Can Police Use Drones Without a Warrant?

Can Police Use Drones Without a Warrant

Today, drones are used in almost every modern industry, and police is no exception. State lawmakers want to give police more altitude to do their work much more efficient and better with use of drones. They want police to be able to fly a drone over a crime scene without a search warrant. More and more police departments are launching drones, and the only thing what slows them down are search warrant.

So Can Police Use Drones Without a Warrant? Police have the permission to use drones without a warrant only during emergency cases in public. All other cases require the police to have a warrant for public use of drones, so that human rights as regards surveillance are not violated as interpreted by current law.

Police have their own drones that allow them to operate at day and night, providing high definition videos and photos. They also have thermal cameras with capabilities to locate missing persons or fugitives in all circumstances. But there is also a gray area, because the law is not fully written yet and I cannot effectively use all the equipment they have. Much controversy arises when it comes to the question of whether police can use drones over highway crash accidents that become crime scenes or the use of drones at large public events.

Can Police Be Trusted With Drones?

The Los Angeles Police Commission has voted in favor of allowing its officers to use drones. It means they’ll be the largest police force in America to use remote-controlled drones. Police officers will be expected to adhere to a specific set of rules. Only SWAT teams will be allowed to operate the drones in what’s been described as „tense situations“. Every flight will have to be documented and reviewed and weapons and facial recognition technology are prohibited. But many people have been predicting problems for years, and they don’t trust the police. By 2025 we’re looking at $82 billion industry just here in the USA, with over 100,000 new jobs. The drone industry is ready to explode and the policy making hasn’t quite kept up yet. Therefore, we have to wait and see if the police can be trusted with drones. Time will tell.

Do Use of Drones Violate the 4th Amendment?

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has voted in favor of the use of drones, but these drones will not have weapons or equipment that can injure someone, but will be used only for surveillance and control. That proposal also includes meeting all the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. But there is a problem when it comes to the Fourth Amendment because it provides little protection related to drones and the airspace that is covered. What the 4th Amendment refers to is protecting homes, people and certain documents from sudden searches.

LAPD did not include items, and omitted routine home inspections using drones. We have an example where police forces used a drone and noticed marijuana growing in one yard and arrested a suspect. That arrested person appealed, claiming that the drone was above his possession, thus violating the Fourth Amendment, but the court did not heed that appeal.

39% of People Oppose the Use of Drones

Police Warrant for Use of Drones

Drones are already a common sight in the skies over California. Just this month they were sent in to survey the damage caused by wildfires and now they’ll be used for search and rescue missions. This is something that drone enthusiasts have been calling for for some time. Privacy activists say mass surveillance is a problem and some US cities such as Seattle have successfully won the battle through the law to stop police to use drones. But the American public is divided, and a survey suggested that 39% of people opposed the use of drones by officers, while 36% said it wasn’t a problem. But when it comes to private use, attitudes are different; with statistics saying that more drones being sold in the U.S. in 2019 than all previous years combined. The drone program in Los Angeles will be tested for a year and reviewed by the police commission and if it turns out successful, it will be given the green light for takeoff.

Law Allowing Authorities To Shoot Down Drones Without Warrants

A new law signed by Donald Trump is currently being introduced in America, which makes it possible that if a drone is shown to be a threat of some sort, it can be shot down, regardless if it is someones private drone. But there are also people who think that this law can be misused easily. High risk situations that require a SWAT to respond to an active shooter for example is the appropriate use for a drone. Police claim that they only need to use drones in public to monitor outdoor concerts, were aerial drones can control the entire event and everything that happens on it, thereby ensuring that all people are protected.

But what the police are looking for is that they have the ability to use drones for such things without asking for a warrant every time. But there are some who argue against this and claim that these devices would then be used more and more and thus gain massive surveillance. But police deny that and say it is all in line with the 4th amendment.

