March 28, 2013
An email circulating the Washington State Legislature revealed that a drone demonstration held at the State Capitol building Wednesday was purposely kept private from the public.
Sen. Jim Honeyford (R), the author of the email, explained that he was sponsoring four informational drone briefings for legislators, staff and select media, but was barring the public from attendance due to his concern over “demonstrations and security” issues.
Multiple drone lobbyists, engineers and operators including Dr. Tad McGeer, founder of the Aerovel Corporation, gave hands-on demonstrations to lawmakers and displayed onboard video from day and night drone operations in three private conference rooms.
The demonstration’s secrecy is due to Washington residents’ clear stance on government drones within the state. The Seattle Police Department’s drone program was shut-down last February after concerned citizens protested a public hearing that had one of the department’s new drones displayed, forcing the department to return both its drones back to their vendor.
Soon after, legislation introduced that aimed to tightly regulate government drone use in the state received massive bi-partisan support. Controversy and an increased push-back from the public was caused after a drone lobbyist, speaking against the legislation during the bill’s House Committee hearing, made comments about the “indiscriminate killing” drone policy being switched to one of “discriminate killing.”
The legislation which seemed almost guaranteed to pass, was derailed last minute allegedly by Boeing lobbyists working with Democratic leadership who made sure the bill did not receive a final vote. Boeing claimed the legislation would hurt Washington financially and make the state appear unfriendly to new technology.
The national opinion on drone use within the country has fallen further in light of Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) near thirteen hour filibuster this month in protest to the Obama Administration’s position on using lethal force against American citizens with drones domestically.
Although the email claims that media was invited to attend, news regarding the meeting has yet to be seen. It is still unknown what exactly the Washington Legislature is planning in regards to drone use, but given Washington’s position as a likely candidate for being one of the nation’s six FAA approved drone testing sites, it will likely cause a backlash from residents.
Mikael Thalen’s article first appeared at Examiner.com.