Illinois Unleashes Police Drones for Event Security

In a bid to bolster public safety, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has signed a bill allowing increased use of at public events.

This decision comes just shy of a year since the devastating mass shooting at Highland Park. The new legislation authorizes law enforcement to use surveillance drones at parades, races, and concerts.

Senator Julie Morrison, who witnessed the Highland Park shooting, expressed strong support for the legislation, stating in an email, “It's simple: drones will save lives.”

She further emphasized the importance of providing law enforcement with modern tools and training, especially during the busy festival and parade season, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“As we enter parade and festival season, it's more pertinent than ever that law enforcement are equipped with the most modern tools and training to keep communities safe,” said Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat.

Before this bill, usage in Illinois was quite restrictive, limited to situations like potential terrorist threats or disaster response, and always requiring specific warrants.

The new law, however, broadens these scenarios, including planned special events, non-criminal missions, and infrastructure inspections.

Nonetheless, important boundaries remain in place. Drones must be unarmed, operated only by law enforcement, and cannot be deployed at political events.

Public notifications are required when drones are used at public functions. Representative Barbara Hernandez affirmed during the floor debate, “This is a specific purpose.”

“This is not going to be just a drone that can be in anyone's community for whatever reason,” Democratic Rep. Barbara Hernandez of Aurora and the bill's chief sponsor in the House explained.

The legislation passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate. However, it has not been without critics. Senator Rachel Ventura voiced concerns about potential privacy violations, emphasizing the need to balance freedom and safety.

A key feature of the law relates to facial recognition technology. Its use is permissible only under specific high-risk conditions, addressing the American Civil Liberties Union's concern about tracking immigrants without legal status.

Furthermore, the law stipulates that drone footage must be deleted after 24 hours, unless it's necessary for criminal investigations. Law enforcement agencies must also file reports detailing the circumstances and reasons for drone usage.

Senator Linda Holmes, the bill's primary sponsor in the Senate, describes this legislation as potentially one of the most important in her career, emphasizing its potential in providing critical information and facilitating rapid, lifesaving actions by law enforcement and .


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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