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Illinois House Passes Bill Making it Easier for Police to Fly Drones Above Crowds

After blocking a vote on expanded drone use on crowds, the Illinois House of Representatives has revised and approved the expansion.

The Illinois House of Representatives has passed a bill, 74-35, allowing police to use drones during large events.

This comes after the House previously rejected the bill due to concerns about what defined a large crowd and the use of facial recognition software. Once revised, the bill increased the definition of a large crowd from 100 people to 1,500 people and it also banned the use of facial recognition. 

This bill now allows police to use drones at large gatherings of people in Illinois like Lollapalooza, a large music event held in the state every year that draws massive crowds. The bill will help control these large crowds.

"This bill is a good start in understanding a valuable technology. It recognizes what someday will be understood by everyone — that drones are a good tool for crowd protection and crowd control," said Ed Wojcicki, executive director for the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, to The State Journal-Register. 

The American Civil Liberties Union, which regularly opposes police using new kinds of surveillance technology, opposed the bill. When it was first introduced, the group raised concerns of how it would be used in a political sense.

"If this bill is passed, as drafted, during the next large scale political rally, drones could identify and list people protesting the Trump administration," said Karen Sheley, director of the ACLU's Police Practices Project, in a statement on the ACLU of Illinois' website.

She also likened the bill to an old group of Chicago Police known as the "Red Squad," a group of police who gathered and shared information on activists until they were stopped by a class action lawsuit.

Since the bill was amended, it has to be approved again by the Illinois Senate before it can go to Governor Bruce Rauner, the Journal-Register reported.