Debate Begins Over Use Of Drones In Oklahoma Skies

Tuesday, February 19th 2013, 8:29 am

Drones have been a hot topic ever since U.S. Justice Department memos surfaced showing how they're been used to kill suspected terrorists, some who were U.S. citizens.

Now the debate has come to Oklahoma. Some say building them will boost our economy; others argue they could be used as a government big brother, watching your every move.

Drones allow the military to save lives and money, by not putting pilots in harm's way for dangerous missions. There has been concern that they could be used in the U.S. to target suspects.

The FAA clarified its position recently saying armed unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, are not allowed in U.S. airspace.

But will unarmed versions take off here?

State Representative Paul Wesselhoft of Moore is against it. He has introduced legislation that would require law enforcement to get a warrant before they could use one in Oklahoma.

In a statement Wesselhoft says, "We have to keep in mind that these technologies have the very real potential to seriously erode privacy rights."

2/5/2013 Related Story: Moore Lawmaker Pushes Bills To Protect Privacy Rights

"We certainly don't want to have a small little drone about the size of toy helicopter to go buzzing around someone's backyard, looking in windows," said Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett.

In Tulsa, they aren't being used yet. Mayor Bartlett says he would consider them to a certain point.

"Privacy concerns are very paramount and very important to all of us and we certainly don't want to overstep in any manner shape or form infringe upon people's rights to privacy," said Mayor Dewey Bartlett.

Ben Kimbro's company, Tactical Electronics in Broken Arrow, makes UAVs and does contract work with governments around the world.

He sits on the Governor's Unmanned Aerial Systems Council and believes UAV research would pour in tens of millions of dollars into our state's economy. Kimbro sees how some may be worried.

"It is my belief and I've seen it in practice for 17 years that policy does an effective job of guiding law enforcement agents and officers on when and where they may use a specific technology," said Ben Kimbro, Executive Vice President of Tactical Electronics.

The state of Oklahoma is in the running for one of six Department of Defense/FAA test sites for UAVs. A decision could come later this year.

2/15/2013 Related Story: OK Firefighters, Law Enforcement Consider Use Of Drones


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