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Proposed Florida bills to regulate law enforcement UAVs

Proposed bills regulating unmanned air vehicle use by US law enforcement agencies have been filed with legislative subcommittees in the state of Florida.

The bills would restrict the use of UAVs by law enforcement agencies by only being approved by a judge under a formal warrant. Specific exceptions are to be made for terrorism investigations or if "swift action is needed to prevent imminent danger". The bills further state that evidence gathered in violation of such terms would be inadmissible in court.

Small UAVs are used by the Miami-Dade Police Department, one of the few departments to have received blanket authorisations from the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Although passed unanimously by the Florida senate's Committee on Criminal Justice, at least four committees and subcommittees remain before consideration by the full Senate. The Florida House version must also endure a similar treatment.

Several other police departments in the USA are flying small UAVs with authorisation from the FAA. Once formal rules have been established, many more are likely to adopt the aircraft for surveillance.

Rules surrounding domestic UAV use are unclear and remain untested by the court system, which must balance rights to privacy with the new technology.

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