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Drone Guidelines Bill Introduced in NJ Assembly

How, where and when unmanned aerial surveillance could be used by law enforcement and fire departments is addressed in the legislation.

A bill was introduced in the State Assembly Monday that will set guidelines for use of drones by law enforcement and fire departments. 

The potential use of unmanned aerial aircraft in the skies over New Jersey has stoked privacy concerns. The vote to introduce the legislation was approved 74-1-3.

The primary sponsors of the bill are Assembly Democrats Daniel R. Benson (D-14), Vincent Prieto (D-32), Marlene Caride (D-36) and Annette Quijano (D-20).

"We will not be impairing the ability of law enforcement and emergency services to use drones when they’re definitely needed. We’ll just be creating common sense guidelines," Benson said in a press release. 

Under the provisions of their bill, law enforcement agencies must follow warrant requirements to use a drone, but that does not apply to fire or emergency management offices when dealing with situations like hurricanes, floods or terrorists acts.  

The bill says allows drone use by the state law agencies for search and rescue missions in situations, such as to locate a high risk missing person or missing child or for Amber Alert and Silver Alerts.

Also, fire departments can use drones to survey or monitor forest fires or even building fires. 

Under the legislation, record-keeping of each unmanned aerial system would be mandated. Its usage, maintenance and fuel logs must be kept, and annual inspections noted for record-keeping by the Office of the Attorney General. There would be limits on how long verbal or video communications collected by the drone could be kept. 

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