Panel mulling state regulations for use of drones meets for first time

By Donna Gordon Blankinship
The Associated Press

SEATTLE — A government task force assigned to propose regulations for drone use in Washington state raised a wide variety of potential issues — from privacy to public information — at its first meeting in Olympia on Monday.

The first job of the task force will be to narrow its focus, said Chairman Michael Cockrill, Washington’s chief information officer.

He suggested the group use its four scheduled meetings to focus on government agency use of drones and the information they gather.

The task force was convened at the request of Gov. Jay Inslee when he vetoed in April a drone bill passed by the Legislature.

Inslee said he chose to veto the bill partly because he was worried it would restrict public access to government data.

The governor has put a ban on government agencies purchasing or using the new technology for the next year.

The task force has scheduled meetings to discuss the issue Aug. 11, Oct. 13 and Nov. 10.

New bill targeted

Their goal is to prepare a new bill to present to the Legislature before it meets again in January 2015.

Members of the task force include representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, a newspaper organization, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs and an association of drone users.

Among the potential issues raised Monday:

■ Should the Legislature regulate the use of drones or just use of the information gathered by them, since the Federal Aviation Administration is tasked with regulating their use nationally?

■ How far would the government regulations reach? If government agencies purchase information from contractors, would those contractors need to follow the future Washington regulations? What about other private data collection by drones?

■ Which government agencies could potentially use drones to gather information?

■ Should the task force examine information gathering using all kinds of technology and not just drones?

■ What are the concerns of Washington citizens and how can the Legislature address them?

“I think the citizens are asking for transparency, and that’s what we’re here for,” said Sen. Maralyn, Chase, D-Shoreline.

The citizen representative on the task force, Jhaveri Arunkumar, added, “It’s not just transparency; it’s accountability.”

Last modified: June 30. 2014 6:37PM
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