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The Five C’s: Principles on the Responsible Use of Drones by Public Safety Agencies provide a powerful new tool to help guide the development and deployment of drones by first responders.

Agencies can find the Five Principles here.

While there is no shortage of materials on the development of public safety drone programs, the existing maze of reports—from DOJ, IACP, and civil society organizations—can be difficult to navigate and even more challenging to implement. The Five C’s distill key concepts to provide clear guidance that is easy to apply in practice. The principles revolve around five critical pillars:

1.    Community Engagement and Transparency

  • Public service is a public trust. When developing and operating a drone program, it is critical to engage in an ongoing conversation with the community you serve. Effective community engagements consists of two parts:  public participation and transparency.

2.    Civil Liberties and Privacy Protection

  • Every drone program should be predicated on the protection of privacy and the promotion of civil liberties.  Agencies should develop safeguards and training procedures that advance those objectives across every element of the program. 

3.    Common Operating Procedures 

  • Departments should develop and adopt common operating procedures to guide the use of drones. The Five C’s provide a roadmap for the development of operating procedures that account for best practices in the field on topics such as FAA compliance and video management practices designed to protect privacy. 

4.     Clear Oversight and Accountability

  • Agencies need to establish robust oversight measures designed to ensure compliance and accountability, along with clear oversight processes that combine both internal and external measures.   

5.    Cybersecurity

  • Modern drones are more than simple flying machines. Drones have become network-connected devices that should be subject to cybersecurity reviews. 


“These principles are designed to establish a clear path forward and a firm foundation on which to build public safety UAS programs that will promote responsible use and public trust,” said Chief Charles Werner (Emeritus-RET), the Director of the DRONERESPONDERS Public Safety Alliance. "It excites us to know that first responder agencies now have a solid set of principles to operate in the safest and most responsible manner possible."


Drone technology is transforming public safety for the better; fire, emergency management, and law enforcement agencies use drones every day to provide situational awareness during demanding emergency situations. Obtaining real-time awareness in dangerous scenarios results in better outcomes, greater accountability, and increased leadership involvement in events as they unfold. While every public safety agency should have access to the transformative potential of drone technology, this new tool must be used in a responsible manner that acknowledges the importance of community engagement and the protection of privacy and civil liberties. 


This commitment has never been more important. In recent months, the use of drone technology by first responders has attracted scrutiny and criticism. This environment represents an opportunity for the public safety community to affirm a set of shared values designed to promote responsible use and preserve the trust given to first responders. 


The Five C’s are designed to get new drone programs off the ground and enable existing programs to truly flourish,” stated Chad Karlewicz, DRONERESPONDERS’ Deputy Director and Commander with the Renton, WA Police Department. 


DRONERESPONDERS developed these principles with the support and assistance of Skydio, the largest U.S. drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight. “Skydio is thrilled to collaborate with DRONERESPONDERS to support the responsible use of drone technology,” said Brendan Groves, Skydio’s Head of Regulatory and Policy Affairs, who formerly led and scaled the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) drone program. "In my government service, I found that the most successful public safety drone programs prioritized community engagement and the protection of privacy and civil liberties. The Five C’s will help agencies to achieve those objectives and unlock the potential of drone technology to enhance public safety.” Skydio is committed to building drone technology--and to supporting the development of standards and best practices--that advance the responsible use of drones by first responders.


DRONERESPONDERS invites the full range of stakeholders across the first responder community to review and endorse the principles.


DRONERESPONDERS will be hosting a series of webinars and podcasts, expected to begin on July 30, 2020, designed to explore the principles and advance the responsible use of drones by first responders. To endorse or express a view on the principles, contact DRONERESPONDERS at


DRONERESPONDERS Public Safety Alliance is a non-profit program that helps first responders, public safety, and emergency management professionals implement and maximize UAS technology. DRONERESPONDERS is a 501(c)3 non-profit program administered by AIRT, Inc. a non-profit, non-government organization.


About Skydio
Skydio is the leading U.S. drone manufacturer and world leader in autonomous flight. Skydio leverages breakthrough AI to create the world’s most intelligent flying machines for use by consumer, enterprise, and government customers. Skydio designs, assembles, and supports its products in the U.S. from its headquarters in Redwood City, CA, to offer the highest standards of supply chain and manufacturing security.

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