Can Police Use Drones Without a Warrant? A Complete Guide

Drones are increasingly being used in every business nowadays to better use this technology. But along with its increasing use, a question also arises that, can police use drones without a warrant?

The answer to this question is a complex legal matter because some states have formal warrant laws and others do not. We will answer this important legal question in detail in this blog post.

So Keep reading this blog post to get your desired answer with the help of legal references.

Can Police Use Drones Without a Warrant?

Different states of the USA have different laws regarding the use of drones. The majority of the state’s laws forbid police from using drones without a warrant.

But, authorities can use drones without a warrant in an emergency, such as a situation in which there is a chance that evidence could be lost or that collecting will be impossible.

Below are some examples of state laws that will help you understand that warrants are required for police to use drones.

drone laws

North Carolina State Laws:

There are restrictions on how North Carolina police can use drone footage to conduct searches. 

If they have a search warrant that authorises them to use a drone, law enforcement or police are permitted to conduct a search. Thus, it is often illegal in North Carolina to conduct a drone search without a warrant. 

Florida State Laws:

The use of drones for surveillance that violates a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy, including law enforcement, is forbidden by section 934.50 of the Criminal Code. Yet police can use drones if a search warrant is in place.


Can police use drones without a warrant in Minnesota? The answer is No! Minnesota state law requires police and law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants to use drones.

North Dakota Laws:

Section 29-29.4-01 of the North Dakota Code restricts law enforcement’s use of drones for surveillance, crime investigation, and other purposes.

This demonstrates that a warrant must be obtained before police and other law enforcement bodies can deploy drones.

4th Amendment and Use Of Drones:

4th Amendment

The Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the individual’s right to be safe in their persons, homes, records, and things against unwarranted searches and seizures, has been a foundation of private protection against state interference since 1791.

There is no reason to suppose that when domestic usage of unmanned aircraft grows, protection will abruptly cease, as it has done for more than two centuries of scientific innovation.

President Obama signed an FAA law in 2012 that allowed UAVs in the nation’s airspace. There have been worries that the government may use UAVs in ways that go against individual rights.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1986 that police officers who identified marijuana plants in a suspect’s garden from a plane 1,000 feet in the air did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

A majority of the judges came to the same decision in Florida v. Riley, while the court sided with the government in Dow Chemical Co. v. United States.

Although government investigators may be permitted to utilize UAVs without a warrant, not all observations made with them will be legal.  Contrary to popular belief, the Fourth Amendment may offer more protection.

Arguments On the Usage Of Drones By Police Without Warrants:

Situational awareness, or a clear bird’s-eye perspective of potentially hazardous circumstances, is something that drones offer at a substantially lower cost and operating complexity than manned aircraft. 

This rationale has been used by law enforcement to defend flying drones over a variety of locations, including recent anti-racial police brutality marches, homeless camps, and alleged drug transactions.

Several law enforcement agencies argue that drone or other aerial monitoring is less intrusive and less likely to result in violent encounters with suspicious people than foot patrolling. 

This argument, however, overlooks drones’ substantial, though unclear, symbolic significance in our culture.  They are very visible, buzzing, and blinking devices that notify people of your presence.

According to the minimal public opinion research on drones that have been undertaken, Americans have mixed feelings about the technology, which is impacted considerably by how it is used and one’s political allegiance.

Why Should Police Not Use Drones Without Warrants?

Even though drones are very useful for rescue operations, society does not always support this choice. Some of them object to digital interference with their civil freedoms. The primary concern of many who oppose drone use is public privacy. 

The general consensus in society is that drone deployment should be restricted since while spying on criminals, drones also harm innocent civilians.

While many other law enforcement agencies concur that drones may save lives and time, there are still those who think they can crash into buildings or, worse, aeroplanes.

FAQs: Can Police Use Drones Without a Warrant?

Can We Shoot Down a Police Drone Flying Over My Property?

The simple answer is no; it is usually prohibited to cause damage to someone else’s property merely because it is on or, in this example, above yours.  The FAA has announced and will publish further regulations limiting the use of flying drones in the near future. 

If your police department’s commercial drone operator breaches these regulations by flying over your house, he will lose his commercial drone operator’s licence. 

Can We Trust Police Using Drones?

The Los Angeles Police Commission has approved the deployment of drones by its personnel, making it America’s largest police force to use remote-controlled drones. 

Only SWAT teams will be authorised to use the drones in “tense situations”. Weapons and facial recognition technology will be restricted, and every flight will have to be logged and evaluated. 

The drone business is poised to take off, but policymakers have yet to catch up. As a result, we must wait to see if the police can be trusted with drones. Maybe the future is unknown.

Can Police Drones See in Windows At Night?

Drones lack night vision and perform poorly in low-light conditions. While some models include infrared vision, it is unlikely that they can see into your home in the dark through a window.

Read also: Can Drones See Inside Your House?


To conclude, unless there is an emergency, police officers cannot use drones without a warrant. Though many states have argued to allow police to deploy drones without a warrant at major events such as concerts, this is still a long time away.

Yet, certain states have rules that permit police to use drones, but these are the exceptions. In general, seeing how things develop in the near future will be intriguing.

Many people disagree with these judgements because they believe they violate their right to privacy and offer the government a greater awareness of all the unconnected activities taking place.