PHOENIX - Police in Arizona remain free to use drones - assuming they have them - to keep tabs on people.
A measure that would have required police to get a warrant before using unmanned aircraft to gather evidence was voluntarily scaled back by its sponsor, Rep. Tom Forese, R-Chandler, to simply do a study of the issue, in the face of police concerns.
The new version of HB 2269, which creates a committee to study the issue for the balance of the year and report back in December, was approved 54-5 by the House on Thursday.
Forese said the issues involved are far more complex than simply limiting police use of the drones.
He pointed to concerns expressed during hearings by Lyle Mann, director of the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, who said there are many valid reasons for police to be able to use drones without first having to go to court.
Beyond that, Mann said many police departments already use helicopters. He said the only difference with a drone is that it has a camera on board that indiscriminately records everything.
On the other side of the equation, Forese said if lawmakers are going to restrict the use of drones, they need to look beyond police.
"What about the toy you can buy now for a couple of hundred bucks that's in essence a small drone?" he asked. "I can fly it and look at all my neighbors with a camera."
Forese also faced opposition from some lawmakers who feared this kind of legislation could undermine the bid by Arizona to become one of the six Federal Aviation Administration sites to test unmanned drones for civilian and military use.