Chula Vista Drone Program Lauded For Accountability, Transparency

The police department of the city of Chula Vista, CA (CVPD) is being lauded for the accountability and transparency of its drone program.

CVPD pioneered an innovative concept in public safety drone operations called Drone as a First Responder (DFR). Drones are launched from strategic launch sites in response to 911 calls and other reports of emergency incidents, including crimes in progress, fires, traffic accidents, and reports of dangerous subjects. CVPD received the FAA’s first-ever active emergency response waiver with a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) provision for public safety in March 2019.  To maximize flight safety, however, a visual observer is always present at the launch site, even as the drone utilizes automation and geofencing technologies for safe operations.

The department has used drones in over 8,200 reported emergencies to date, with an average response time of just over two minutes. In over 4,000 cases, the drone was the first to arrive on scene, and – in more than 2,000 case – the live footage provided by the drone provided evidence that a report could be resolved over the phone, freeing officers to deal with other critical incidents instead.

Importantly, CVPD has striven to make their drone use transparent to the public. Drone flights and overall drone usage is made public through their open, interactive web page, enabling Chula Vista residents to view and understand the exact location, flight path, and purpose behind each police drone deployment. The site is powered by a drone fleet management tool called AirData, which collects flight data, tracks federal compliance, and maintains drone health logs.

“Transparency and accountability are key components in the success of our drone program which has been an invaluable tool in maintaining the safety of our officers and the public,” said CVPD Chief Roxana Kennedy. “We pride ourselves on ensuring the public has access to our drone flight information in upholding the trust of our community.”