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September 20, 2014, 5:04 pm
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Illinois State Police Readying for Drone Program

The Illinois State Police are closer to operating drones in the state of Illinois.

 

Internal emails show ISP purchased a $25,000 drone to be used for Crime Scene Services Command, but they must get certified by the FAA.

 

The documents obtained by 970 WMAY about the program show that Illinois State Police received training from the University of North Dakota.

 

"I'm very surprised the UND elected to mention [ISP drone training] in the newspaper article," wrote Lt. Matt Davis of the Illinois State Police. The newspaper article was an innocuous article from a forum news source out of North Dakota (linked below).

 

Davis says the training that took place in August of this year was supposed to be confidential. Davis says Crime Scene Services Command, or CSSC, has not shared any information with media sources. 

 

The Illinois State Police purchased a drone earlier this year to be used for crime and traffic scene photography. In an internal email about the program dated August, Davis says that ISP is currently preparing the application for a certificate from the FAA. The status of the application is not currently known.

 

A call to an ISP PIO received only initial confirmation of the drone program, but no further information was provided.

 

ISP Drone Program

 

Illinois recently passed a law that requires a warrant for drone surveillance to be legally used in criminal cases. The bill originally included a ban on arming drones with lethal or non-lethal weapons, but that was removed last minute before it passed. Illinois is only one of a few states with this kind of legislation regulating the government's use of drones.

 

Adam Schwartz, Senior Legal Council for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, says he doesn't know what current UAV program the Illinois State Police are operating, but says the ISP and ACLU did take part in a hearing in support of the law to require a warrant for the use of drones in surveillance.

 

"They asked for an exemption from the warrant requirement for the use of a drone to gather traffic crash information where in doing so they're not trying to document what any particular person is doing," Schwartz told 970 WMAY's Bishop On Air.

 

If ISP wants to conduct surveillance on citizens for criminal cases, they will have to get a warrant.

 

Schwartz says that Illinois's statute limiting drone use by state and local police is the strongest in the country.  "Drones are something we should be scared of, but we should also be proud that our government here in Illinois has put in place this important limit on the use of drones by local and state police to spy on us."

 

The Draganflyer unmanned Arial vehicle cost $25,000 and allows police to take high definition video from high altitudes without the expense of a helicopter.  The UAV is capable of using cameras with specialized lenses as well.  View more information about that at the Draganfly company website.

 

For more on this story ...

 

Sources: UND Training Article (http://www.prairiebizmag.com/event/article/id/15587/)

 

Collection of Illinois State Police documents provided through the Freedom of Information Act (pdf)

 

Adam Schwartz with Bishop On Air (drone conversation happens at after 15 minutes into podcast)

 

Expect updates ...

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