State CIOs get nudge on drone policies

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers tells state officials to put unmanned aerial systems on their radar.

With the use of unmanned aerial systems growing in popularity, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers has drafted a policy brief to help state governments manage their skies.

“UAS are already in use nationwide, and if state CIOs don’t take an active role in addressing these important policy issues sooner rather than later, they will likely be asked to deal with a host of complicated issues in the near future," NASCIO President and Ohio CIO Stu Davis said in announcing the report. “We particularly need to address privacy, security, safety and data standardization as soon as possible to avoid a mess down the road.”

Drones can be used for everything from monitoring crops to tracking hurricanes to providing disaster relief, and recreational use also is on the rise. Last year the Teal Group predicted the drone market will reach close to $100 million over the next decade. UAS use has become so prevalent in recent years the Federal Aviation Administration and drone industry advocates teamed up to create a website that provides recreational users information for safe operation of a drone.

Many state governments are behind, however, when it comes to considering issues such as data management, security privacy and safety policies when it comes to drones. A NASCIO State CIO Survey conducted in late 2014 states that 63.5 percent of those who responded said drones were “not on my radar at this time” when asked their roles and interest in drone use. The brief suggests states create safety regulations such as height limits, restricted areas and required training for drone owners and users. The International Association of Police Chiefs has made several recommendations, including that all private done users be trained and certified. Because the FAA controls national airspace, state laws are limited to factors such as takeoff and landing from public property.

The brief also states that when it comes to photos and video collected from state used drones, states should make sure they have a process in place that ensures different agencies aren’t collecting the same information. In addition, much of the data collected will be public, so states will have to deal with organizing the data and should consider working with other states to create a process for sharing cross-state information.

State CIOs, NASCIO suggested, need to be proactive in shaping the UAS policies and systems, because many states are already moving forward on legislation. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 35 states considered UAS bills and resolutions last year; 10 states enacted new laws.

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