Authorities in Maine may soon be requited to obtain a warrant before conducting extensive surveillance efforts, as the State Senate recently voted in support of a bill that would make it mandatory for police agencies to follow this procedure prior to utilizing unmanned drones to gather evidence in an investigation.

The bill makes it an acceptable practice for law enforcement to use these types of vehicles in the event of an emergency situation or rescue effort. However, it prohibits drones from working in conjunction with facial recognition software and those that operate with weapons.

Yet, some lawmakers argue that a bill aimed at governing surveillance drones is unnecessary since there are state and federal constitutions already in place to protect the citizens of Maine from these types of warrantless searches. What’s more is there are no law enforcement agencies in Maine currently use drone technology for policing efforts, according to Maine Attorney General Janet Mills.

Still, the Senate ultimately decided to side with civil liberties advocates – passing the bill 23-12.

“With this vote, the Maine Senate recognized the importance of protecting Mainers’ privacy,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, public policy counsel for the Maine ACLU. “Drones can have very valid uses such as search and rescue in remote areas, but Mainers should not have to live in fear of drones hovering over their backyards watching them and their families.”

The bill is now set to be voted on by the Maine House.