Drone Laws in the State of Virginia
In 2013, Virginia became the first state to pass a law regulating drone use. These laws require a “state or local government department, agency, or instrumentality having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations,” to obtain a warrant before deploying a drone with only a few exceptions, like Blue and Amber alerts. Weaponized drones are also expressly banned.
Virginia House Bill No. 1616:
Limitations on use of drone aircraft. Provides that no state agency or organization having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations, including but not limited to the Department of State Police nor any department of law enforcement of any city, county or town, shall procure a public unmanned aircraft system (drone aircraft) without the approval of the General Assembly or the local governing body, respectively. The bill requires a warrant for use of such an aircraft. The bill also provides that it is not unlawful for any law-enforcement officer or other public official to operate a public unmanned aircraft system and disclose personal information from such operation if such officer reasonably determines that an emergency situation exists that involves immediate danger of death or serious physical injury to any person and the situation requires operation of a public unmanned aircraft system before a warrant authorizing such interception can, with due diligence, be obtained and there are grounds upon which such a warrant could be entered to authorize such operation. The bill also provides that it is not unlawful for a public institution of higher education to operate a public unmanned aircraft system solely for research or academic purposes. The bill also contains extensive procedural guarantees against release of personal information and contains reporting requirements by agencies and courts with respect to use of and data collected by such aircraft. The bill was incorporated into HB 2012.