St. Louis Moves to Regulate Commercial Spy Drones Amid Public Concern

In a significant step toward privacy and community safety, the St. Louis Aldermanic Committee has given the green light to Board Bill 199, aiming to regulate the burgeoning use of commercial spy drones in the city, reports The RFT.

This move comes in response to public outcry over a surveillance program initiated by SMS Novel, a company that markets interactive Christian films but recently announced plans to monitor the city with drones.


Cracking Down on Surveillance

Ward 7 Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier spearheaded the initiative with the introduction of the bill, which seeks to implement “community-based safety regulations and restrictions on the operation of drones.”

Sonnier's action was a direct response to SMS Novel's controversial surveillance strategy, which involves offering a monthly subscription for $9.99, allowing subscribers to access drone livestreams for two hours each day. Despite the company's claims of initiating drone flights over St. Louis on February 5, the exact location and scope of their operation remain undisclosed.

The core of Board Bill 199 is its stringent clause against unsanctioned surveillance. The bill explicitly prohibits “any person, entity, or state agency from using a drone to conduct surveillance or observation of any individual or privately owned property without the express written consent of that individual or property owner.”

This clause, however, carves out exceptions for journalists, , and recreational drone enthusiasts who do not profit from their surveillance activities.

Public Safety and Legal Adjustments

The bill's passage through the board's public safety committee was smooth, facing no opposition and only minor amendments. These adjustments refined the bill by reinstating a requirement for permission to fly over city-permitted events, clarifying exemptions for all , and revising the penalty for violations from a misdemeanor to a citation.

Casey Millburg, the policy director for Mayor Tishaura Jones' office, endorsed the bill during the committee meeting, indicating the mayor's support and anticipation for its enactment.

St. Louis stands on the brink of enacting a crucial piece of legislation that balances technological advancement with the imperative of individual privacy and community safety.

As Board Bill 199 progresses to the full Board of Aldermen, it represents a proactive approach to the challenges posed by commercial surveillance drones.

The bill not only addresses the immediate concerns raised by SMS Novel's operations but also sets a precedent for how cities can regulate emerging technologies in a manner that respects and protects the rights of their citizens.

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

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