Senate Approves Use Of Drones For Music Events, State Fairs

May 8, 2018
Originally published on May 7, 2018 12:03 pm

Illinois lawmakers want to prevent a shooting similar to the one that happened in Las Vegas last year. A proposal, approved by the Senate, addresses security concerns around large-scale events.

The measure would allow drones as a way to supervise events. This would include music festivals, state fairs – and those events held in arenas or stadiums. Officers would not need to obtain a warrant.

Investigations into the Las Vegas shooter found he reserved a hotel room that overlooked the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago’s Grant Park but never checked in. State Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat, said his own kids were in attendance – and that anyone’s kids could have also been there and exposed to those security risks.

During a Senate debate, Sandoval – who is the plan's lead sponsor – said more needs to be done to protect people at these large-venue events. “It’s our responsibility to provide the maximum protection of all the residents of Illinois – whether it’s at Lollapalooza, or at the Illinois State Fair this year,” he said.

The measure outlines that law enforcement would need to provide a legitimate reason to use drones at a particular event attended by more than 100 persons. These drones would be used to evaluate anything from crowd size, density, or movement and to identify any criminal activity or security vulnerabilities.

But not all lawmakers were fully on board with the plan. State Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat said he acknowledges the need for added security at such events, but is concerned about privacy. He said a “legitimate reason” is too broad and leaves room for misuse. “I want to trust to utilize the drones to protect against a tragic incident at Lollapalooza or some other mass gathering at a park,” he said. “I’m not left with the feeling of comfort by a reference to no legitimate law enforcement purpose.”

Proponents say Boston and other cities now use drones for security purposes. The House will consider the proposal in the coming weeks. If it becomes law, lawmakers said they hope to start using drones at the Illinois State Fair and music festivals as early as this summer.

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