You are here
Lawmaker pushing tweak to drones law
One last adjustment is needed to state law governing the use of aerial drones by law enforcement, according to a Bismarck Republican lawmaker.
A short bill introduced by Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, would amend a law, passed in the previous legislative session, so it would eliminate the possibility for law enforcement to use nonlethal weapons installed on a drone.
The 2015 legislation had left the door open for that possibility; Becker says this would close that option.
Becker said, after passage of the bill he sponsored in 2015, he caught flak from national media for what he said was spun as North Dakota becoming the “first state to allow weaponized drones."
He said law enforcement had wanted the less-than-lethal weapons option to be kept available, something he didn’t want.
Drone legislation is an old friend for Becker, who was elected in 2012. In the 2013 session, his first attempt at drone regulation failed due to concerns over the fledgling unmanned aerial systems technology and the push to get the University of North Dakota as one of six national testing sites through the Federal Aviation Administration.
UND later gained designation as a test site; in 2015, Becker’s intent was to close any gray areas in the use of drones.
“They have no intention of using weaponized drones,” Becker said of his conversations with law enforcement on the matter.
Rep. Pat Heinert, R-Bismarck, said he’s somewhat hesitant about supporting removing the ability for nonlethal weapon use.
“We’re still at a very, very early stage with drones right now,” Heinert said.
Heinert, who’s also Burleigh County sheriff, said the department purchased a drone in October. It’s been used at a few crime scenes as well as for response to a fatal car crash in the county in October.
“It’s great documentation for crime scenes,” Heinert said.
No hearing date has yet been set for HB1167.
(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or email@example.com.)