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The Illinois State Police Just Received FAA Approval to Use Drones

Photo by Flickr user Karen Eliot.

Last week, Illinois State Police got the federal approval to use what they call “unmanned aircrafts” during police operations. By “unmanned aircrafts,” of course, they mean, “drones,” but they don’t want use that word because “it carries the perception of pre-programmed or automatic flight patterns and random, indiscriminate collection of images and information.”


Right. Or the killing of foreign and American citizens abroad.

“The ability to obtain accurate measurements and clear images from aerial photographs will significantly reduce the amount of time highways are closed during the initial investigation of major traffic crashes,” Illinois State Police told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The FAA’s approval gives the Illinois State Police a two-year license to utilize drones in certain operations—given that they fall in line with the Illinois State Assembly’s Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act, a piece of legislation that was passed two years ago and endorsed by the ACLU. The act prohibits the use of drones without a warrant and stipulates that the footage collected by the drones must be deleted within 30 days. The act also allows police use of drones in the event of a terrorist attack, to collect information at a crime or crash scene, in a missing persons investigation, during disasters or public health crises, or when “swift action is needed to prevent imminent harm to life”.

“One of the concerns was always that a drone is an incredibly powerful tool to see into areas that police couldn't otherwise see in,” Ed Yohnka, a spokesperson for the ACLU, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It's used to follow to follow someone at a relatively low cost and extended period of time. And that's exactly why the legislature passed [the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act] and the governor signed the bill. I think this [FAA authorization] shows the wisdom of that decision.”

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