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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: July 7, 2015 04:36 PM
From: Senator Mike Folmer
To: All Senate members
Subject: Drone Moratorium
The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

I fear these rights are threatened by 21st Century technology – in particular, drones: any powered aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expandable or recoverable and can carry lethal or nonlethal payload. Drones can be used for a variety of different purposes – including surveillance.

The use of drone technology has raised a myriad of constitutional issues across the United States and many states have introduced legislation to limit, ban, or place a moratorium on the use of drones until these issues can be properly vetted.

Shortly, I plan to introduce legislation calling for a moratorium in Pennsylvania: specifically, the ability of state and local government agencies – including law enforcement – to fly drones over any Commonwealth municipality before July 1, 2017 (i.e., two years). In the case that one of these entities would require the use of a drone a warrant must be issued. There would also be situations that would be exempt from requiring a warrant in case of an emergency such as: Amber Alerts, Search and Rescue, and National Guard training exercises, in all cases prohibiting armed drones.

Thank you.

Introduced as SB971