MN Lawmaker Wants Limits on 'Spies in the Sky' Drones

Updated: 06/03/2013 8:32 PM By: Jay Kolls

Drones, or unmanned aircraft, will soon be used by some Minnesota police agencies and a state lawmaker wants limits on their use.

State Senator, Sean Nienow, (R) Cambridge, tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the drones are a useful tool for investigators, but their use has to be justified and guarantee the protection of privacy for law-abiding citizens. Senator Nienow introduced a bill that would limit, but not ban, the use of drones for evidence gathering purposes.

Senator Nienow's bill would require a court-ordered search warrant before drones could be used on surveillance or evidence gathering missions. Nienow says other exceptions would include the hunt for terrorists and if there was an imminent threat to life, or property. But, there are some critics of the bill at the state Capitol who say Nienow's bill is not needed right now. And, they say, the use of unmanned aircraft helps keep police safer on the ground.

State Representative, Dan Schoen, (DFL) St. Paul Park, is a Cottage Grove Police officer. He tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the bill is a "solution in search of a problem." Representative Schoen says existing search and seizure laws are already in place and will adequately protect the privacy of law-abiding citizens when police agencies across Minnesota start using drones on a regular basis. Law enforcement prefer the drones because they are easier and cheaper to use than helicopters, or airplanes. Only one Minnesota police agency has asked permission to by drones, but has not yet done so. The only drones in use over Minnesota are employed by Homeland Security near the Canadian border.