Vermont Congressman Peter Welch and ACLU Vermont Executive Director Alan Gilbert used the Chittenden County Courthouse as the backdrop to express their concerns about the increasing domestic use of drones. Welch, a Democrat, said he will introduce legislation to assure privacy rights are not infringed as more and more law enforcement, businesses and private entities use the technology.
The FAA estimates that more than 30,000 drones will be approved for use in the U.S. in the next 20 years. Congressman Peter Welch says the vast majority of those unmanned aerial vehicles are expected to be used primarily by the private sector. Vermont’s at-large Congressman will introduce legislation next week that would require those using UAV’s to keep a public database of any collected information that could affect privacy rights. Welch said he is not trying to discourage appropriate use of the technology, but added there is an alarming capability for the aerial surveillance vehicles to intrude on privacy rights.
ACLU Vermont Executive Director Alan Gilbert said the legislation is a great bill that recognizes that new technologies can present new problems in protecting privacy rights.
Welch said the 4th Amendment must still apply during law enforcement use of drones. His legislation does call for law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants for drone use, except in special circumstances such as search and rescue operations.
While Welch said he was unaware of any current drone use in Vermont, the Gilbert pointed to a recent article in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus profiling a photography business to illustrate that commercial drones are being used in the state.
Welch said he has bipartisan support for his legislation.