The ACSO will use unmanned aircraft to help investigations if necessary - Ada County Sheriff

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The ACSO will use unmanned aircraft to help investigations if necessary

The Ada County Sheriff’s Office has selected nine deputies to operate and fly unmanned aircraft systems when we need that technology to help us solve crimes and protect the public.

We want you to know we will only use them for very limited purposes. We will not violate the privacy of our citizens.

Unmanned aircraft can be a powerful tool for public and officer safety – allowing our investigators to track suspects, collect evidence, and increase safety for everyone during active crime scenes.

Our goal is to use this equipment during events where real-time information helps us solve crimes and gather essential information during public safety emergencies like potential hostage or barricaded subject calls.


Nampa Police helped us with their unmanned aircraft during an incident in January where a man fired at a Kuna Police officer and then hid in a neighborhood for several hours in an attempt to avoid arrest. That information proved essential to locating Ramon Milanez.

Our unmanned aircraft system (UAS) pilots used their equipment in an official capacity for the first time late last month as they were investigating a home-invasion/house fire at a residence at the Linder/Amity roads intersection.

At the time, the suspect in the home invasion was believed to have died in the fire but deputies used the technology to search nearby farm fields as a precaution.

Just last weekend our pilots used UAS to try to find a hunter that hit another man in the face and then ran away over an access dispute in the McMillian/McDermott roads area.

We also may use them to get aerial photos from crime and vehicle crash scenes. That is more efficient and faster than the traditional route of asking for a fire truck ladder to get an aerial view.

We expect the vast majority of our UAS use to be for those types of situations. For longer-term investigations, the rules are very specific and very limited.

Idaho Code specifically requires law enforcement to obtain a search warrant from a judge before unmanned aircraft can be used to conduct surveillance on any person or property.

Our team of nine pilots has spent months training and studying Idaho Code while our administrative staff created a policy that lines up with state laws and addresses public concerns about UAS use.

We have finalized that policy. At this point, the ACSO has two operational unmanned aircraft systems that we can deploy on crime scenes – and nine deputies who can pilot them.

We will use this equipment to protect public safety. We will not use them for any other purpose.

Here is the ACSO policy:

“ACSO has implemented a small Unmanned Aircraft System (“UAS”) program to directly assist the operations elements of the Office in the prevention of crime, the apprehension of criminals, the preservation of the public peace, and to protect the personal and property rights of the citizens of Ada County.

Pursuant to Idaho Code §21-213, the ACSO shall only use an unmanned aircraft vehicle (also known as a UAS or “drone”) when conducting search and/or rescue operations, responding to potential hostage or barricaded subject situations, crash scenes, crime scenes, or during any public safety emergency response operation where the use of such technology may result in better operational planning and/or ensure the safety and well-being of potential victims, deputies, or the public in general.

The UAS is a small, remote-piloted aircraft that must be piloted by a certified pilot in cooperation with a competent observer.

The UAS may be equipped with video recording equipment capable of taking both moving and still images, search lights, and forward-looking infrared imaging systems capable of detecting heat differences or other equipment designed for specified missions.

All UAS mission requests will be authorized by the Police Services Bureau Captain and the UAS Coordinator or their designee.

Without an approved search warrant, the UAS shall not be used for non-emergency surveillance missions or missions that would violate the privacy rights of the public or Idaho Code §21-213.

If required by state or federal law, ACSO deputies shall obtain a search warrant from a magistrate judge prior to any specific investigation in which a person or group of persons is a targeted for surveillance.

Any deployment outside of Ada County to aid another law enforcement agency shall be in the sole discretion of the Sheriff and only done with his express permission.

ACSO may rely on Ada County or any other local emergency response agency to provide a UAS to use during any operation as outlined above.

Any local agency cooperating with the ACSO shall follow the policy of the ACSO as outlined above as part of that agreement.

No other member of the Department shall deploy their own personal UAS during the course of their duties.”

If you have any more questions about why the ACSO is using this technology, or any other inquiry about what we do and why, send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as we can.