Department of Justice Releases New Report on Implementing Effective Unmanned Aircraft System Programs

For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, December 8, 2020
COPS Office Public Affairs
(202) 514-9079

WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) today released a new report, Roadmap to Implementing an Effective Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program, with its partners at the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). Drones, as UAS are generally known, present one of the most exciting frontiers in law enforcement by giving departments an essential tool with which to gather vital situational data without placing law enforcement professionals in harm’s way. This report is an eight-step guide to launching a drone program and is available on the COPS Office website.

“This Roadmap is the first of a series of deliverables essential to expanding the safe and appropriate use of UAS technology,” said COPS Office Director Phil Keith. “The deliverables will form a body of best practices for agencies using or managing the public’s use of drones. I urge any agency considering a drone program to carefully read this Roadmap and contact the resources included within, who stand ready and willing to assist. A critical step in developing a drone program involves transparency and community engagement. The benefits of a drone program to public safety are substantial and a game changer for community safety.”

This report details the critical steps to starting a drone program, from planning and preparation to purchasing the right equipment, staffing and training a drone team, and writing policies and procedures. The recommendations and tips included in this guidance were developed in consultation with members of the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial (SLTT) UAS Working Group, convened by the COPS Office in 2019 following a two-day forum on the police use of drones and response to the threat of malicious drone attacks. The findings from that forum were compiled into Drones: A Report on the Use of Drones by Public Safety Agencies—and a Wake-Up Call about the Threat of Malicious Drone Attacks, which was released early this year.

The SLTT UAS Working Group meets quarterly to identify the most pressing needs pertaining to deployment and produce guidance for the law enforcement field. The group is made up of leading practitioners and subject matter experts from the law enforcement field, stakeholder groups, and federal partners. The working group members, the staff at PERF, and the drones team at the COPS Office dedicated every effort to create a deliverable by the field and for the field that will help departments quickly and appropriately engage with this incredible technology.

This work has been informed by first-hand encounters with successful and innovative UAS programs across the country. Site visits to the Drones as a First Responder program in Chula Vista, California, as well as site visits and demonstrations at the Torrance (California) Police Department, the Alameda County (California) Sheriff’s Office, and agencies working on the southern border, illustrated the urgent need for guidance in both the use and countering malicious use of drones for SLTT law enforcement agencies.

The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. Since 1994, the COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 134,000 officers and provide a variety of knowledge resource products including publications, training and technical assistance.

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