Nightly News   |  February 06, 2013

Drones utilized across US, from farms to Hollywood

They can help scientists study wildlife, and produce overhead shots for Hollywood films – and since 2005 they’ve patrolled the Mexico border. Drones are currently being used by more than 40 public agencies and institutions, prompting at least 11 states across the country to consider restrictions. NBC’s John Yang reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the use of drones continues to make headlines tonight. after our nbc news report about the obama administration's use of drone strikes to target suspected terrorists overseas. that same technology is being used here at home, a lot. not to launch missile strikes of any kind, but as eyes in the sky for a local law enforcement and a lot of other uses. they've got a lot of folks concerned, and some states are moving to ban drones. our report tonight from nbc 's john yang in chicago.

>> reporter: while the alabama hostage crisis was under way in an underground bunker , authorities had a birds eye view , an unarmed, remote control drone. but there's a growing backlash to the use of similar devices by law enforcement agencies . this week, virginia lawmakers passed what would be the nation's first restrictions on drones. and today in the florida senate , a ban on drones advanced.

>> my view is that the government works for us. the government is there to serve us, to protect us.

>> reporter: from california to maine, officials in at least 11 states are considering various restrictions. according to government data, drones are being used by more than 40 public agencies and institutions, including at least 17 federal, state and local law enforcement departments.

>> it's smaller, it's more affordable, and it can be used to save lives.

>> reporter: since 2005 , they have patrolled the mexican border . in 2011 , a drone was involved in the arrest of a north dakota man, believed the first time one was used that way. the idea that anyone walking down a street could be tracked by a drone with a camera, facial recognition technology, maybe even eaves dropping equipment alarms privacy advocates.

>> the issue is whether they're using a surveillance drone to monitor a city street for an unlimited amount of time.

>> reporter: drones are also being used in other ways. anywhere an overhead view could be useful. farmers checking on crops and scientists studying wildlife. even hollywood uses them for overhead shots, as in last year's "sky fall." outside los angeles , a real estate agent uses a drone to shoot marketing videos.

>> this allows a client to walk the entire property from -- really from their computer.

>> reporter: a sales tool in realtors' hands, but in other hands, worries about who is watching what, and who. john yang , nbc news, chicago.