Drone Program

Policy 605: Unmanned Aerial System

DRONE PROGRAM           

Program Overview

The Village of Swansea has adopted a Drone Program to enhance response capabilities to a variety of incidents and events. The program was modeled on the policies of other agencies, which have established Drone Programs. Our Drone Program is consistent with industry standards, as well as Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

The Police Department obtained certifications, developed procedures, and purchased the equipment best suited for our department and the needs of our community. At this time, four officers are trained and certified to operate our drone.

Our Drone Program was designed to:

  • Provide cutting-edge traffic collision and crime-scene evidence documentation methods.
  • Minimize risk to the public and officers by providing additional options to avoid violent encounters and utilize de-escalation tactics.
  • Aid in the search and rescue of missing persons. 
  • Enhance response to bomb squad incidents, fire support, hazardous materials incidents, and other critical incidents, to reduce the risk to personnel entering a hazardous environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a drone or UAS? 

UAS is an Unmanned Aircraft System or Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS), and is commonly referred to a drone. A drone is an aerial device with an onboard computer that is operated remotely, generally by a pilot on the ground, using a handheld controller. Small drones are battery-operated, weigh less than 55 pounds, have several rotors like a helicopter, and are equipped with a video camera.

Where are the videos and photographs taken by the drone stored at?

After each drone deployment by the Swansea Police, the recorded data will be reviewed and evaluated for evidentiary value. Data of identifiable individuals captured during a drone deployment will not be retained, unless there is reasonable suspicion that evidence of criminal activity is present. All retained data will be maintained or destroyed pursuant to department records retention and evidence policies, and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations

Who has access to the videos and photgraphs?

Videos and photographs that are collected by Swansea Police Department drones are stored for the purposes of conducting police investigations and subsequent prosecutions. Accordingly, videos and photographs are generally accessible to police investigators for official use only. Like all police records, videos and photographs may also be subject to additional release under the same rules and restrictions as Body Worn Camera videos and other items of evidence.

How is my privacy protected?

The “Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act” (725 ILCS 167) regulates the use of sUAS by law enforcement in Illinois. This law seeks to protect the privacy of the public, while allowing law enforcements use of sUAS under certain circumstances. Each drone operator and observer will ensure operations of the sUAS are consistent with local, state, and federal law.

Information obtained by sUAS under the permissible uses must be destroyed within 30 days, unless there is a reasonable suspicion that the information contains evidence of criminal activity or the information is relevant to an ongoing investigation or pending criminal trial.

What training do drone pilots undergo?

In addition to the training and study required to maintain a FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot License, all Swansea Police operators train regularly in a variety of locations and settings to ensure operational efficiency. All training is documented, and the records are subject to review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

What rules and regulations must Swansea Police sUAS pilots follow?

All Swansea Police sUAS pilots are subject to FAA regulations related to airspace use, and all must have a valid “Part 107” Remote Pilot License or be operating under the direct control of a Remote Pilot in Command. Officer sUAS Pilots are also subject to the Swansea Department Policy on Drone Operations, Policy 605.