Small Unmanned Aerial Systems / Drones

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The Lane County Sheriff’s Office regularly utilizes drones, also referred to as Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) to enhance the department’s mission of protecting lives and property when other means and resources are not available or may be less effective. This is especially true in Search and Rescue missions in wilderness areas that are inaccessible by foot or horse.

Drone use by this office is common throughout the unincorporated areas of Lane County, as well as within the various city limits and elsewhere in the State of Oregon as needed for legitimate Sheriff’s Office purposes or by mutual aid request from other agencies. Whenever practical, drone operations will be posted in advance on this page, however most drone operations occur with little to no advance planning and advance public notice of a specific operation is rarely practical.

An annual report of drone operations by the Lane County Sheriff’s Office is provided to the Oregon Department of Aviation, and a summary of that information for the previous year is posted on this page.

Sheriff’s Office General Order 10.01 Small Unmanned Aerial Systems / Drone establishes policy regarding the use of sUAS and includes the following information:

I.                    Privacy 

The use of Drones involves privacy considerations.    

A.      Drone operations will be conducted in accordance with all laws and regulations, including Federal, State and Local.


B.      Pilots in Command shall take reasonable precautions to avoid inadvertently recording or transmitting images of areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Reasonable precautions can include, for example, deactivating or turning imaging devices away from such areas or persons during Drone operations.


C.      Use of facial recognition technology during drone operations is prohibited.


D.      A notice shall be maintained on the Sheriff’s Office website informing the public of the existence of the sUAS program and the safeguards in place for privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties concerns, as well as the procedures in place for filing a complaint.


V.                Prohibited Use


A.                  Drone video surveillance equipment shall not be used to:


1.       Conduct random surveillance activities.

2.      Target a person based solely on individual characteristics, such as, but not limited to race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation, housing status, or source of income.

3.        Harass, intimidate, or discriminate against any individual or group.

4.        Conduct personal business of any type.


B.                   Drones shall not be weaponized (ORS 837.365).


VIII.        Data Recording

LCSO shall only collect information using a sUAS, or use sUAS- collected information, to the extent that such collection or use is consistent with and relevant to an authorized purpose. Video recordings and photos will only be taken during missions where there is a reasonable expectation that the data will contain evidentiary value, when necessary for later analysis of the imagery, in situations where it may provide transparency of Sheriff’s Office operations, or for training and promotional purposes.


IX.              Retention and Release of UAS Data

Retention of  Information collected using a sUAS that may contain personally identifiable information (PII) shall not be retained for more than 180 days unless retention of the information is determined to be necessary to an authorized mission of LCSO, or is required to be retained for a longer period by any other applicable law or regulation, and in either case is maintained in a system of records covered by the Privacy Act. All systems of records used to retain or store this information, whether internal or third-party, shall comply with all Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) requirements as they pertain to handling, security, and access. Data collected that contains PII shall only be disseminated where required by law or court order, or when necessary for an authorized purpose.

Only employees or volunteers with appropriate CJIS training and certification, as well as a legitimate and authorized purpose, shall have access to this information.

Any intergovernmental agreement relating disclosure of data acquired by sUAS technology which contains or may contain PII must include provisions that the receiving agency have policies and procedures in place that provide safeguards to public privacy and rights at least as protective as LCSO’s policies.

All evidentiary data will be maintained in accordance with established Sheriff’s Office evidence handling and retention standards. Public records requests for this data will be handled in accordance with Oregon Public Records law with any needed guidance from Lane County Counsel.

X.                Accountability

This policy, and any other policies or procedures relating to the collection, use, retention, and dissemination of information obtained by sUAS, shall be reviewed at least every three years, and prior to deployment of new sUAS technology, to ensure that privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties are protected.


At the same time as the above review, the leadership of the LCSO Drone Team and the LCSO Management Team shall review, assess, and audit the past and present operations of sUAS technology by LCSO for compliance with all applicable policies, procedures, and law.


Complaints or concerns from members of the public can be made using the Complaint Form available on the Sheriff’s Office website, in the Sheriff’s Office lobby, or available from any Sheriff’s Office Supervisor.  All complaints shall be investigated and handled as established by G.O. 3.22.


A full copy of the General Order, referenced above, pertaining to drone use can be obtained by submitted a Public Records Request using the form available here. 

The public is also encouraged to review the text of Oregon Revised Statute 192.345 as it related to disclosure of public records. The text of ORS 192.345 can be found here.

During calendar year 2023, The Lane County Sheriff’s Office deployed drones a total of approximately 157 times. An approximate breakdown of the types of mission is as follows: Training; 34 operations, Crash/Crime Scene Investigations; 12 operations, Exigent Circumstances Criminal Investigations; 24 operations, Search and Rescue Incidents; 33 operations, Missions by Request/Written Consent of Property Owner; 21 operations, Missions pursuant to a Warrant; 33 operations. A total of 8 different aircraft were flown by 5 qualified pilots during over the course of the above missions.

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