Drone aircraft; limitations on use, report. (HB1616)

Introduced By

Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) with support from 8 copatrons, whose average partisan position is:

Those copatrons are Del. Steve Landes (R-Weyers Cave), Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas), Del. Rick Morris (R-Carrollton), Del. Chris Peace (R-Mechanicsville), Del. Nick Rush (R-Christiansburg), Del. Ron Villanueva (R-Virginia Beach), Del. Vivian Watts (D-Annandale), Del. Tony Wilt (R-Harrisonburg)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Limitations on use of drone aircraft. Provides that no state agency or organization having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations, including but not limited to the Department of State Police nor any department of law enforcement of any city, county or town, shall procure a public unmanned aircraft system (drone aircraft) without the approval of the General Assembly or the local governing body, respectively. The bill requires a warrant for use of such an aircraft. The bill also provides that it is not unlawful for any law-enforcement officer or other public official to operate a public unmanned aircraft system and disclose personal information from such operation if such officer reasonably determines that an emergency situation exists that involves immediate danger of death or serious physical injury to any person and the situation requires operation of a public unmanned aircraft system before a warrant authorizing such interception can, with due diligence, be obtained and there are grounds upon which such a warrant could be entered to authorize such operation. The bill also provides that it is not unlawful for a public institution of higher education to operate a public unmanned aircraft system solely for research or academic purposes. The bill also contains extensive procedural guarantees against release of personal information and contains reporting requirements by agencies and courts with respect to use of and data collected by such aircraft. Read the Bill »


02/01/2013: Merged into HB2012


01/06/2013Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/09/13 13100177D
01/06/2013Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/14/2013Impact statement from VCSC (HB1616)
01/15/2013Assigned Courts sub: #1 Criminal
01/21/2013Impact statement from DPB (HB1616)
01/28/2013Subcommittee recommends incorporating (HB2012-Cline)
02/01/2013Incorporated by Courts of Justice (HB2012-Cline)


stephen writes:

A Hobby toy airplane with a camera could also be counted as a drone under this bill. This bill is poorly written. It gives all rights to the Government and none to the public. The writer would be best suited to living in North Korea.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

That's the opposite of what this bill does, Stephen. It restricts what government may do with surveillance aircraft, and is silent on what individuals can do. The FAA is in the process of determining how to regulate use of drones, privately owned and otherwise.

ACLU-VA Privacy Rights, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

The ACLU of Virginia strongly supports this legislation. Unregulated use of drone technology by state and local government agencies threatens to eviscerate the Fourth Amendment's protection from illegal search and seizure. Unregulated use of drones could turn the Commonwealth into a surveillance state and produce chilling effects on protected First Amendment activities. This bill requires law enforcement to show probable cause and get search warrant before using a drone. The bill also requires approval by a local or state governing body before a law enforcement agency can purchase a drone and permits the public to participate in the debate. Virginia needs reasonable regulation of drones with clear privacy rules and democratic, public oversight to guarantee that our civil liberties are preserved.

ACLU-VA Open Government, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

ACLU of Virginia strongly supports this legislation which would require any agency using drones or courts issuing warrants to use drones to keep records of such use and to make those records available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.