City of Chula Vista to outline police, fire drone use

Posted at 5:07 PM, Mar 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-30 20:07:27-04

CHULA VISTA (CNS) - The city of Chula Vista Thursday released a draft policy on drone use by its police and fire departments, which prohibit random surveillance and targeting of individuals based on race, nationality or other factors.

The unmanned aerial systems also would not be allowed to contain weapons, according to the proposal.

Use of drones would be allowed when they can "enhance the department's mission of protecting lives and property when other means and resources are not available or are less effective," the draft policy said. City officials suggested flying over areas where people have gone missing, wildfires or crime scenes as appropriate uses.

UAS flights would have to be "in strict accordance with constitutional and privacy rights and Federal Aviation Administration regulations," the draft policy said.

The city hopes to have a final policy approved in time to begin using drones in July.

"These drones will help make things safer for the community and enhance our response, as well as being a cost saving measure," said Lt. Chris Kelley, the CVPD's drone coordinator.

According to the city, public input has been taken at a public meeting and at other forums, such as "Coffee With a Cop Events." The American Civil Liberties Union has also been consulted.

The draft policy is online at The city also has a "frequently asked questions" page at

Residents can offer comment by sending an email to

The draft policy said that absent a warrant or pressing situation, "operators and observers shall adhere to FAA altitude regulations and shall not intentionally record or transmit images of any location where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy," such as a residence, yard or enclosure.

Operators and observers will take precautions like deactivating or turning away imaging devices when over such areas in order to prevent inadvertent recordings or transmissions over private grounds, according to the document.