INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF
CHIEFS OF POLICE
Recommended Guidelines for the use of
Rapid advances in technology have led to the development and
increased use of unmanned aircraft. That technology is now making its way into
the hands of law enforcement officers nationwide.
We also live in a culture that is extremely sensitive to the
idea of preventing unnecessary government intrusion into any facet of our lives.
Personal rights are cherished and legally protected by the Constitution. Despite
their proven effectiveness, concerns about privacy threaten to overshadow the
benefits this technology promises to bring to public safety. From enhanced
officer safety by exposing unseen dangers, to finding those most vulnerable who
may have wandered away from their caregivers, the potential benefits are
irrefutable. However, privacy concerns are an issue that must be dealt with
effectively if a law enforcement agency expects the public to support the use of
UA by their police.
The Aviation Committee has been involved in the development of
unmanned aircraft policy and regulations for several years. The Committee
recommends the following guidelines for use by any law enforcement agency
contemplating the use of unmanned aircraft.
Aviation Committee August 2012
1. Model Aircraft - a remote controlled
aircraft used by hobbyists, which is manufactured and operated for the purposes
of sport, recreation and/or competition.
2. Unmanned Aircraft (UA) An aircraft that is
intended to navigate in the air without an on-board pilot. Also called Remote
Piloted Aircraft and "drones."
3. UA Flight Crewmember - a pilot, visual
observer, payload operator or other person assigned duties for a UA for the
purpose of flight.
4. Unmanned Aircraft Pilot - a person exercising
control over an unmanned aircraft during flight.
1. Law enforcement agencies desiring to use UA should first determine how
they will use this technology, including the costs and benefits to be gained.
2. The agency should then engage their community early in the planning
process, including their governing body and civil liberties advocates.
3. The agency should assure the community that it values the protections
provided citizens by the U.S. Constitution. Further, that the agency will
operate the aircraft in full compliance with the mandates of the Constitution,
federal, state and local law governing search and seizure.
4. The community should be provided an opportunity to review and comment on
agency procedures as they are being drafted. Where appropriate, recommendations
should be considered for adoption in the policy.
5. As with the community, the news media should be brought into the process
early in its development.
1. The UA should have the ability to capture flight time by individual flight
and cumulative over a period of time. The ability to reset the flight time
counter should be restricted to a supervisor or administrator.
2. The aircraft itself should be painted in a high visibility paint scheme.
This will facilitate line of sight control by the aircraft pilot and allow
persons on the ground to monitor the location of the aircraft. This
recommendation recognizes that in some cases where officer safety is a concern,
such as high risk warrant service, high visibility may not be optimal. However,
most situations of this type are conducted covertly and at night. Further, given
the ability to observe a large area from an aerial vantage point, it may not be
necessary to fly the aircraft directly over the target location.
3. Equipping the aircraft with weapons of any type is strongly discouraged.
Given the current state of the technology, the ability to effectively deploy
weapons from a small UA is doubtful. Further, public acceptance of airborne use
of force is likewise doubtful and could result in unnecessary community
resistance to the program.
4. The use of model aircraft, modified with cameras, or other sensors, is
discouraged due to concerns over reliability and safety.
Aviation Committee August 2012 3
Committee August 2012
1. UA operations require a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). a law enforcement agency contemplating
the use of UA should contact the FAA early in the planning process to determine
the requirements for obtaining a COA.
2. UA will only be operated by personnel, both pilots and crew members, who
have been trained and certified in the operation of the system. All agency
personnel with UA responsibilities, including command officers, will be provided
training in the policies and procedures governing their use.
3. All flights will be approved by a supervisor and must be for a legitimate
public safety mission, training, or demonstration purposes.
4. All flights will be documented on a form designed for that purpose and all
flight time shall be accounted for on the form. The reason for the flight and
name of the supervisor approving will also be documented.
5. An authorized supervisor/administrator will audit flight documentation at
regular intervals. The results of the audit will be documented. Any changes to
the flight time counter will be documented.
6. Unauthorized use of a UA will result in strict accountability.
7. Except for those instances where officer safety could be jeopardized, the
agency should consider using a "Reverse 911" telephone system to alert those
living and working in the vicinity of aircraft operations (if such a system is
available). If such a system is not available, the use of patrol car public
address systems should be considered. This will not only provide a level of
safety should the aircraft make an uncontrolled landing, but citizens may also
be able to assist with the incident.
8. Where there are specific and articulable grounds to believe that the UA
will collect evidence of criminal wrongdoing and if the UA will intrude upon
reasonable expectations of privacy, the agency will secure a search warrant
prior to conducting the flight.
1. Unless required as evidence of a crime, as part of an on-going
investigation, for training, or required by law, images captured by a UA should
not be retained by the agency.
2. Unless exempt by law, retained images should be open for public
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