SPRINGFIELD – Law enforcement agencies would need a warrant to use aerial drones to gather information in investigations, under a bill the Illinois Senate overwhelmingly backed Thursday.
The unmanned aircraft, which have become a staple of the U.S. military’s arsenal during the past decade, are being viewed as a useful new crime-fighting tool by domestic law enforcement agencies, raising civil liberties concerns.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Biss, would require authorities to obtain a search warrant before using a drone to collect information. Lawmakers voted 52-1 to send the measure to the House. Biss, an Evanston Democrat, said his proposal will help maintain people’s reasonable expectation of privacy.
The legislative measure also prohibits law enforcement agencies from using armed drones.
The Champaign County sheriff has already experimented with using a drone and the Cook County sheriff has expressed enthusiasm about the technology. But civil rights groups and lawmakers worry that the technology could be used to subject people to unwarranted intrusion.