The Portland Police Bureau will begin using a small number of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), sometimes called a drone, to increase efficiency and safety when responding to serious injury crashes, search and rescue operations, potential explosive and hazardous items, and tactical incidents at the discretion of the Critical Incident Commander. These tools have proven valuable in protecting lives and property, while allowing officers additional time to make critical decisions safely.
An unmanned aircraft system (UAS), sometimes called a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot onboard—instead, the UAS is controlled from an operator on the ground. All operators for this program will be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and adhere to all laws regarding UAS use.
sUASs are widely used in the public sector, as well as by nearly every law enforcement agency within the Portland Metro area. The regulated use of sUASs by the PPB Investigations Branch will provide improvements in safety for both officers and community members. Additionally, the use of sUAS technology in crime / major crash scene events reduces inconvenience to the public by minimizing documentation time at a scene. PPB sUASs are exact or slightly modified versions of commercially available products and will be clearly marked with City of Portland or Portland Police logo.
During the one year pilot phase, PPB will use the drones in two areas: Traffic Division and the Metro Explosive Disposal Unit.
The Traffic Division will use a drone to:
- Document scenes of Major Crash Team investigations
Document post-crash vehicle damage
- Document scenes of Major Crash Team activations
- Provide sUAS support during Search and Rescue Operations
The Metro Explosive Disposal Unit will use a drone to:
- Quickly gather information on suspicious items from a distance
- Search immediate area for secondary devices
- Confirm location of items following render safe operations
- Provide sUAS support during tactical events upon request of Critical Incident Commander (CIC)
- Provide immediate support during disasters, building collapse, etc.
Protect lives and property of community members and City of Portland First Responders.
- Reduce the time spent investigating serious injury crashes while improving traffic congestion.
- De-escalate and reduce need for force use during tactical incidents.
- Employ new technologies to provide a better product for the community.
- Safety and privacy concerns at the forefront of all operations.
Applicable Laws and Standard Operating Procedure
- The Bureau will follow ORS 837 Unmanned Aircraft Systems as well as its Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) which prohibits the drone equipment from:
- Conducting random or indiscriminate mass surveillance activities
- Targeting a person based solely on individual characteristics, such as, but not limited to race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, economic source or status, housing status, gender or sexual orientation
- Harassing, intimidating or discriminating against any individual or group
- Conducting personal business of any type
- Using it for crowd control / crowd management, unless a life safety critical incident occurs
- The sUAS shall not be weaponized (ORS 837.365). The UAS will not be used in conjunction with any type of facial recognition technology.
Pursuant to ORS 837.362:
- Evidence data obtained by a UAS will be retained pursuant to OAR 166-150-0135.
- Portland Police Bureau does not store evidence data obtained by a UAS in third party storage.
- Portland Police Bureau does not have intergovernmental agreements regarding disclosure of data.
Policies and Procedures:
The City is required to establish and publish policies and procedures for use, storage, access, sharing and retention of all data collected by a UAS.
- Portland Police Bureau Investigations Branch UAS Policy
- ORS 192.345: Public records conditionally exempt from disclosure.
- ORS 837.362: Policies and procedures for the use of data.
On April 5, 2023, the Portland City Council authorized the Portland Police Bureau to purchase and operate Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS).
Portland Police Bureau personnel assigned to the Specialized Resources Division testified in front of City Council on March 22, 2023, regarding the program. PPB will begin a year-long pilot project, using drones in limited areas. The sUASs are expected to cost under $80,000.
Access an interactive dashboard and fully downloadable data set on UAS call activity.
For more information about the operation of unmanned aerial systems, contact UAS@police.portlandoregon.gov.