Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas warned on the House floor Tuesday that "the drones are coming," urging legislators to establish guidelines for their operation.
"Who will operate these drones, and what will be their mission?" he wondered. "Could it be a suspicious government agent who thinks someone looks kind of funny? The EPA bureaucrat to monitor somebody’s farm and watch Bessie the cow graze in the pasture? Or a nosy neighbor who wants to make sure someone’s shutters are pretty and the flowers don’t violate the homeowners’ association rules? Or could it be a legitimate and lawful and legal purpose of drones that doesn’t violate the right of privacy?"
The Federal Aviation Administration has currently authorized about 100 different entities to fly drones domestically. The number of law enforcement agencies and other entities authorized to use drones is expected to rapidly increase thanks to a FAA funding bill passed this year.
The FAA plans to allow for the deployment of privately-operated drones within the United States by 2015. Poe said that as many as 30,000 drones could be in operation by 2020.
"The Fourth Amendment limits government intrusion into our lives," he continued. "The Constitution limits eavesdropping, snooping, and spying on American citizens. While there are some legitimate uses for drones domestically, such as monitoring forest fires and floods and hurricanes, tracking an escaped bank robber, and other enforcement uses, it is up to Congress to limit their use so that the Fourth Amendment and the right of privacy are protected."
Poe introduced the Preserving American Privacy Act, which would prevent federal, state and local authorities from using drones to spy on Americans without a warrant. Similar legislation was proposed in the Senate by Rand Paul (R-KY) last month.
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube by Rep. Ted Poe, below: