Senate rejects bill to limit drones in Louisiana

by Patrick Flanagan

A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.

Sen. Dan Claitor's proposal would have made it illegal to use drones to photograph people on private property without their permission, with a list of exceptions, including for law enforcement.

Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said his bill would protect privacy, keeping people and government from snooping in backyards without cause.

"It prohibits you from doing with a drone what you wouldn't do with your feet. You wouldn't dream of going into my backyard without my permission," he said.

But senators raised concerns that the bill could ban useful services that can be carried out by drones, such as coastal-land-loss surveying.

The Senate voted 21-15 against the proposal Monday.

Claitor could try to revive the measure at a later date. He described the bill, which was modeled on a Texas law, as a method for keeping technological advancements in check.

"If we just put our hands in our pockets and ignore this issue, we're going to have a problem," Claitor said.

Claitor's proposal would prohibit the use of unmanned aircraft to conduct surveillance on a person or private property and the possession or distribution of an image captured through such surveillance. That includes photos, sounds or other information recorded by a drone.

The measure includes a list of exceptions, including for the military, mapping purposes and maintenance of utility services. Law enforcement agencies could use drones if they have a search warrant, are documenting a crime scene or are searching for a missing person.

The Louisiana Press Association had raised concerns the bill would restrict news coverage, but efforts to carve out a specific exemption for the media failed to gain support before the bill was killed.

The Senate has backed a more limited proposal to prohibit drones from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other areas that are considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.

That bill, by Sen. Mack "Bodi" White, R-Baton Rouge, awaits debate in a House committee. It includes exemptions for government officials and property owners.