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Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Act Amends Drones as First Responders Act

P.A. 103-101 was recently signed by the Illinois Governor and amends the Drones as First Responders Act to provide law enforcement agencies with more latitude to use drones at certain special events, parades, races, and similar routed events. The Act also includes a number of other changes regarding drone usage by law enforcement. 

First, the Act modifies the language that allowed law enforcement agencies to use drones for locating missing persons to apply to any search and rescue operation or aiding a person who cannot otherwise be safely reached, so long as the agency is not undertaking a criminal investigation.

Second, the Act expands the exemptions for law enforcement agency use of drones to include the following new activities:

  • To conduct infrastructure inspections of designated buildings at the request of a local government agency.
  • To demonstrate the capabilities and functionality of police drones for public relations purposes.
  • To locate victims, assist with victi health or safety needs, or to coordinate emergency responses in response to PSAP dispatched calls for service.

Third, the Act adds a new exemption to allow use of drones by law enforcement agencies at a routed event or special event. A routed event is defined as a parade, walk or race, that is hosted by a state or local government and open to the public with estimated attendance of more than 50 people. A special event includes concerts or food festivals hosted by state or local governments that meet certain estimated attendance numbers based on the population of the venue, as set out in the Act. 

In order to use a drone for a routed event or special event, notice must be posted at least 24 hours prior to the event about use of the drone for participant safety. The notice should be posted at major entry points. 

The Act allows the agency to use the drone in advance of the event to create maps and determine appropriate access routes, staging areas, and traffice routes so long as no personal identifying information is recorded and that no recorded information is used in criminal prosecutions. During the event, the drone can be used to detect any breach of the event space, evaluate crowd size, identify public safety issues, assist in emergency response to a real-time incident, and assess traffic and pedestrian flow. 

The Act modifies the record retention requirements of the Act, including requiring information gathered by the drone for these events must be destroyed within 24 hours except for information relating to terrorist attack, locating a missing person, or photographing a crime or traffic scene, which would have to be destroyed within 30 days. The Act does include some exceptions to these requirements for training or criminal investigations.

Fourth, the Act prohibits use of facial recognition except to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack, to prevent imminent harm to life, or to prevent the imminent escape of a suspect or destruction of evidence.

The Act aksi expressly prohibits equipping a drone with a weapon.

Finally, the Acct requires each law enforcement agency that uses drones to adopt a policy consistent with the Act.


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