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Drones Over Florida: What Do You Think?

The state is eyeing legislation that would limit the use of unmanned drones in the skies over Florida. Is it the right move?

Imagine sitting in your living room as a government drone silently monitors your activities from the skies above. Stealthily it records the information it sees and sends it to local law enforcement – or worse yet – your homeowners’ association.

That’s an eventuality that some Florida lawmakers are trying to prevent.

With several law enforcement agencies in the state already using unmanned drones for surveillance, lawmakers fear their use will become more commonplace, infringing on the privacy rights of everyday citizens.

"These issues are about boundaries and there is a line to be drawn," State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Naples, told the Orlando Sentinel. Negron is the sponsor of the Freedom for Unwarranted Surveillance Act, which made it through a panel of senators earlier this week. "You have to draw the line somewhere and so where I draw the line is having these unmanned drones hovering in the sky and potentially visualizing hundreds of these in the air over Florida at any given moment, just surveilling law-abiding Floridians."

Law enforcement agencies in Miami and Orange County already use the unmanned aircraft for surveillance purposes. While Largo’s Raytheon makes drones and has been the site of a protest against their use, the Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough county sheriff’s offices say they do not presently use drones and have no plans to do so.

Even so, Negron fears misuse of drones in Florida if something isn’t done to limit use now. The bill he’s introduced would still allow law enforcement to use drones when a judge has issued a search warrant or if there are extreme circumstances, such as a hostage crisis. It would prohibit homeowners’ associations and code enforcement agencies from using them.

The use of drones by government agencies, especially the military, has come under fire in recent months.

Here’s what we’d like to know from you, Tampa Bay: Do you think drones have a place in law enforcement? Or is Negron right to try and limit their use here in Florida? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Michael D. January 22, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Walter, Well instead of paying 2 or 3 cops to cover the hours in the day you have a sunk cost of one drone. It last more than a year, it has already paid for itself.
michael mirra January 23, 2013 at 05:29 PM
I do have a don't care attitude, like Susan. What do I give a crap? If it helps keep more law breakers from their endeavors, it's no skin off my butt. If it helps the military kill more of the enemy without having to risk more American soldiers from being shot down, I'm all for it. Like the Government hasn't always been spying on you? Wake up. The government has had the ability to spy on whoever they want for decades. Whether it is, or was legal just made a difference whether they did it secretly, or not. Piloted planes kill people all the time, right or wrong. Now people don't have to risk getting shot out of the sky. One guy said he wanted to practice his long distance shooting skills. I hope he doesn't get caught downing a government plane. He might find himself in prison for a heck of a long time if his aim is good. I wonder if 10-20 years of incarceration would seem worth it?
michael mirra January 23, 2013 at 05:34 PM
Also, if they shoot it down & it land on someone's house killing someone, it would a be manslaughter, at least. Murder by careless endangerment? Let someone shoot one down & we will see what they do to the shooter.
LEL January 23, 2013 at 07:18 PM
As the President of a Homeowners Association I couldn't stop laughing over this one. Please, please let me be elected to any Board that can afford a Drone. I also loved the comment about Republicans. Yes, we are all evil, aren't we? -LEL
LT January 27, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Nova had a truly fascinating program devoted to drones. For those of you that may have missed the program here is an opportunity to better understand where we are and what the future holds. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/rise-of-the-drones.html

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