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Chula Vista Police Using Drones To Respond To 911 Calls

The Chula Vista Police drones transmit images directly to an operations cente...

Credit: Matt Hoffman/KPBS

Above: The Chula Vista Police drones transmit images directly to an operations center at the police station, Oct. 25, 2018.

Chula Vista Police are employing a new type of first responder — drones. Part of a pilot program with the Federal Aviation Administration, Chula Vista PD will start sending the drones out for 9-1-1 calls.

"These drones can go search in areas that we wouldn’t be able to cover," said Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy. "They can have a vantage point from above up to 400 feet and they can look down and see things that we’ve never seen."

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Normally it takes Chula Vista Police up to six minutes to respond to calls. The department said a drone can do it in less than two minutes.

"Drones as first responders is not a replacement for officers — it’s an enhancement," Kennedy said.

Right now, drones launch from the roof of the Chula Vista police station downtown. Under the pilot program, the FAA is limiting the drones to a one-mile radius from the police station.

"Once that technology is proven to a certain point we can start looking at beyond visual line of sight," said FAA Program Manager Darryl Adams. "That’s when they could go further from the main station or they could launch from a remote location."

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Even though the drones can only fly a mile out, digital zoom adds another mile of coverage. The zoom is so good police said they have used it to identify license plates.

"We have 11 drone operators right now they’re all sworn officers that are working outside of their normal duties," Kennedy said. "They all have to be certified pilots and they have to go through a training for that."

Chula Vista PD hopes to have civilians operating the drones in the near future.

Thanks to drone technology police in Chula Vista are kicking off a program that gives law enforcement a bird's eye view.

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