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October 22, 2014

Council in small Minn. town votes to ban drones in city airspace

The city council in the Hennepin County town of St. Bonifacius may be one of the first in Minnesota to officially restrict the use of unmanned aerial drones, Don Heinzman writes in The Elk River Star News.

The new ordinance prohibits the use of drones within the city’s airspace, without a warrant, except in cases in which immediate death or serious injury exists, the Star News reports.

And city leaders in the burg of 2,800 about 30 miles southwest of the Twin Cities want state and federal leaders to set some new rules, too. The council called on Congress and Minnesota lawmakers to ban from state and federal courts any evidence obtained unlawfully from the use of drones.

The use of drones both as a weapon of war and in the U.S. has sparked widespread debate as the technology evolves. Drone strikes against foreign nations have become a controversial topic, and debate rose to a boil during the confirmation of CIA chief John Brennan.

But domestic use has city and state leaders fretting, too. USA Today on Thursday picked up the story of Rancho Mirage, Calif., which was poised to be the first city in the state to ban drones, although the council delayed a vote, the Desert Sun reports. That proposal would even ban hobbyist use of remote-controlled “recreational” drones that can hover with cameras over neighbors’ backyards.

Lawmakers in Texas are among those proposing new state laws to curb the use of the electronic surveillance devices.

The ACLU is among the groups that have raised concerns about government use of drones in the U.S. The group released a report two years ago that concluded that safeguards were needed to protect citizens’ privacy.

Forbes offers this primer on the legal, privacy and policy implications of drone use.