Austin-area cops ready to partner with drones, but critics want rules

Government use of aerial drones became much easier when the Federal Aviation Administration flipped the switch on new regulations last year. Since then, many Austin-area public safety agencies, including the Williamson County sheriff’s office and San Marcos police, are jumping in.

Some of those agencies say their drone use is narrowly defined, but the programs are too young to have policies in place that satisfy critics who worry that drones would threaten privacy.

“When you put a very powerful tool like this in the hands of government, the first thought is about privacy,” said Adam Schwartz, a senior lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Schwartz said concerns about drones and surveillance are far reaching, and include fears that they could be used to monitor and photograph protesters.

Of the Central Texas law enforcement agencies contacted for this report, only Williamson County and San Marcos confirmed that they intend to use drones for law

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