The Vermont Statutes Online
§ 4621. Definitions
As used in this chapter:
(1) "Correctional facility" shall have the same meaning as in 28 V.S.A. § 3.
(2) "Drone" means a powered aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator and is able to fly autonomously or to be piloted remotely.
(3) "Law enforcement agency" means:
(A) the Vermont State Police;
(B) a municipal police department;
(C) a sheriff's department;
(D) the Office of the Attorney General;
(E) a State's Attorney's office;
(F) the Capitol Police Department;
(G) the Department of Liquor and Lottery;
(H) the Department of Fish and Wildlife;
(I) the Department of Motor Vehicles;
(J) a State investigator; or
(K) a person or entity acting on behalf of an agency listed in this subdivision (3).
(4) "Public safety agency" shall have the same meaning as in section 1841 of this title. (Added 2015, No. 169 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. Oct. 1, 2016; amended 2017, No. 101 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. April 17, 2018; 2019, No. 73, § 34.)
§ 4622. Law enforcement use of drones
(a) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, a law enforcement agency shall not use a drone or information acquired through the use of a drone for the purpose of investigating, detecting, or prosecuting crime.
(b)(1) A law enforcement agency shall not use a drone to gather or retain data on private citizens peacefully exercising their constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.
(2) This subsection shall not be construed to prohibit a law enforcement agency from using a drone:
(A) for observational, public safety purposes that do not involve gathering or retaining data; or
(B) pursuant to a warrant obtained under Rule 41 of the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure.
(c) A law enforcement agency may use a drone and may disclose or receive information acquired through the operation of a drone if the drone is operated:
(1) for a purpose other than the investigation, detection, or prosecution of crime, including search and rescue operations and aerial photography for the assessment of accidents, forest fires and other fire scenes, flood stages, and storm damage; or
(2) pursuant to:
(A) a warrant obtained under Rule 41 of the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure; or
(B) a judicially recognized exception to the warrant requirement.
(d)(1) When a drone is used pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, the drone shall be operated in a manner intended to collect data only on the target of the surveillance and to avoid data collection on any other person, home, or area.
(2) Facial recognition or any other biometric matching technology shall not be used on any data that a drone collects on any person, home, or area other than the target of the surveillance.
(3)(A) If a law enforcement agency uses a drone in exigent circumstances pursuant to subdivision (c)(2)(B) of this section, the agency shall obtain a search warrant for the use of the drone within 48 hours after the use commenced.
(B) If the court denies an application for a warrant filed pursuant to subdivision (A) of this subdivision (d)(3):
(i) use of the drone shall cease immediately; and
(ii) information or evidence gathered through use of the drone shall be destroyed.
(e) Information or evidence gathered in violation of this section shall be inadmissible in any judicial or administrative proceeding. (Added 2015, No. 169 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. Oct. 1, 2016.)
§ 4623. Use of drones; Federal Aviation Administration requirements
(a) Any use of drones by any person, including a law enforcement agency, shall comply with all applicable Federal Aviation Administration requirements and guidelines.
(b) It is the intent of the General Assembly that any person who uses a model aircraft as defined in the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 shall operate the aircraft according to the guidelines of community-based organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics National Model Aircraft Safety Code. (Added 2015, No. 169 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. Oct. 1, 2016.)
§ 4624. Reports
(a) On or before September 1 of each year, any law enforcement agency that has used a drone within the previous 12 months shall report the following information to the Department of Public Safety:
(1) The number of times the agency used a drone within the previous 12 months. For each use of a drone, the agency shall report the type of incident involved, the nature of the information collected, and the rationale for deployment of the drone.
(2) The number of criminal investigations aided and arrests made through use of information gained by the use of drones within the previous 12 months, including a description of how the drone aided each investigation or arrest.
(3) The number of times a drone collected data on any person, home, or area other than the target of the surveillance within the previous 12 months and the type of data collected in each instance.
(4) The cost of the agency's drone program and the program's source of funding.
(b) On or before December 1 of each year that information is collected under subsection (a) of this section, the Department of Public Safety shall report the information to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary and on Government Operations. (Added 2015, No. 169 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. Oct. 1, 2016.)
§ 4625. Correctional facilities; use of drones prohibited; civil penalty
(a) A person shall not knowingly operate a drone over a correctional facility or surrounding property that is readily recognizable to a reasonable person as being correctional facility property or is reasonably identified as such by fencing or appropriate signs.
(b) A person who violates subsection (a) of this section shall be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $500.00.
(c)(1) Subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to the use of a drone by:
(A) the Department of Corrections;
(B) a person operating a drone with the written consent of the correctional facility's supervising officer; or
(C) a person operating a drone that is being used for a commercial purpose, if the person is operating in compliance with any authorization, rule, or exemption granted by the Federal Aviation Administration.
(2) With prior notice to the correctional facility, subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to the use of a drone by:
(A) the Department of Buildings and General Services or its contractors working on behalf of the Department;
(B) a law enforcement agency; or
(C) a public safety agency responding to an emergency or a person engaged in emergency functions or emergency management pursuant to chapter 1 of this title (emergency management). (Added 2017, No. 101 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. April 17, 2018.)