Newly Signed Law Curbs UAV Operations in Wisconsin

Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., has signed into law legislation that restricts the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and establishes penalties for Wisconsin residents who violate the mandate.

Under Act 213, UAV operators cannot land their aircraft above private property without the owner's permission. Although forced landings are permissible, operators will be held liable for any damages caused by such landings.

With the exception of law enforcement officers, state residents will face a Class A misdemeanor for operating a UAV with the intended purpose of photographing or recording an individual where that individual is expecting privacy. Operation of a weaponized drone by anyone other than military personnel acting in official capacity is a Class H felony.

A search warrant is required for any Wisconsin law enforcement agency to use a UAV for criminal investigations in locations where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, police can use drones in public places and to assist search-and-rescue operations and locate escaped prisoners.

In addition, law enforcement agencies may use the aircraft to monitor a location for the purpose of executing an arrest warrant. Drones can also be used to prevent imminent danger to an individual or imminent destruction of evidence.

State Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, and state Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, authored the bill, which passed both the Senate and Assembly on a voice vote.


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