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Panel backs two-year ban on drone use

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Hey kids, if you were thinking of asking your parents for a drone for your birthday — Evanston aldermen are about to say you can’t use it here.

The City Council’s Human Services Committee Monday unanimously approved a resolution imposing a two-year moratorium on drone use in Evanston.

Since the five members of the committee constitute a majority of the full City Council, the measure appears all-but-assured of enactment.

The resolution was prompted largely by concerns about police surveillance activites, but language in the resolution appears to apply to any drone use by anyone.

State Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston has won Senate approval of a bill he sponsored to regulate use of drones, or unmanned aircraft, by police agencies. The bill would require police to get a warrant to use them for surveillance work.

Marcia Bernsten.

But Marcia Bernsten of Chicago Area Peace Action, said the bill is still stuck in the House Rules Committee and may not win adoption during this year’s legislative session.

Bernsten, of 1213 Maple Ave., also criticized the Biss bill as inadequate, in that it doesn’t deal with weaponization of drones.

Another advocate of the ban, Dickelle Fonda, of the North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice, said the issue had brought together people from disparate political backgrounds — ranging from aging hippies to survivalists and from tea partiers to the ACLU.

Technology is moving so quickly that it’s way ahead of regulations, Fonda said..

A law signed by President Obama last year, has cleared the way for local law enforcement agencies to start using drones. And it require the Federal Aviation Administration to develop rules permitting a wide array of commercial and private uses of drones by 2015. Non-commercial civilian use of drones is now permitted on an experimental basis.

Fonda said that the agency predicts there will be at least 7,500 drones operating in American skies by 2018.

Police Chief Eddington.

Police Chief Richard Eddington said drones could be very helpful to police in doing search and rescue work along the lakefront and that it could dramatically reduce the cost of surveillance operations.

Eddington said that drones now can weigh less than 25 pounds and be affordable even to individual purchasers.

But he said, “I’m a fan of not being the first one to try new technology — let somebody else to the R&D for Evanston.” And he added that he doesn’t see not having a drone as “hampering us in any way at this time.”

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