Charlottesville, Va., has become the first city in the country to pass a resolution restricting the use of drones, local media reported.
The Charlottesville City Council on Monday night rebuffed an attempt to totally ban unmanned aircraft in the city’s airspace, according to U.S. News & World Report, and instead passed a resolution that pledges that the city will not use information obtained by drones in court.
Local activist David Swanson and The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group, brought the resolution to council members, saying it would lead to a surveillance society as depicted in George Orwell’s "1984" with its ubiquitous “Big Brother.”
"Drones will spy on us without our permission in violation of our constitutional rights under the 4th Amendment," Swanson said, according to WDIV-TV.
The resolution was narrowly passed 3-2. One of the measure’s opponents, Councilwoman Kristin Szakos, said she thought the vote was premature and that there were positive uses for drones.
Unmanned aircraft, or drones, are widely used by the U.S. military for reconnaissance and even to kill terror leaders. Their use domestically has become controversial over privacy concerns.
The FAA has issued permits to 358 public institutions – including 14 universities and colleges – to fly unmanned aircraft. Those permits are primarily for research and to monitor border activity. To date, the FAA has rejected requests by police departments who want to use them to survey crime-infested areas.
The University of Virginia in Charlotte does not currently have an FAA permit to operate drones, according to U.S. News and World Report.
In a statement, John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, said he hoped other local governments would follow suit.
“As with other weapons of war which have become routine weapons of compliance domestically, such as tasers and sound cannons, once drones are unleashed on the American people, there will be no limiting their use by government agencies,” Whitehead said in a statement.