Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Pilot Program
The Culver City Police Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are very powerful and versatile officer and community safety tools. Light weight and easy to transport, UAVs can be quickly deployed to assist Police, Fire and Public Works personnel in enhancing public safety, and search and rescue operations. The UAVs will be used to provide aerial support during tactical Police and Fire operations, and provide an added layer of transparency and accountability by recording aerial video of the incidents. The UAVs will utilize a high definition camera and/or forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera system to provide real time situational awareness, which will help public safety officers in locating both suspects and victims.
In addition to providing situational awareness to public safety and other City personnel, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) program will assist in crime and accident scene reconstruction, and disaster management. The UAV program will have the added benefit of enhancing safety to City personnel by limiting their exposure to the dangers of natural disasters, chemical, and biological threats.
On March 13, 2018, City Council approved the purchase order to Ackah Sarbah Botach Tactical for the purchase of two (2) DJI Matrice 210, four (4) DJI Phantom 4 Pro, two (2) DJI Spark Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and accessories. During this time, a department policy was also developed.
In August 2018, Staff received the eight (8) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and accessories.
The Police Department is aware of the privacy concerns related to the use of UAVs and has taken measures to address those concerns; primarily through a combination of policy (see attached policy) and reporting. The Police Department’s UAV policy outlines situations in which the UAV may be utilized, including but not limited to:
- Accident Investigations
- Missing Persons Investigations
- Search & Rescue Operations
- Illegal Drug Investigations
- Disaster Management
- Crowd Control Situations
- Explosive Ordinance Disposal/Bomb Threats
- CBRNE Incident (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive)
- Supporting Criminal Investigations (search and or arrest warrants)
- Major Event Security Support
- Perimeter Searches and Security
- Routine Training (public places)
UAVs may only be deployed with a supervisor’s approval, and only after all of the required notifications to air traffic control towers (per FAA regulations) have been made. Only pilots who possess a valid license to fly UAVs issued by the FAA may deploy a UAV.
The policy also lays out a public reporting procedure wherein every use of a UAV will be announced using the public announcement system on our Police vehicles, and or social media outlets (safety and time permitting). Every deployment will be documented and published in the Culver City Police Department’s monthly report. This report, which is posted on our Department’s public website, will include flight data such as: date and time, duration of the flight, reason for the deployment, and outcome (i.e. whether a suspect was located etc.). Additionally, every flight is digitally logged. The digital log includes a full tracking of each flight including the entire flightpath (GPS), altitude, and speed. The digital information will be stored in house and available for release as required by law.
Around January 2019, the Department will begin an eighteen month pilot program. All of the aforementioned policies and procedures will be adhered to during this time and a report will be presented to the City Council to discuss the program’s effectiveness at the conclusion of the pilot program.