Washington Law Review


Legislating Agency Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Washington State

June 21, 2016 | 91 Wash. L. Rev. 887

Abstract: After years of hearing about “drone strikes” in the Middle East meant to kill terrorists that also kill and maim innocent civilians, Americans have legitimate concerns about the government’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) domestically. The public’s anxiety over law enforcement agency use of domestic UAVs stems from worries that UAVs will significantly invade citizens’ privacy. In an effort to allay these privacy concerns, state legislators, including those in Washington State, have introduced statutes aimed at curbing law enforcement agency use of UAVs. However, state legislators should carefully draft legislation to ensure that agencies not acting in a law enforcement capacity do not get lumped in with traditional law enforcement agencies. Agencies such as Department of Natural Resources, Department of Fish & Wildlife, and Department of Ecology have many cost-effective and beneficial uses for UAVs that would cause negligible risk to Washingtonians’ privacy rights. This Comment suggests statutory language that would allow citizens to reap the substantial benefits of UAVs for environmental and wildlife regulation while still protecting their privacy privileges from intrusion by law enforcement agencies.

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