Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tennessee Tries to Insulate Itself from the Coming of the Drones

In May, 2013, the legislature in Tennessee passed the "Freedom of Unwarranted Surveillance Act."

According to "Tennessee Becomes Latest State To Limit Drone Flights, Citing Fourth Amendment" in the Mint Press News,

Several exceptions are granted in the Tennessee law, allowing the federal government to fly drones in order “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States secretary of homeland security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is such a risk.”

State and local law enforcement agencies are still allowed to fly drones for surveillance purposes, but must first obtain a search warrant signed by a judge in order to do so. Only in cases “to prevent imminent danger to life” such as a terrorist attack, are police allowed to forgo the warrant approval process.

Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss
According to news reports, an important figure in limiting drone use in Tennessee was Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, sponsor of the bill. Van Huss is an ex-Marine and based his opposition to drone use in Tennessee in part on his service experience. “They are very useful against the bad guys and I don’t want them to be very useful against the good guys, American citizens,” Van Huss said. (See "Veteran seeks to limit police drones in Tennessee," Times Free Press)

In spring, 2014, the law firm Bone McAllester Norton PLLC set up a group within its law firm to focus on the "unique regulatory and legal issues" related to the use of drones in Tennessee. (See "Law firm first in Tennessee to target drones" in The Tennessean)

As is the case in other agricultural states, there is increasing talk of use of drones for agricultural purposes in Tennessee. (See "Tennessee Farmers Shown The Potential In Drones, But Told To Hold Off Using Them" from Nashville Public Radio)

Meanwhile, Savannah, TN, has been designated in the Department of Defense Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability (April 2012), as one of the approximately 100 U.S. basing sites for drones. Savannah has been designated specifically for the Scan Eagle, a small scale surveillance drone.

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