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Senate panel passes bill governing use of drones by police

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 10:53 p.m. MDT

In this Jan. 31, 2010 file photo, an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, on a moon-lit night. A Senate committee endorsed a bill Tuesday that would govern how police use drones for surveillance. (Kirsty Wigglesworth, File, Associated Press) In this Jan. 31, 2010 file photo, an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, on a moon-lit night. A Senate committee endorsed a bill Tuesday that would govern how police use drones for surveillance. (Kirsty Wigglesworth, File, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate committee endorsed a bill Tuesday that would govern how police use drones for surveillance.

SB167 prohibits Utah law enforcement from gathering information using an unmanned aerial vehicle without a search warrant supported by probable cause. The bill also creates requirements for storage, retention and disposal of data collected by drones.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said the legislation is needed to protect people's privacy. As technology advances and becomes more available, the state needs to ensure people aren't the subject of unlawful searches and seizures.

The measure requires the Utah Department of Public Safety to report its use of drones annually to the Legislature, including the number of times drones were used, the nature of the investigations, data gathered and cost.

Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires told the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee that he supports the bill. Squires said he appreciates the guidelines it would put in place.

Stephenson said the law would not hinder the development and manufacturing of drones, which is a budding industry in Utah.

The committee passed the bill unanimously. It now goes to the Senate floor.

— Dennis Romboy

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