University of California Santa Cruz Police Department
UC Santa Cruz PD Policy Manual



Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Operations


The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines for the use of an unmanned aerial system (UAS) and for the storage, retrieval and dissemination of images and data captured by the UAS.



Definitions related to this policy include:

Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) - An unmanned aircraft of any type that is capable of sustaining directed flight, whether preprogrammed or remotely controlled (commonly referred to as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)), and all of the supporting or attached systems designed for gathering information through imaging, recording or any other means.


613.2     POLICY

Unmanned aerial systems may be utilized to enhance the department’s mission of protecting lives and property when other means and resources are not available or are less effective. Any use of a UAS will be in strict accordance with constitutional and privacy rights and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.


613.3     PRIVACY

The use of the UAS potentially involves privacy considerations. Absent a warrant or exigent circumstances, operators and observers shall adhere to FAA altitude regulations and shall not intentionally record or transmit images of any location where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g., residence, yard, enclosure). Operators and observers 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 UAS operations.



The Chief of Police will appoint a program coordinator who will be responsible for the management of the UAS program. The program coordinator will ensure that policies and procedures conform to current laws, regulations and best practices and will have the following additional responsibilities:

  • Coordinating the FAA Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) application processand ensuring that the COA is current.
  • Ensuring that all authorized operators and required observers have completed allrequired FAA and department-approved training in the operation, applicable laws, policies and procedures regarding use of the UAS.
  • Developing uniform protocol for submission and evaluation of requests to deploy  a UAS, including urgent requests made during ongoing or emerging incidents. Deployment of a UAS shall require written authorization of the Chief of Police or the authorized designee, depending on the type of mission.
  • Developing protocol for conducting criminal investigations involving a UAS, includingdocumentation of time spent monitoring a subject.
  • Implementing a system for public notification of UAS deployment.
  • Developing an operational protocol governing the deployment and operation of a UASincluding, but not limited to, safety oversight, use of visual observers, establishment of lost link procedures and secure communication with air traffic control facilities.
  • Developing a protocol for fully documenting all missions.
  • Developing a UAS inspection, maintenance and record-keeping protocol to ensurecontinuing airworthiness of a UAS, up to and including its overhaul or life limits.
  • Developing protocols to ensure that all data intended to be used as evidence areaccessed, maintained, stored and retrieved in a manner that ensures its integrity as evidence, including strict adherence to chain of custody Electronic trails, including encryption, authenticity certificates and date and time stamping, shall be used as appropriate to preserve individual rights and to ensure the authenticity and maintenance of a secure evidentiary chain of custody.
  • Developing protocols that ensure retention and purge periods are maintained inaccordance with established records retention schedules.
  • Facilitating law enforcement access to images and data captured by the UAS.
  • Recommending program enhancements, particularly regarding safety and information
  • Ensuring that established protocols are followed by monitoring and providing periodicreports on the program to the Chief of Police.


613.5     USE OF UAS

Only authorized operators who have completed the required training shall be permitted to operate the UAS.

Use of vision enhancement technology (e.g., thermal and other imaging equipment not generally available to the public) is permissible in viewing areas only where there is no protectable privacy interest or when in compliance with a search warrant or court order. In all other instances, legal counsel should be consulted.

UAS operations should only be conducted during daylight hours and a UAS should not be flown over populated areas without FAA approval.



The UAS video surveillance equipment shall not be used:

  • To conduct random surveillance activities.
  • To target a person based solely on individual characteristics, such as, but not limitedto race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation.
  • To harass, intimidate or discriminate against any individual or group.
  • To conduct personal business of any type.The UAS shall not be weaponized.



Data collected by the UAS shall be retained as provided in the established records retention schedule.




Policy 613 PDF