Aerial photo of intersection courtesy WSDOT
Photo courtesy WSDOT

The city uses unmanned aerial systems to promote better information accuracy, public safety and communication effectiveness and transparency. UAS are small, remote-controlled aerial vehicles that can be equipped with a camera to document crash and crime scenes, disaster areas, large-scale events and city projects and features. UAS technology gives public service agencies another tool to improve service delivery and maintain a high-performance government, delivering information and perspectives that otherwise would not be possible. 

Well-tested tool

As with any new system or technology employed by the city, a rigorous review of the technology was conducted, including assessments of successful UAS programs at peer cities. The review informed a city usage policy, including guidelines about equipment usage, appropriate purposes for gathering content and retention policies that consider privacy and value to residents. As a smart city, Bellevue is committed to assessing the latest technology tools and tactics to better serve the community. The UAS assessment concluded that using this technology would be beneficial to the public good in many functions in the city

Value for the city

UAS allows the city to increase its ability to deliver important services to residents in areas, including:

  • Transportation safety – UAS technology allows workers to get a better view of projects from all angles to ensure structure quality control, better understand traffic patterns, aid in education efforts and, in the instance of crashes, better assess the scene to determine if safety improvements could help prevent future crashes.
  • Public safety – Police and Fire departments can use UAS technology in collision, crime scene and fire investigations to better document and refer back to the state of a scene at the time of the initial investigation. UAS also allows for real-time assessment of active scenes to inform safety strategies in addressing fires or in-progress crimes. UAS can be deployed in search and rescue efforts and UAS devices can be sent into areas that may be unsafe for responders. In cases of major disasters, UAS technology can survey a broad area to help emergency coordinators plan response and recovery efforts and prioritize resources.
  • Communications – UAS technology allows the city to share more complete, accurate and transparent images and video of a variety of projects, events and features in the city. UAS offers unparalleled perspectives that are compelling and helpful to communicating key information.

Private use

People may use unmanned aerial systems in Bellevue, but if you intend to use a city park for taking off, landing or controlling a UAS, a parks permit is required. Federal regulations prohibit UAS flights over people, occupied vehicles or vulnerable infrastructure. A right of way permit would be necessary to close a portion of a city street or sidewalk if your UAS flight cannot be accomplished while such streets or sidewalks are occupied.

While federal law generally permits UAS flights over private property, UAS cannot be operated in a way that endangers persons or property. If you believe a UAS is being operated unsafely, posing an immediate hazard to persons or property, please call 911. Otherwise, please report the incident via the Bellevue police non-emergency phone number, 425-577-5656.

Learn more

Residents are welcome to contact the UAS Core Team with comments or questions at A helpful Frequently Asked Questions document is also available to address common inquiries.