This post was updated Oct. 17 at 9 p.m.
The Los Angeles Police Department will start testing an unmanned drone system over the course of a year after the first drone receives federal approval.
The Los Angeles Police Commission, the civilian board that oversees the department, voted 3-1 Tuesday to begin a one-year trial period for LAPD’s small unmanned aerial system. The trial will start once the Federal Aviation Administration registers the system’s first drone. Anti-drone protesters in attendance at the LAPD Headquarters chanted “shame on you” after the decision, Los Angeles Daily News reported.
The drones will not be deployed with any weapon systems and will be used primarily in tactical or natural disaster situations where putting an officer on the field could be dangerous, according to guidelines in the system’s proposal. LAPD will retain drone recordings in accordance with city requirements and will provide quarterly reports of the small unmanned aerial systems program to the police commission.
Each quarterly report will analyze the overall effectiveness of the sUAS program and provide recommendations to the commission as to whether the program should continue after the one-year trial.
Only a Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations Bureau officer responding to a scene and the commanding officer of CTSOB can approve the use of drones, according to the proposal.
LAPD officers presented the system to communities throughout the city, including Westwood, in August. Several individuals in Westwood said they were worried officers would misuse the drone system to unlawfully spy on civilians or eventually weaponize the drones.
UCPD Lt. Kevin Kilgore said he does not think the policy will directly affect students on campus because UCPD patrols UCLA’s campus and the Westwood area. He added while UCPD may introduce its own drone policy, the department still needs to review specific policy ideas.
Police officers use drones when they need a vantage point or to make sure a location is safe for officer entry, Kilgore said. He added drones could help emergency personnel find victims that need assistance.
Kilgore added more police departments are using drones now because of technological advancements.
“As technology evolves, we are always looking for how technology can help us better protect our community and our UCLA campus here,” he said. “So when … active shooters and stabbings and things like that (happen), we want to make sure we put ourselves in a position to provide the best protection for our campus community.”
Kilgore said if UCPD decides to implement a drone policy, UCLA and the University of California Office of the President would need to approve it.