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S.F. No. 3074 - Regulating the Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles by Law Enforcement Agencies
Author: Senator Warren Limmer
Prepared By: Priyanka Premo, Senate Counsel (651/296-3914)
Date: February 17, 2020



SF 3074 regulates a law enforcement agency’s use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (“UAV” or “drone”). The bill generally requires a law enforcement agency to obtain a warrant to use a UAV but establishes several exceptions to the warrant requirement. The bill also regulates the use, storage, and disclosure of information gathered by UAVs; provides for a civil action for those aggrieved by violations of the law; and requires reporting.

In the 2019 session, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard a similar version of this bill and both legislative bodies passed similar language, but a final version was not included in the public safety conference committee report. In the interim, the Subcommittee on Data Practices reviewed the language and made additional changes which are reflected in SF 3074.


Sec. 1. Public Benefit Data. Authorizes a law enforcement agency to make otherwise private or nonpublic UAV data accessible to others if disclosure will aid the law enforcement process, promote public safety, or dispel widespread rumor or unrest.

Sec. 2. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Adds a cross-reference in Chapter 13 (the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act) to the statute governing UAV data.

Sec. 3. Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

Subd. 1.  Application; definitions. Specifies that this section applies to law enforcement agencies that maintain, use, or plan to use an unmanned aerial vehicle (“UAV” or drone). Defines “law enforcement agency,” “UAV,” “government entity,” and “terrorist attack.”

Subd. 2. Use of unmanned aerial vehicles limited. Requires a law enforcement agency to obtain a search warrant for the use of a UAV unless an exception applies.

Subd. 3. Authorized use. Absent a warrant, a law enforcement agency may use a UAV:

  • during or in the aftermath of an emergency situation that involves the risk of death or bodily harm to a person;
  • over a public event where there is heightened risk to the safety of participants or bystanders;
  • to counter the risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization;
  • to prevent the loss of life and property in natural or man-made disasters and to facilitate post-recovery efforts;
  • to conduct a threat assessment;
  • to collect information over a public area if there is a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity;
  • for crash-reconstruction purposes;
  • over a public area for officer training or public relations purposes; and
  • for a non-law-enforcement purpose at the request of a government entity.

Subd. 4. Limitations on use. Requires governing body approval prior to purchasing a UAV.  Prohibits the use of facial recognition or other biometric-matching technology unless expressly authorized by a court. Prohibits weapons-equipped UAVs. Prohibits data collection on public protests or demonstrations unless expressly authorized by a court.

Subd. 5. Documentation required. Requires a law enforcement agency to document each use of a UAV, including identifying the appropriate exception unless a warrant was obtained.

Subd. 6. Data classification; retention. Classifies UAV data as private or nonpublic data subject to certain limitations. Authorizes disclosure of data under limited circumstances. Requires deletion of data within seven days unless it is active criminal investigative data.

Subd. 7. Evidence. Prohibits evidence collected in violation of this section from being admitted in criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding against a data subject.

Subd. 8. Remedies. Clarifies that Chapter 13 remedies apply to violations of this section. Authorizes a civil action against a law enforcement agency for parties aggrieved by a violation of this section.

Subd. 9. Written policies required. Requires law enforcement agencies to create a written policy governing UAV use and make it available on their website.

Subd. 10. Notice; disclosure of warrant. Requires service of a warrant upon persons named in the warrant within 90 days of the court unsealing the warrant. Requires that a warrant be filed with the court administrator within ten days of expiration. Permits a prosecutor to request that the warrant not be filed.

Subd. 11. Reporting. Requires reports from law enforcement agencies, the Commissioner of Public Safety, the judiciary, and the state court administrator related to the use of UAVs.

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