Santa Clara police officers have received clearance to launch Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), more commonly referred to as drones. SCPD officials say drones have proven to be a valuable resource for law enforcement agencies across the country. UAS routinely serve as an aviation asset that provides a different perspective on a dangerous situation and supports investigations.
The Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) spent a lot of time studying and researching the issue before launching the program. The department studied the use of drone technology, secured funding and developed best practices, policies and procedures for our Department which were reviewed by the Chief’s Advisory Committee and approved by the City Council in 2020.
Unfortunately, the pandemic and corresponding staffing and supply chain issues delayed the launch of the UAS program.
Recently, SCPD selected eight police officers to be trained and licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). SCPD also received certification from the FAA.
Meanwhile, SCPD has purchased nine drones, four indoor and five outdoor, with different capabilities to support the various missions of the Santa Clara Police Department, depending on the conditions and situation. The drones are outfitted with cameras capable of taking still images and recording video. Footage captured shall be retained according to the City’s established records retention schedule. In each instance, the UAS is intended to aid in the resolution of the situation at hand while also providing a valuable tool to keep officers safely out of harm’s way.
In the coming months, SCPD will be blending the use of UAS with its existing operations and technology. Meanwhile, historical information about the development of program is available online.
Sunnyvale DPS launched its drone program in 2019. The agency uses the drones for search and rescue, fire and post-fire investigations, hazmat response, hostage situations, tactical operations, disaster response, crime scene documentation and flight training for drone operators.
When the program was launched, DPS promised to not use the drones for surveillance without a court order or search warrant. There was also a promise not to target individuals based on things such as race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation. The department says the device will never be used to conduct personal business or be weaponized.