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  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
    IntroducedNovember 4th, 2013

What is it?

This bill would call for an examination of the privacy issues that might arise if unmanned aircrafts (i.e. drones) are integrated into the national airspace system.

This assessment would be directed by the Secretary of Transportation to ensure that privacy rights aren’t violated. Subsequently, a detailed set of regulations would be created for the operation of drone systems in civil airspace by private and public operators. Broadly speaking, S. 1639 would do the following:

  • Outline the procedure for applying to operate a drone system.
  • Force operators to disclose the data they are collecting and how their drones are used.
  • Establish a set of privacy principles that drone operators must follow.
  • Prohibit government agencies from requesting data collected by drone systems, except in emergencies (court warrants, permission through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or an imminent threat to a specific entity).
  • Privacy terms would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Create a publicly-accessible website to monitor where and when drones are flying.
  • Authorizes any state to pursue legal action against any entity that has negatively affected state residents by violating privacy principles.
  • Requires the FAA to revoke the licenses of drone system operators who violate any of the terms laid out in this bill.


Commercial drone system operators, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the FTC, the Department of Transportation, U.S. citizens.


The CBO doesn’t have a cost estimate for the bill at this time.

More Information

In Depth

Drones are a rapidly growing industry in the U.S. and abroad. The FAA has already granted over 400 drone certifications to operators. In the next five years, the agency estimates that up to 7,500 commercial drones could be flying around the U.S.. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International claims that in the next 10 years the U.S. drone industry will be worth $80 billion.

Today, there are few existing restrictions on the use of drones in American airspace. Privacy advocates have hailed this legislation as a sorely-needed response to that problem — albeit, possibly not strong enough. The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement:

“It is vital that we have comprehensive rules in place so that new technologies like drones are used in a responsible manner by both companies and the government before they blanket the skies.”
In support of drones, Robert Holly of Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting notes:
"It should not be all right for a police department to send a drone without a warrant to track the whereabouts of a suspect. Yet, it should be all right for an individual to fly a drone over the New York skyline without first gaining permission from everybody in New York City. Or, it should be legal for a newsroom to deliver a traffic report via drone without first gaining permission from everybody driving on the highway.

'In the private sector, we’re trying to say, "Hey, you know there’s this really important free speech right to take photos with drones that’s expressive activity,"' said Bohm. 'Let’s wait and see what the abuses are before legislating in that area.'"


Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) Press Release

Law 360


Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons Alexander Glinz)


Drone Aircraft Privacy and Transparency Act of 2013

Official Title

A bill to amend the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to provide guidance and limitations regarding the integration of unmanned aircraft systems into United States airspace, and for other purposes.

    Stop regulating drones. There are already privacy laws we have to follow, over regulating will just make things ridiculous. Something more important would be to close every road so that traffic violations wouldn't be an issue, oh wait, that's ridiculous too.
    Like (2)
    Protects the privacy of U.S. citizens from a powerful surveillance technology that is increasingly accessible to private individuals.