Illinois Police Drones: Weapons and Facial ID on Law Enforcement UAVs Prohibited


Illinois Police Drones: In a fascinating move by the Illinois House of Representatives, law enforcement is not allowed to use “on a drone any firearm, weaponized laser, kinetic impact projectile, chemical agent or irritant, or any other
21 lethal or non-lethal weapon.”

Given Robocop was filmed in nearby Detroit, it looks like if anyone actually builds a robotic police officer, it won’t be able to drive south for some deep-dish pizza.

The bill, HB3902 also states that police drones cannot collect identifying data about citizens.

” A law enforcement agency operating a drone under this Act is prohibited from using, during a flight, onboard facial recognition software that works in conjunction with the drone,” the lawmakers wrote. “A law enforcement agency operating a drone under this Act is prohibited from using any information gathered by a drone with any facial recognition software.”

Illinois Police Drones: Destroying Data

Any data collected must also be destroyed almost immediately. Police can only hold data in situations related to an ongoing investigation.

3(725 ILCS 167/25)
4Sec. 25. Information disclosure. 
5(a) If a law enforcement agency uses a drone under Section 
615 of this Act, the agency shall not disclose any information 
7gathered by the drone, except that a supervisor of that agency 
8may disclose particular information to another governmental
9government agency, if (1) there is reasonable suspicion that 
10the information contains evidence of criminal activity, or (2) 
11the information is relevant to an ongoing investigation or 
12pending criminal trial.
13(b) Records of drone usage, including flight path data, 
14metadata, or telemetry information of specific flights, if 
15available, may be disclosed subject to the Freedom of 
16Information Act and rules adopted under that Act.
17(c) A law enforcement agency that uses a drone under 
18Section 15 shall neither sell any information gathered by the 
19drone nor disclose any information gathered by the drone to 
20any person to whom disclosure is not authorized under this 
22(d) Nothing in this Act prevents the disclosure of 
23information through a court order or subpoena in connection 
24with a criminal proceeding or if the disclosure is in regard to 
25a completed traffic crash investigation.

This is a surprisingly privacy-positive move for the Illinois Police Drones by a state legislature, especially in the heartland. It’s exciting and fascinating to think about how the police will, inevitably, figure out ways around these limitations so they can add flamethrowers to their DJI drones.

John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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