BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - While some people say drones are a hobby, others believe it is a way to spy on people. One Louisiana lawmaker is trying to make that a criminal offense.
"And it's a relatively sophisticated piece of equipment," said Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge.
Claitor, who is no fan of drones, presented two bills before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that would make it illegal for drones, or any unmanned aircraft, to hover around private property.
One of his bills, SB 141, passed with a vote of 3-2 and now heads to the Senate floor. That bill would make it a crime for a drone to linger over someone's backyard and spy on their activities.
"I want you to be able to relax in your backyard and not be harassed by anyone. Whether it's a cranky neighbor or somebody down the street," Claitor said.
While Claitor is concerned with people's right to privacy, opponents are worried that their own personal freedoms are coming under attack.
One of the opponents was WAFB General Manager Lee Meredith, who represented the Louisiana Broadcasters Association and WAFB. He said drones could become a valuable tool for covering stories that are important to the public.
"We're trying to cover the news, and we're trying to do a good job covering the news," Meredith said. "We certainly don't want there to be legislation that creates a chilling effect or flat out prohibits from what we think we be a good job with the drones."
Claitor's second bill, SB 124, prohibits a drone from hovering over someone's property as well, but allows one to fly over a person's land as long as it is above 350 feet.The committee deferred that bill to next week.
Another drone bill, authored by Sen. Bodi White, R-Baton Rouge, also made it out of committee. SB 73 would make it illegal for drones to hover above an active crime scene.