent to City Council, but President Kerry Kincaid responded that she didn’t feel the ordinance was called for yet. “I understand the Chapter’s desire to prevent future infractions by passing an ordinance now, and everyone would agree that being vigilant in the protection of personal privacy is very important,” Kincaid said in a letter to the ACLU. “But, to take up an ordinance without a concrete and immediate plan for using drone technology makes it very difficult to craft the proper language.” Chippewa Valley ACLU President Stephanie Turner said the group will take another look at the issue at their August meeting and decide on the next course of action.