SPD proposal on Unmanned Aerial Systems

At the direction of Mayor Mike McGinn, the Seattle Police Department has been working with Councilmember Harrell and his Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee to help draft the regulation of the unmanned aerial systems (UAS).  These systems are intended to help us protect public safety by gathering visual information in specific situations where sending in an officer would not be safe,  or to take crime scene photography that a human being could not easily capture.  The use of the UAS will be tightly controlled, regulated and will not be used to conduct random surveillance.

Here is a link to our draft UAS Operations Manual as submitted to Councilmember Harrell’s Office by the Executive in December 2012, with the expectation that it would be converted into an ordinance.

Our proposed authorized uses for the UAS are:

HAZMAT response:  In the event of a hazardous material incident, the UAS would provide first responders with important visual information without having to expose them unnecessarily to the hazard. A HazMat event includes incidents involving Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or Explosives.

Search and Rescue: Would provide search personnel with aerial views of large areas, much like an airplane or helicopter.

Barricaded persons: Would provide commanders and first responders additional information needed to develop tactical plans without unduly putting officers at risk.

Video/photographs for investigations: Would assist investigators with the ability to video/photograph large crime scenes.  These images would be used to further investigations and for eventual court prosecution.

Significant traffic collision investigations: The “bird’s eye view” of a crime scene is extremely important during an accident reconstruction investigation.

Disaster response (Flood, earthquake, etc. ): The use of UAS during a natural disaster would be helpful to first responders as they begin to assist the community in recovery. 

Other requests should be supported by a warrant.

The SPD UAS program will operate following the guidelines detailed in the proposed ordinance.   Request for use of the UAS outside those areas outlined in the ordinance and prior to the operating of the UAS, warrants will be applied for and obtained.  We will balance all operations with the need to accomplish the mission while maintaining public privacy and the freedom from intrusion.

Here is a link to a Powerpoint presentation on the UAS/UAV