States Wrestle with Restrictions on Drones

It seems like Virginia, the home state of some of the world’s omnipotent surveillance acronyms — the CIA, FBI, and NSA — with hundreds of thousands of people employed by the nation’s military, law enforcement, and intelligence communities, would welcome drones with open arms.

However, Virginia has become another epicenter of the effort to limit government’s power to know where its citizens are every minute of every day, whether they are suspected of a crime or not.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has applauded the Virginia General Assembly’s rejection of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) amendments to drone-limiting legislation.

“The 21st century demands that we update our laws to ensure Virginians’ privacy is not undermined every time law enforcement employs a new technology,” Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, the executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, said.

Privacy and civil rights concerns were part of the debate in North Dakota, and limits on the use of drones were signed into law by Gov. Dalrymple. But the restrictions were not severe enough to scare away one of the titans of drone development.

Close to a week after the legislature approved the bills that would for the first time impose limits on the use of drones in the skies over North Dakota, Gov. Dalrymple said $2.5 million in state funds would be available to further develop Grand Sky because they found an anchor tenant for the business and aviation park.

The lease was signed by one of the biggest drone manufacturers in the world, Northrop Grumman. Dalrymple said that deal would “solidify” North Dakota’s position as one of the leaders in the unmanned aerial systems industry.

Northrop Grumman designed and manufactures the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system flown out of Grand Forks Air Force Base.

“Northrop Grumman is a global leader in aerospace technology and their commitment to Grand Sky represents another important milestone in our continuing work to develop Grand Sky and to become a national hub for UAS manufacturing, research and development,” Dalrymple said.

Tom Vice, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, said the signed lease permits Northrop Grumman to complete its initial designs and plans for the new facility on 10 of the approximately 217 acres that will make up the Technology Park on Grand Forks Air Force Base.

"Northrop Grumman remains committed to bringing innovative programs in industry, education and research to the region," said Vice. “Northrop Grumman is proud of our strong relationship with North Dakota and we look forward to a long and mutually beneficial working relationship.”