North Dakota Lets Police Drones Fire Rubber Bullets
One expert says it's 'one of the worst' ideas ever about drones
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2015 12:54 PM CDT
A drone flies over a ravine as the Alameda County Sheriff's Office demonstrates a search and rescue operation, Friday, Aug. 14, 2015, in Dublin, Calif.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

(Newser) – Watch the skies in North Dakota: The state has passed a first-of-its-kind law legalizing the use of armed police drones, though they must carry "less than lethal" weapons like tear gas, rubber bullets, beanbags, pepper spray, and Tasers, reports NPR. Interestingly, the law was first introduced as legislation prohibiting all weapons on drones and requiring officers to get a search warrant before using a drone for surveillance. The man behind the bill, Republican state Rep. Rick Becker, tells Ars Technica the law enforcement lobby would only allow the search warrant provision if weapons were allowed.

"I hear a lot of ideas about drones, and this is one of the worst," says law professor and drone expert Ryan Calo of the University of Washington. He worries police officers won't have "situational awareness" in cases where the drones could be used and will use them "too often because the perception (is) that the stakes are not very high." He adds, however, "sometimes less-than-lethal can be lethal." Indeed, the Guardian reports at least 39 people in the US have died from police Tasers this year alone. Becker says he's not happy with the final law and will attempt to eliminate the use of weapons. But as North Dakota's legislative body meets every two years, the earliest the change could come is in 2017.