Drones are exploding in popularity, but what’s being done to keep them from spying on you?

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Drones used to be science fiction, but recently, the technology has exploded in popularity. The unmanned aerial devices are often equipped with digital cards that record video and still pictures from above. So what's being done to keep them from spying on you?

"We've got a whole big selection of 'quad copters' or drones as they're called now. In the last six months it's just exploded. We took them to State Fair and the response was unbelievable," Scott Fisher said.

Fisher is a drone enthusiast who not only loves flying drones -- but he sells them at his "Gift of Wings" stores in the Milwaukee area. A small drone goes for $39.95. A drone equipped with a camera is $179.95.

Estimates show that in the next 10 years, civilian drone use could grow into an $82 billion industry.

The remote-controlled, sometimes computer-controlled devices can soar, hover, photograph and collect data and information often transmitted directly to a computer.

Amazon, which is opening a distribution center in Kenosha County, is developing drones to assist with deliveries.

Larger drones are already being used to create breathtaking videos. Milwaukee-area photographer Mike Ford has shown FOX6 News some of his drone videos.

The aerial technology can help the Department of Natural Resources monitor deer herds. Drones can help farmers keep track of their livestock, and can help police track down criminals on the run.

But the potential for illicit drone use, and the capability for drones to record your private moments has some Wisconsin lawmakers concerned. The Wisconsin Legislature has already taken steps to regulate drone use due to privacy concerns.

In a rare move, conservative Republican legislators came together with liberal conservatives in Wisconsin to create laws governing drones in the state. Republican Rep. David Craig co-authored the legislation.

"Concerns are generally privacy, Fourth Amendment protections both from a policing level, state agencies, police organizations -- making sure they're going to utilize warrants if they're going to use these in enforcement actions and also from an individual aspect, to make sure that one neighbor isn't using it to spy on another neighbor who may be sunbathing or showering or whatever," Rep. Craig said.

Drone operators who violate Wisconsin's drone privacy laws can only be cited and handed a ticket and that's if police catch them. No one is aware of that ever happening.

The Federal Aviation Administration is trying to come up with other rules of the road, or more specifically, rules of the airspace. The FAA is expected to announce regulations within the year.

Currently, drones cannot fly close to an airport. Flying over stadiums is also prohibited -- but drone operators don't seem to be able to resist. Six weeks ago, a drone flew over Camp Randall Stadium during a Wisconsin Badgers football game against Illinois, and a federal investigation began. Officials haven't been able to locate the drone operator.

"If the owners of a stadium somewhere want to make sure that the people that are in their stadium for liability purposes should be protected from privacy concerns or an armed drone which we know are out there -- militaries around the world use them -- they should have the ability to restrict that type of activity over their facilities and make sure law enforcement has the tools to prosecute it," Rep. Craig said.

"You know how it is -- no matter how many laws and regulations you have in place, there's a group of people who will always violate. We do have a drone coming in in a couple of weeks called a Phantom Drone and that drone can go up to 1,000 feet and it takes very, very clear video and still pictures," Fisher said.

Fisher is not only a drone enthusiast. He's also a licensed pilot. He says he sees the need for regulation.

"As a pilot if I'm on final approach at Mitchell Field, I certainly don't want to see a twelve-inch square drone coming at me," Fisher said.

In the meantime, the laws are trying to catch up with the technology. Lawmakers in Wisconsin say drones are just the beginning. The data collection technology is exploding -- from license plate readers than can store information, to infrared technology.

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