Politics & Government

State denies TVW request to film Capitol using drone

Washington officials have barred the use of a drone by a nonprofit media outlet that wanted to use an unmanned aerial vehicle to film the state Capitol for a documentary on drones.

The decision comes after Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a bill this year that would have sharply limited government use of drones, citing privacy concerns. The Democrat then issued a 15-month moratorium on agency use of unmanned vehicles until a task force could offer new suggestions for dealing with the emerging issue.

“We believe it is appropriate to deny your request during the interim while the moratorium is ongoing and while the task force is developing a new bill,” Department of Enterprise Services spokesman Jim Erskine wrote to reporter Christina Salerno at public affairs network TVW.

Salerno had hoped to capture B-roll footage of the Capitol for a one-hour documentary TVW is preparing on the drone issue.

“While we can appreciate your desire to fly a quadcopter—a drone—around the Capitol Building and the campus, we are denying your request,” Erskine’s email to Salerno said. “The reasons include our concern that the use of this device for filming the campus may violate the privacy of tenants and visitors as well as posing an unnecessary public safety risk for those who may be below its flight path. Additionally, we believe this activity could unreasonably disrupt normal conduct of state business.”

TVW president Greg Lane issued a statement on the denial, saying: “TVW is producing a one-hour documentary this summer that examines the public policy debate surrounding the use of drones. As part of reporting this story, we were hoping to gather video footage for the piece by flying a small quadcopter with a camera on the public grounds of the Capitol during off-hours. The Department of Enterprise Services has told us flying a drone for this purpose is not allowed. However, we are continuing to work with DES and remain hopeful that arrangements can be made.”

Use of drones at the U.S. Capitol are reported to be barred by the Federal Aviation Administration. The decision to bar drones also echoes what the National Park Service announced earlier this month for parks around the country.