New IACP Guidelines for Urban Drones

The association's Aviation Committee released the recommended guidelines Aug. 13. Unmanned aircraft systems are one of the technologies that will be exhibited next month during IACP’s annual conference.

New guidelines from the International Association of Chiefs of Police's Aviation Committee address the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for law enforcement purposes while respecting public privacy. The guidelines state that the committee has been working on development of policy and regulations for unmanned aircraft for several years and recommends that any law enforcement agency contemplating their use follow these recommendations.

Flying unmanned aircraft requires an FAA Certificate of Authorization, so an agency should contact FAA early in its planning to determine what is required, they say. And one of the first recommendations is to engage the community early in the planning process, including the governing body and civil liberties advocates. The guidelines also say an agency should ensure it will operate UASs in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and all laws governing search and seizure.

The guidelines call for painting the aircraft in a "high visibility paint scheme" to facilitate line-of-sight control by the pilot of the aircraft and allow people on the ground to monitor its location. However, they also say most operations will be conducted covertly at night, and it may not be necessary to fly the aircraft directly above the target location.

They discourage the use of model aircraft -– remotely controlled ones used by hobbyists for sport, recreation, or competition. "The use of model aircraft, modified with cameras, or other sensors, is discouraged due to concerns over reliability and safety," the guidelines say.

Unless the agency requires them as evidence of a crime, as part of an ongoing investigation, for training, or is required by law, it should not retain images captured by a unmanned aircraft, according to the guidelines.

Unmanned aircraft systems are one of the technologies that will be exhibited next month during IACP's 119th Annual Conference and Law Enforcement Education and Technology Exposition, which will take place Sept. 29-Oct. 3 in San Diego. The expo will include an Unmanned Vehicle Demo Zone, according to its website.

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