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Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Pilot Program

Post Date:05/29/2019 8:21 AM

Policy 608 – Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Operations

The Culver City Police and Fire Departments’ Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are very powerful and versatile community safety tools. Light weight and easy to transport, UAVs can be quickly deployed to assist Police and Fire personnel in handling rapidly unfolding emergency incidents. The UAVs will be used to provide aerial support during emergency 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, the UAV program will assist in crime 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, explosive, 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 and reporting. UAVs will not be used for random patrol. In fact, they will only be deployed in very specific situations, which are outlined in the the Police Department’s UAV policy:

  • Barricaded Suspects
  • Active Shooter Mass Casualty Incidents
  • Hostage Situations
  • Crime Scene Investigations
  • Search & Rescue Operations
  • Fires
  • Disaster Management
  • Critical Missing Persons Investigations
  • CBRNE Incident (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive)
  • Supporting Search and Arrest Warrant Operations
  • Perimeter Searches and Security for Armed and/orFelont Suspects
  • Routine Training (public places)

UAVUAVs 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.).    

On March 1st 2019, the Department began 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.

For questions and/or concerns about the CCPD Drone Pilot Program, please contact Lieutenant Leon Lopez (

Drone Video:

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