Citywide employee drone policy

This policy authorizes select departments to use drones. Departments are required to follow a variety of protections that emphasize public safety and the privacy of San Francisco residents.

The City and County of San Francisco (“City”) is dedicated to embracing technologies that help improve its services while protecting the privacy and safety of its residents. The use of drones in the public interest is expected to benefit residents and visitors to the City through the more efficient use of City resources.

Purpose and scope

This Drone Policy (“Policy”) is intended to guide officers, employees, and contractors of participating departments with approved drone programs. The term “drone” means an unmanned aircraft flown by a pilot via a ground control system, or autonomously through use of an on-board computer, communication links or other any additional equipment.

This Policy is subject to an evaluation period ending in September 2020 and will be brought back to COIT for further consideration. During the evaluation period, a Drone Oversight Committee composed of representatives from the Mayor’s Office, the City Administrator, and COIT will review the drone programs of all participating departments and provide recommendations to COIT on revisions to this Policy, as necessary.

This Policy applies to all departments participating in the City’s drone program, including boards and commissions, employees, contractors, and volunteers. Elected officials, employees, consultants, volunteers, and vendors while working on behalf of the City are required to comply with this Policy.

Policy statement

The City’s Drone Policy requires each participating department to adopt a policy that reflects the requirements described in this document. Departments may add requirements to their drone policies, but may not remove any requirement in this document, or use drones for any reason outside the “authorized use cases” identified for each department. All department policies must be approved by COIT staff before any authorized use.

The departmental drone policy must be reviewed and signed by all drone operators in the participating department, and by any individuals with access to drone data that may contain Personally Identifiable Information.

Engaging in the unauthorized use of drones or activities that are inconsistent with this Policy may subject an officer or employee to discipline, up to and including termination of employment or removal from office, as well as to applicable monetary fines and penalties. Nothing in this Policy shall modify or reduce any due process rights provided pursuant to the officer or employee’s collective bargaining agreement.


Approved September 19, 2019


COIT Citywide Employee Drone Policy - download full policy document