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UAS Policy

Constructing Policies that Address Usage

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) come with public policy challenges, as legislators and public safety officials attempt to balance the perceived societal, operational and safety benefits with the protection of an individual’s civil liberties and privacy rights.

There are many scenarios in which UAS can be used as an important tool. For example, a UAS may be used to fly over a property to see if it can identify a person who was reported to be a potential threat, rather than send emergency services into danger. However, what happens if the UAS catches a separate illegal act in the process?

It's imperative that the fire and emergency service takes into account the legal, ethical and moral considerations of flying a UAS for each situation it's used for. To address public concern – and absent a federal precedent or overarching state regulatory measures – municipalities or public safety agencies seeking to use UAS should construct usage policies.

Some areas for consideration should include:


  • What will you use the UAS for?
  • Will you fly missions for other agencies like your own?
  • Will you fly missions for other municipal agencies like law enforcement?
  • Who is authorized to place the UAS in-service?
  • What missions are applicable?

Collection and Use

  • What legal, authorized purpose are you collecting and using data for?
  • What do you do with data collected outside that scope?
  • How to you ensure compliance with all laws and regulation of the data?

Information Retention

  • How should information be maintained and for how long?
  • What requirements under local or state freedom of information acts must be met?
  • How do you secure the information and who has access to it?


  • How will information and data be used by the agency?
  • Who can access it?
  • Can it be used as a public relations tool, and if so, how?
  • How will legal requirements for dissemination be met?


Seattle Police UAS

North Texas inter-local agreement

Inter-local agreement between the City of Austin and the University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering

Handgun-firing drone appears legal in video, but FAA, police probe further

Consumer Drone Interfere with CA Firefighting Efforts

U.S. Forest Service policy

  • Topics:
    • UAS
    • Technology
  • Resource Type:
    • Strategy development tool
    • 1-pager/ summary/ infographic
  • Organizational Author:
    • IAFC

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