In the city of Chula Vista, California, drones are now being used to respond to 911 calls by it’s residents. The Chula Vista PD began using aerial drones in an effort to address 911 emergencies. Since its launch, the drones has already completed 30 calls, leading to 3 arrests including a case of domestic violence.
In the said case, the Chula Vista PD’s drone hover in surveillance mode following a stabbing of a woman. The drones streamed footage as the suspect hid in a canyon, unaware that the local police were watching on their mobile phones as they navigated through the terrain and captured the man. The drone also had recorded evidence leading to the arrest, with the suspect entering the victim’s tent.
The arrest was made without incident. The police drones are part of an ongoing pilot program with the city of San Diego, the Federal Aviation Administration and Chula Vista. The program serves as a testing ground for the FAA to rewrite some of their existing regulations, all while the CVPD relays data that could prove to be useful during emergencies. The FAA gave the police department permission to fly the drones during night time and above people or traffic during the 911 emergencies.
One key regulation that the FAA is re-considering is the fact that pilots need a line of sight in order to legally fly their drones. Currently, the FAA has allowed only a 1-mile radius, starting from the headquarters on 4th Ave and the pilot needing to stay on the rooftop to maintain visual contact at all times. It’s hoped that drones will be able to launch from the command center and fly to any point where they are needed without the pilot having to stay on the roof maintaining line of sight as required by the FAA. Darryl Adams, the FAA program manager states that the regulation can change anywhere between 6 months to 1 year, depending on the test program results.
The police departmet is in partnership with CAPE, a company that provides autopilot technology while giving officers the ability to view the footage at a distance. This is the same technology used by the Ensada PD that resulted in upwards of 500 arrests, leading to a crime rate decrease of 10 percent. The application of drones increase officer safety as well as response time. Using the technology, Chula Vista PD can now arrive on scene in a few minutes, relaying real-time information and video footage. The department hopes to have a fleet of 8 to 9 drones ready to respond to emergencies quickly and efficiently.