BOISE – The Idaho Legislature is trying to keep up with every changing technology. In the Senate Transportation Committee meeting Thursday lawmakers talked about drones -- unmanned aircraft that can fly over an area and take pictures.
The committee voted unanimously to print a resolution that would bring a drone testing site to Idaho. It also voted unanimously to print a bill that deals with drones and people’s right to privacy.
For those who aren't familiar with a drone, a drone is like a helicopter. It's small and can fly hundreds of feet in the air. Many of them are controlled by an iPhone.
The drones the committee talked about Thursday are typically bigger and can record video from much farther away.
Thursday’s meeting was just the first step for two pieces of legislation dealing with the emerging market of unmanned aircraft or drones.
"As they look at the future, there's already efforts being made for unmanned cargo air craft to fly around the world," said Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, who is sponsoring the legislation.
The first piece of legislation is a resolution to encourage the Department of Commerce, University of Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University and the College of Western Idaho to submit an application to the FAA to become one of six national sites to test drones.
"The future of a lot of things in civil aircraft is going to be unmanned. It's cheaper, you can build smaller aircraft, you can do lots of different things," said Winder.
Winder says some uses could include gathering crop information or bug infestations. You could fly it through the thick smoke of a wildfire.
"There's lots of applications for it, and what we're talking about are civil applications, not military," said Winder.
At the same time there are issues of privacy and individual rights. Winder wants to be proactive in keeping people safe from someone using a smaller drone to see things they shouldn't.
"You become a 'tech window peeper,' that's basically going to be illegal. You're not going to be able to infringe on that person's privacy," said Winder.
Law enforcement would be able to use them as well, if they have the proper warrants.
The ACLU was at Thursday's meeting and applauds Winder for the proposed bill, but want to make sure it's enough.
"It is a technology that's here to stay, and as governments work with this new technology of drones, it's very important to protect the constitutional issues of privacy," said Leo Morales with the ACLU Idaho.
The ACLU says if it feels the legislation regarding the drones does not adequately protect an individual's right to privacy, they will fight it.
Both the resolution and the bill made it through the first step of the legislative process. Up next is a hearing with more of the issues to be hashed out.