The legal issues surrounding drones - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

The legal issues surrounding drones

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By: Cole Miller

There are a growing number of eyes in the sky and their capabilities are nearly limitless.
One University of Nebraska-Lincoln journalism professor is on the front lines, lending his expertise.
There are drones that are used overseas to seek and destroy terrorists. There are also drones that are essentially remote controlled toys. They can even be modified to fit a camera on-board.

It's a topic Matt Waite, a professor at UNL who runs the drone journalism lab, is very familiar with. Lately, he's been lending his expertise on the hot topic to national media outlets, such as CNN. He also says he understands the concern surrounding the issue.

"Reasonable people have to agree that a flying robot with a camera makes people uncomfortable, and that's perfectly normal and there are ways to craft rules to deal with that," Waite said.

Those rules are already being crafted at this moment in time. Nearly a dozen states have or are looking at legislation to restrict their use, including Nebraska.

State senator Paul Schumacher introduced a bill that would restrict how police and law enforcement agencies, on the local and state level, use drones.

Waite says there are immediate benefits for the technology of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAV's.

"There's a huge market for using UAV's for precision farming, for improving crop yields, for using water more efficiently, for using things like pesticides and fertilizer more effectively," Waite said.

Basically, he says it comes down to regulating technology versus regulating use. He hopes that lawmakers won't completely ban what he says can be beneficial for everyone.

"Emotion and fear and ignorance make bad policy. And I think that the better we're all educated about these things, the better policies we can have in place," Waite said.
The Federal Aviation Administration estimates in 10 years, there could be as many as 30,000 drones in the sky. Waite says he expects to see many court cases involving drones and their legality.

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