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Pierce County looks to keep drones grounded

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droneTACOMA — Pierce County Councilman Dan Roach fears unmanned drones could soon fly past their legal boundaries and violate residents’ privacy.

Roach, R-Bonney Lake, is concerned that drones will be used without a search warrant, giving branches of government such as Pierce County’s Planning and Land Services Department the ability to fly drones over private property and look for unpermitted buildings and sheds, for example. Those with unpermitted structure could be fined by the agency, all without a human ever seeing the building first-hand.

It’s these potential intrusions that Roach wants to guard against. According to the Tacoma News Tribune, Roach moved to allow drone use only with a search warrant or other judicial authority at a Pierce County Council planning committee meeting.

“You can fly a drone over a person’s property and you have no privacy,” Roach told the News Tribune.

Currently, no Pierce County agencies — including the sheriff’s department — operate any drones. Officials told the News Tribune there were no plans to obtain any. But, Roach still sees legislation and restrictions on drones as necessary.

Last week, the Pierce County Public Safety and Human Services Committee voted to limit drone use. The measure called the “freedom from unwarranted surveillance” would allow the legal use of drones, but not allow the aircraft to gather evidence of illegal conduct. The full county council will take a vote on restrictions later this month, the News Tribune reported.

Roach’s mother, Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, recently bought a drone with her own money. She flew the drone over a family reunion, the News Tribune reported, and played the recordings simultaneously on an iPad.

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