- Associated Press - Sunday, January 26, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire could join more than a dozen other states in limiting government and public use of drones to protect citizens’ privacy.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will hold hearings Thursday on a pair of bills to regulate drones.

New Hampshire was among 43 states last year to introduce bills and resolutions concerning the unmanned aircraft. But the proposal that would have prohibited drones from snapping pictures of people’s houses couldn’t make it through the House.

This year, Republican state Reps. Neal Kurk and Joe Duarte have sponsored bills to require police to get a warrant if they want to use evidence obtained by using drones as surveillance.

The military and some law enforcement agencies already use the devices, but the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t allow commercial use of drones. By last month, 545 drones had FAA authorization to fly in domestic airspace, but Kurk does not think any had been licensed in New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire police chiefs association opposes the bills, arguing the technology could save lives. The New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union supports protecting privacy rights, but says First Amendment rights to free speech also must be preserved.

Congress has given the FAA until September 2015 to integrate the private and commercial use of drones into U.S. airspace. The FAA retains jurisdiction over the safe and efficient use of airspace, but state and local governments have the power to restrict the use of drones operated by the government or a university.