Sioux Falls Police Department Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program

Mission:

The mission of the Sioux Falls Police Department Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Program is to protect the lives and property of residents and visitors in a constitutionally and legally sound manner in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations. A UAS may be utilized in circumstances that would save life and property, as well as in situations to detect dangers that could not otherwise be seen.

Overview:

Unmanned Aircraft Systems, commonly referred to as drones, have proven to be a valuable resource for law enforcement, first responders, and during emergency service operations. The Sioux Falls Police Department and many other law enforcement agencies have adopted drone programs after seeing the benefits and value they provide to improving public safety.

History:

The Sioux Falls Police Department initiated its UAS program in 2019 and spent over a year researching the project before its implementation. While developing the program and applying for grants to purchase the aircraft, the department studied the use of UAS technology in public safety operations, while also researching best practices, policies, and procedures regarding the use of UAS technology in law enforcement.

Before the UAS program was launched, selected sworn police officers received training in the operation of UAS technology and earned required certifications necessary to operate drones in the performance of their law enforcement duties.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a drone or UAS?

A drone, or unmanned aircraft system, is an aerial device with an onboard computer that is operated remotely by a pilot on the ground using a handheld controller. Small drones are battery operated, weigh less than 55 pounds, have several rotors similar to a helicopter, and are equipped with sensors such as a camera or spotlight.

When will a UAS be deployed?

The Sioux Falls Police Department’s UAS Team shall support department operations by providing aerial observation of law enforcement and other public safety incidents.  Incidents which meet these criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • Crime Scene and Fatal Crash Scene Applications - A primary use of the UAS will be to conduct crimes scene and collision scene documentation taking aerial pictures and videos to be used as evidence.
  • Search and Rescue – A UAS may be deployed in an effort to locate missing or endangered subjects where an aerial view would benefit the search. Search and rescue may also include looking for injured persons stemming from a disaster.
  • High Risk Tactical Applications (SWAT) - A UAS may be deployed in an effort to protect officers from unnecessary exposure to danger and minimize the risk of injury to bystanders, officers and suspects, and enhance the likelihood of bringing peaceful resolutions to potentially deadly incidents.
  • Event Security – A UAS may be used at large public events where a view from above may be a benefit to officers charged with protecting those in attendance.
  • Disaster Response – A UAS may be deployed to gather aerial views of damage from disasters, whether they are natural or man-made. Search and rescue may be part of this response.
  • Fire/Hazmat Incidents –A UAS with thermal camera capabilities may be deployed to assist Fire in detecting and addressing hotspots. A UAS with a camera may be deployed to hazmat incidents where reading a hazmat placard from a distance is needed.
  • Training – UAS pilots will deploy UAS on scheduled training days to maintain readiness and certification.
  • Community Outreach Demonstrations – In an effort to encourage public trust and effectively engage our community, a UAS may be part of a community meeting or special event such as  Citizen Police Academy.

How are you protecting my privacy and civil rights?

Personnel operating an UAS shall be considerate of privacy rights and, absent a warrant or exigent circumstances, shall not intentionally record or transmit images in any location where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g., inside house, fenced yard, enclosed area only visible from an elevated position). Operators and observers will take reasonable precautions to avoid inadvertently recording or transmitting images in violation of privacy rights.

The UAS shall not be used:

  • To conduct random surveillance activities
  • To target a person based solely on individual characteristics such as, but not limited to: race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, gender, or sexual orientation
  • To harass, intimidate, or discriminate against any individual or group
  • To carry weaponry of any kind

Can I read your UAS policy?

Yes, Sioux Falls Police public policies are available online at: https://www.siouxfalls.org/police/policy-manual.

Will there be a report of UAS deployments available to the public?

Yes, our policy requires a yearly report of UAS deployments be part of our annual report. The UAS deployment report will be part of the 2020 Annual Report which when printed can be found online at https://www.siouxfalls.org/police/annual-report.