“UAS technology assists the Department in protecting public safety and, most importantly, reduces risks to officers and the public,” said Beth A. Williams, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy.  “Our new policy promotes the responsible, appropriate, and effective use of UAS by the Department and can serve as a model for our state, local, tribal, and territorial public safety partners as they develop their own UAS programs and best practices.”

The new policy acknowledges the important role that drones now hold in public safety – and seeks to codify standards of training, data use, and other issues that could become problematic.  The Policy defines when drones will be used, how use will be approved, and what training will be required by drone operators in the department.  The Policy also states that use of drones must protect the privacy and civil liberties of  communities and follow existing airspace regulations.  According to the DOJ announcement:

The Policy permits the use of UAS only in connection with properly authorized investigations and activities.  It also requires compliance with the Constitution and all applicable laws and regulations, including regulations issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.  Department of Justice components anticipate using UAS to support crime scene response and investigation, search and rescue, and site security, among other authorized uses.

DOJ is also ready to meet the problem of drones used in crime head on.  “In addition to utilizing UAS as a law enforcement tool, the Department takes seriously the threat posed by unlawful and unsafe uses of UAS,” says the announcement.  “The Department has trained federal prosecutors and agents across the country on the criminal and civil enforcement tools available to counter the misuse of UAS, such as the use of drones to smuggle contraband into prisons or violate restricted airspace.  Department of Justice personnel have also trained and collaborated with senior state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement officials who face this new threat on a daily basis.”   DOJ makes it clear that while legitimate drone operations are growing, they are ready to prosecute criminal use.  ” At the same time, the Department will not hesitate to take action against those who threaten the safety of our skies and the public,” says the announcement.

“The updated Policy announced today draws on the Department’s long history of leveraging cutting-edge technology to protect the public while promoting our values and the rule of law.”