Chula Vista, the second-largest city in San Diego County, California, uses drones as “first responders.” The flying robots are often the first to arrive on the scene when an incident is reported, and play an instrumental role in catching criminals or assisting detentions. And to make sure that citizens retain their trust in these drones, Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) gives residents the ability to view the exact location, flight path, and purpose of each police drone deployment.
CVPD is a bona fide superstar when it comes to using drones for good. It began deploying drones from the rooftop of the police department headquarters to 911 calls and other reports of emergency incidents, such as crimes in progress, fires, traffic accidents, and reports of dangerous subjects in 2018, and hasn’t looked back since.
The public safety agency has utilized drones in over 8,200 reported emergencies to date, clocking an average response time of just over two minutes. In over 4,000 cases, the drone was the first to arrive on scene – with an even more impressive average response time of 96 seconds.
And in more than 2,000 cases, the live footage provided by the “first responder” drone provided evidence that a report could be resolved over the phone, and the police department was able to direct patrol cars to tackle other critical incidents instead.
All this and more has allowed CVPD to secure several waivers from the FAA too, including being the first police agency in the nation to launch drones from anywhere within city limits to respond to the community’s needs faster.
But as nimble as CVPD has been while leveraging new aerial technologies, it’s worth noting that the department has been equally mindful in making accountability a key element of its drone regulations. The police agency makes all records of its drone flights and overall drone usage public through an open, interactive web page. It looks something like this and gives people a summary of individual flights:
At the same time, Chula Vista residents can also view the police drone use data on a larger map of the city. Here’s what that looks like:
The web interface is powered by an agile drone fleet management tool called AirData. While CVPD officers focus on the community, AirData works behinds the scenes to collect flight data, track federal compliance, and maintain drone health logs.
As Chief Roxana Kennedy of Chula Vista Police Department explains:
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. We pride ourselves on ensuring the public has access to our drone flight information in upholding the trust of our community.
Surely, if any police department has concerns about public distrust of drone technology, they would do well to emulate CVPD’s approach.
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