SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Police Friday received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct unmanned aircraft system missions throughout the state.
The ISP has spent the past two years developing the program to ensure safety and compliance with FAA and statutory requirements. As part of the FAA certification process, all aspects of the program have been assessed, including policies, operating procedures, pilot qualifications, training and safety.
The small aircraft is remotely controlled by a certified pilot at all times while in flight, and can terminate or modify the mission based on changing information or conditions. The primary function of the program is to enhance the documentation of traffic crash scenes and crime scenes. The ability to obtain accurate measurements and clear images from aerial photographs will significantly reduce the amount of time highways are closed during the initial investigation of major traffic crashes.
The nature and scope of each mission is determined by specific circumstances and will comply with applicable laws and regulations. Illinois law allows law enforcement agencies to use unmanned aircraft only in certain circumstances, such as natural disasters, searches for missing persons, documenting traffic crashes and crime scenes, or if the Department of Homeland Security identifies a specific risk of terrorism.
The program is not being implemented for surveillance purposes. Except in emergency situations, a search warrant must be obtained before the aircraft can be used on private property. During the development of the program, State Police coordinated with legislators and civil rights groups to ensure privacy concerns were addressed. Use of the term “drone” is intentionally avoided, as it carries the perception of pre-programmed or automatic flight patterns, and random, indiscriminate collection of images and information.
Any information gathered by the aircraft must be destroyed after 30 days and must not be disclosed unless reasonable suspicion exists that the information contains evidence of criminal activity, or is relevant to an ongoing investigation. This requirement also applies to information provided to law enforcement by a private third party, even if that information was not solicited by the law enforcement agency.