Yes, law enforcement drones are coming, but if Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, has his way they won’t leave the ground without a judge okaying it first.
Yesterday, Poe introduced the Preserving American Privacy Act to ensure government, particularly law enforcement, use of drones will not violate the Constitution. Before police can launch a drone to search a non-public area, they will have to get a warrant based upon probable cause--the constitutional standard. For public spaces the standard will be reasonable suspicion of criminal activity as well as a reasonable probability that the drone will capture evidence of that criminal activity. Once the order is executed, the police will have 10 days to serve a copy of the warrant to the suspects under surveillance, although the bill allows judges to delay notification if it will jeopardize an ongoing criminal or national security investigation. If government entities violate the public trust and fly drones outside the law, the attorney general can order the Secretary of Transportation to revoke their license.