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Senate Panel Debates Use of Drones over US Skies

Stocktrek Images/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Does potentially improving the economy outweigh the privacy concerns of Americans?

A Senate panel wrestled with that question and others Wednesday as they debated the increased use of surveillance drones over U.S. skies.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said that "persistent surveillance" of unmanned planes launched by law enforcement raises potential Fourth Amendment violations.  Meanwhile, these drones can easily be controlled by people with iPads or smartphones to snoop around neighbors or even by people out to break the law.

But another issue was discussed that may trump these concerns: job creation.

The Senate committee acknowledged that upwards of 70,000 jobs could be created within three years as the goal of commercial integration of drones into U.S. airspace is reached by 2015.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy revealed the quandary facing lawmakers.

The Vermont Democrat said drones would be able to "carry out arduous and dangerous tasks that would be difficult for humans to undertake...but it's not hard to imagine the serious privacy problems this type of technology could cause.  This is raising some very serious questions from people from the far left to the far right."

Congress will have to decide whether law enforcement will need warrants to fly drones and if it's prudent to allow them to carry tear gas or pepper stray if needed for crowd control.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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