I'm a cop and need help making a drone, as well as some info

Hello all,

I am a Deputy Sheriff in TN and I want to make a drone I can use on duty, to search for people who run. I would like to use a small FLIR cam on it. Any advice?


I also hear alot about FAA this and FAA that, my question is why and how can FAA say anything at all?

When I was a kid I use to fly R/C model aircraft and FAA did say anything. Never heard anything, what's the diffrence??


                                  Thank You,

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  • [Not intended to be legal advice.]

    Hi Will:

    As a law enforcement officer you are considered a "state actor," and constitutional considerations apply to your use of a drone while on duty. Under the Supreme Court ruling in Kyllo v. United States, 533 US 27 (2001), the Supreme court held:

    "Where, as here, the Government uses a device that is not in general public use, to explore details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a Fourth Amendment "search," and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant."

    The device that was not in "general public use" in that case was a thermal imaging device, which is still not a device in "general public use" and would still require a warrant.

    Drones, however are in general public use now. So arguably unless there is a statute that states otherwise, no warrant would be required for the use of the drone itself. That said, the FLIR you wish to use is still not "in general public use," so a warrant would still be required.


    Peter Sachs


    • Isn't there a difference between "private home" and "public woods"?

    • Thanks for weighing in Peter I was wondering when you were going to comment


  • Moderator

    You should take a look at http://dronelawjournal.com/

    This guy is a lawyer and was recently featured on the local news after an 'off-duty' newsman was caught flying a DJI Phantom near a fatal accident scene in Hartford, CT.  

  • hey Will im no legal expert either but I have done some research on this as well (I want to use this for crop surveying with a FLIR camera) anyways the FAA requires anyone operating a UAS to get what they call a certificate of authorization or COA and fly a certified system if you are making any money doing this which you would because you would be on the clock. that's what ive came up with hope ive helped and good luck!

    • Moderator

      This would be a RAPS airframe and as such will be required to undergo testing at DHS. DHS has already said nothing with less than 1000 hours flown on type to go through the process. So.... build, test and document.

  • I can could contact you I can tell you how to do it! I work for the University of alaska and I work with the Alaska State Troopers and they fly them here. Message me if you would like more info.


  • Will,

    I too am no legal expert - get your county DA to look into this issue. Here in South Carolina legislation was pending at the state level to require a search warrant before agencies can use UAV technology. What you propose is during the line of duty or in pursuit of a fleeing suspect. A search warrant would probably not have been issued in that case.  HERE is the pending SC legislation.

    At this time, the FAA issue is in regards to professional use (that includes Law Enforcement) of this new technology. There is no coded prohibition but the Feds are taking this as "it is prohibited until we say when/what is OK". The FAA (Feds) can give special permission (a COA) for agencies to test/use  the tech...but it is very rare to get one.

    Now, this does not mean that:

    • Your department cannot purchase the technology - buy all you want
    • Your department cannot take training on using the technology - practice all you want
    • Run simulations with other agencies on the use of the technology - collaborate all you want

    It does mean you cannot use the technology in the line of duty (yet) and for admissible evidence (as the pending SC legislation). Again, get you department heads to consult with your county and state DA on the subject. You wouldn't want to catch the perp just to have to let him/her loose due to misused technology.

    Here is a safe suggestion for now: Look into night vision gear for fleeing suspects in the woods. I am not aware of any restrictions to law enforcement use of this technology.


  • Will, you may want to spend some time reading these categorized news items. Particularly the items related to the FAA. Also see the Emergency category on sUAS News

  • Man from the law questioning the FAA regulations. You as a single police officer can not and should not involve a sUAS. As a matter of fact that would be breaking the law! Look at spending 20k and more and there being more involved then you think,

This reply was deleted.


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