Indiana – State Where Police Can Use Drones Without a Warrant

Indiana is one of the states where lawmakers have made a proposal to allow a law where police could use drones without the need for a warrant. What the police have instant authority for, without the need for a warrant, is to use drones only in an emergency. Therefore, it is requested that the police be able to use drones at crime scenes without any paperwork, and within the specific radius of the crime scene. The use of drones in public stadiums and concerts should also be approved, because if a crime happens, police can easily identify. But there is another side that is not very happy with this proposal for privacy protection.

Should Police Need a Warrant to Collect Evidence With Drones?

What is now emerging as a controversial topic in almost all media and the public is whether the police need a warrant to use drones that can allow them to gather evidence. The court has so far ruled that when police use drones there are no privacy rights regarding their use. What is important to note here is that drones are much cheaper and more economical than helicopters and give better, faster and easier insight into the current situation from the air, making it much easier for police to do their job. So if helicopters have the right to do it from the air, then why would a drone need a warrant?

Some states such as Seattle introduced the use of drones and surveillance in 2013 after major protests that took place, and passed a law that could better scan the situation going down and find offenders more easily. SWAT teams also came into the game, who also applied for drones capable of using thermal cameras and equipped with battery packs so that the drone could withstand at least 90 minutes in the air. There are examples where SWAT teams used tear gas for a while to get suspects to surrender, or get out. And with the help of thermal sensors they have on the drones, it would be much easier to see where these suspects are, so they can respond in a timely manner.

Can Police Use Weaponized Drones On The Public?

Can Police use Weaponized Drones

You may heard or read about the use of weaponized drones in the Western world and most especially in the U.S.A. The state of Connecticut had a debate over a bill that would allow police to put dangerous equipment on drones as of april 2017. What most Connecticut lawmakers are considering is whether they should become the first country to allow use of drones that are equipped with dangerous equipment. Currently North Dakota is the only state that allows police to use weaponized drones, but limits them to use less lethal weapons such as rubber bullets and tear gas. Currently in the United States, there are 5 states and those are: Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin prohibit anyone from using a weaponized drone. Other countries don’t have permission to use that kind of drones on the public. But in the near future a weaponized drones aren’t going to go away.

Pros and Cons For Drone Surveillance

Finally, when we draw the line below all this, we can say that in addition to the great advantages, drones also bring great risk. The risk is related to the enacted law and its use. It will be difficult to determine whether drones have consistently followed all rules and followed all local regulations when using them. If it is proven that the drones were misused in some parts during the investigation, such materials will not be valid in court and will be rejected, so future laws will need to be well and thoroughly reviewed and drafted. This would also penalize police officers conducting the case, that is, citizens would have the right to complain to them. We hope that in the end it will be all nice and detailed and that there will be no problem with such things.

How Law Enfrocment Uses Drones

Some law enforcement agencies are lookin to the skies and determining that drones (UAS) offer solutions to maintaining public safety and processing crime scenes. Standing up a UAS program takes research, planning and training. Under the right circumstances, the technology can produce great results. The County Sheriff’s office in Colorado uses UASs primarily to assist in crime scene and traffic accident investigations. Aircraft’s cameras record information and help officers process it. With the help of computer apps that come with the aircraft and the addition of readily available apps like Google maps, these drones provide precise measurements that help officers visually present special information to investigators and prosecutors. Photographing a crime or accident scene with standard equipment on the ground can take hours or even days. A Drone can fly over the same scene and take digital images in 20 to 40 minutes.


Currently, police do not have the ability to use drones without a warrant unless it is an emergency case. Although some states have advocated that the police be empowered to use drones for major events or concerts without a warrant, this is far from being realized. But there are even some states where the law allows police to use armed drones, but these are exceptions. Basically, it will be interesting to see how things will go in the near future. There are a lot of people who are against such decisions because they believe that this is a violation of their privacy and that the police will have a much greater insight into all the activities that are going on and are not related to their job. If I left something out or you would like to add something, feel free to leave a comment below.

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