BORDC has released two model ordinances to assist local communities in the battle against domestic surveillance drones across the US. Both models address First and Fourth Amendment concerns stemming from domestic drone surveillance, and offer an opportunity to establish privacy rights above the federal floor through decisions by local elected officials at the city and county level.
Together, BORDC’s two models satisfy diverse interests. One creates a drone-free zone, while the second model establishes rigorous requirements limiting their use by law enforcement agencies and other public officials. The model regulating drone use (rather than prohibiting it entirely) allows drones to be used pursuant to a judicially issued warrant as well as for non law-enforcement purposes such as fire detection, hazardous material spill response, search & rescue, and natural disaster response.
“This model legislation will be a vital tool for activists nationwide,” said Joe Scarry, coordinator of the No Drones Network. “In state after state, people are asking themselves, ‘How can we affect change in the way the U.S. government is using drones for surveillance and killing?’ While building support for Congress to finally intervene, it is essential to work for restrictions or bans in our local jurisdictions, as well.”
According to BORDC’s Shahid Buttar, “Because the legal landscape governing drones is essentially barren, law enforcement agencies around the country are currently making policy to suit their interests. But we live in a constitutional Republic, meaning that We the People hold the opportunity — and responsibility — to petition our local representatives for legal protections that Congress is too timid to provide.”
Beyond addressing constitutional concerns, the legislation also responds to safety concerns. For instance:
[M]any of the drone models currently available to law enforcement have limited flying time, cannot be flown in inclement weather, must be flown in sight of an operator, and can only be flown during the day, thus making them ill-suited to search and rescue missions and best suited for pervasive surveillance.
BORDC has compiled these model ordinances in consultation with organizers challenging drones in jurisdictions across the country, in order to provide grassroots organizers, local municipal officials, and state officials with a tool to combat the growing use of drones within the US to conduct ambient surveillance untethered by traditional Fourth Amendment principles.
The model legislation is available online: