WESTWOOD (CBSLA.com) — A hearing was held Friday to examine the legal and policy implications of expanded drone use in the state of California.

The hearing, titled “Drones in our Future: Opportunity and Privacy Considerations”, was held by an assembly panel from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the UCLA Faculty Center, 480 Charles E. Young Drive East.

The meeting focused on the commercialization of drones and their use in the news-gathering and entertainment industries and in law enforcement, according to officials.

The panel consisted of Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Alhambra), Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Privacy, Assemblymember Ian C. Calderon (D-Whittier), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media, and Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary.

State lawmakers heard from panelists who argued both for and against state regulations.

“These things are cheap. People buy them all the time now. And if businesses, media and law enforcement, reporters get to use them, the sky could be full of these things,” LASD Cmdr. Joseph Hartshome said outside of the meeting.

KCAL9’s Cristy Fajardo reports that for now, the Federal Aviation Administration has banned the use of the unmanned aircraft for commercial businesses, with plans to unveil new policies next year.

But critics argue the technology is getting ahead of the agency. Amazon already testing drone deliveries, and aerial production companies like Drone Dudes are using the aircraft.

Drone Dudes spokesman Eric Maloney says the company is filming only in controlled environments to skirt FAA ban on commercial drones.

“We haven’t seen a law on the books that says this is illegal,” Maloney said. “We are in touch with the FAA; we have been in touch with a number of different organizations, and their primary concern is safety and education right now as they work out their rules.”

The LAPD and the sheriff’s department are not using drones, although Fajardo reports the agencies believe unmanned aircraft would be a tremendous benefit in searches, rescues, pursuits and stand-offs – able to go undetected where helicopters can’t enter.

That’s why the American Civil Liberties Union wants lawmakers to act now to ensure police don’t use drones to spy on citizens without a warrant.

“A wait-and-see approach is dangerous in that it does allow for a lot of privacy violations to occur while we’re waiting and seeing,” ACLU Southern California spokesperson Jessica Farris said.

Last week it was the LAPD who was spied on, however, when a hobbyist shot drone video above the fenced parking lot of the Hollywood division.

A spokesman for the department told Fajardo that as it stands now, the laws are so vague officers didn’t know how to respond.


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