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Eye On Boise

As Idaho pitches for drone biz, has to explain new law passed this year

States including Idaho have been jostling for attention at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI, convention in Washington, D.C. this week, looking for a piece of the drone business as the unmanned aircraft market balloons and states compete to become federal test sites. The group’s website calls it “THE global market place for all things unmanned,” and says 8,000 attendees from more than 40 countries are attending.

But while Ohio’s booth served Buckeye State-shaped cookies, Politico reports, and North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley personally pitched his state as a test site, Idaho’s delegation had to explain a graphic in the AUVSI magazine distributed at the conference showing Idaho as bright-red on a map, one of seven states that’s passed “anti-UAS bills.” Idaho’s delegation told Politico that was misinformation, and Idaho’s new legislation “ensures the taxpayers that the technology won’t be abused.”

The twice-amended bill, SB 1134, passed after much debate this legislative session. Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, it bans the use of unmanned drones to conduct surveillance or record or photograph “specifically targeted” persons or private property without their written consent, including for the purposes of publishing. The bill exempts drones used in mapping or resource management, law enforcement activity with a warrant, and emergency response for safety, search and rescue or controlled substance investigations; you can read the bill here. The governor signed it into law April 11, and it took effect July 1.

The Politico article says Idaho’s legislation may even be a selling point for the state in the test-site competition, showing that it’s wrestled with drone privacy questions at a state level.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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