Alexander Kolomietz via shutterstock
Drone with a camera (Alexander Kolomietz via shutterstock)

HARTFORD, CT — Proponents who want to let police use drones to help in law enforcement are hoping the fourth time is the charm.

On Wednesday, the bill easily made it through the Judiciary Committee by a 34-7 vote.

“This bill has had a hard time over the last few years getting past the finish line because it is complicated and it’s a balancing of individual rights and law enforcement,” Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said.

The bill would require police to get a warrant prior to conducting surveillance of individuals or private property except in certain cases, such as searching for a missing person or a fleeing and dangerous person.

It also bans the weaponization of drones for police and the public, although it allows police to operate drones that can detect, detonate or dispose of explosives.

The bill creates some new crimes, such as reckless endangerment with an unmanned aerial vehicle, and requires police to publicize information about how often and under what circumstances they deploy their drones, too.

During public hearing testimony, David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said it’s time for the state to act on drones.

“In the past year, at least three Connecticut police departments have begun using drones, including one with high-powered infrared technology – all without any state oversight,” McGuire said.

“Meanwhile, more than 5,700 drones are now registered with the FAA in Connecticut. Connecticut should set some uniform rules before privacy violations or abuse occur, as current state law is not keeping up with this increasingly ubiquitous and advanced technology,” McGuire said.

Drone use in the state of Connecticut drew a lot of attention in 2015 when a Clinton teenager modified his drone to carry a flamethrower and a firearm, which he operated remotely.

That resident, Austin Haughwout, filed a lawsuit against Central Connecticut State University after the school expelled Haughwout for building a gun-firing drone.

Haughwout, in 2015, posted a video on YouTube, of a handgun fired from a hovering drone in a wooded area. Authorities reported there were approximately 2 million views of the “Flying Gun” video.