ZDNet questions, should police need a warrant to collect evidence via drones? That question is currently before lawmakers in Indiana as they consider a bill to wipe out current prohibitions on drone use by police without first procuring a warrant.
Nationwide, there’s no standard when it comes to police using drones, although the Supreme Court has weighed in generally on the subject in Florida v. Riley. In that case, the Court ruled there’s no right to privacy when it comes to police observation in public airspace, reinforcing existing standards when it comes to the use of police helicopters.
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In North Dakota, a 2015 law not only makes it legal for police to use aerial drones for surveillance, but also to equip drones with nondeadly weapons such as tasers.
Nonetheless, opponents draw a line in the sky when it comes to drones, which are much easier and cheaper to deploy for surveillance than helicopters, and which aren’t subject to the same strict rules governing flight. A helicopter can’t easily hover outside a window, for instance.
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In 2013, Seattle famously reversed course and withdrew plans to equip local police with drones amid escalating protests. The California senate passed a bill that would have required police to secure a warrant for drone surveillance in 2014, but that bill was vetoed by then-Governor Jerry Brown, leaving the door open for police to use drones without warrants.
That’s just what a SWAT team in Campbell, California, did earlier this month, deploying a new drone called the US-1 from Impossible Aerospace during a standoff with a suspect at a local Denny’s. According to authorities, the drone, which is equipped with thermal and optical sensors and has a 90 minute battery life, provided perimeter surveillance and a view of the roof and exits. Continue reading about warrants when using drones.