Neighbors using drones to spy could face new laws - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Neighbors using drones to spy could face new laws

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

A new bill introduced by a local senator could make it illegal for private citizens to spy on one another from above. Republican Sen. Frank M. Ruff Jr. said Thursday constituents from Dinwiddie and Prince George Counties are concerned nosy neighbors could take spying to new heights.

First used on the battlefield, drones are now available to consumers for as low as $300. In an interview Thursday, Ruff said drones have been used to invade personal privacy, and now is the time to regulate their use.

"Assuming that you may have a swimming pool in your backyard with a high fence around it, do you want your wife to be subjected to voyeurs that are flying cameras over it?" said Ruff. "It is very much an issue of, are we going to allow vigilantes to determine what goes on in our society."

The bill was first set for discussion Thursday morning by the Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee. Known as Senate Bill 954, the proposed legislation is currently tailored to stop private drones from photographing only hunters who shoot game on private property.

The bill's narrow present scope is set to expand to all Virginians. Ruff said Thursday the bill is in its beginning stages, and he would try to hold off discussion on the current Senate Bill as the wording is modified to protect residents across the state.

Delegate Todd Gilbert (R – Woodstock), has also introduced a bill to the General Assembly concerning drones, specifically, prohibiting law enforcement from using drones without local government approval. The proposed legislation, House Bill 1616, currently awaits a vote in the Courts of Justice Committee.

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