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Mon, Nov 13, 2017

LA City Council Approves Drone Guidelines For Fire Department

Unanimous Vote Comes Over The Objections Of Civil Liberties Groups

The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously approved guidelines for a drone program for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The vote approving the program came over the objections of some groups who expressed concerns that the aircraft would potentially violate civil liberties, according to a report from television station KCAL.

The guidelines allow the use of unmanned aircraft by the LAFD in "emergencies where the complexity or scope of the incident require critical decision making on the part of the incident commander and/or pose a significant risk to firefighter safety (that) could require the use of a department UAS."

The aircraft may also be used in situations involving, but not limited to, hazardous materials, confined spaces, swift or moving water rescues, high or low angle rescues, or "any other expanded or extended incident."

The use of drones will likely be rare, according to the report. The guideline document notes that about 99 percent of the city's annual 470,000 calls for service would not call for the use of a drone.

The ACLU argued against the approval, expressing concerns about "mission creep" and that the aircraft might one day be weaponized or used for mass surveillance.

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners approved guidelines for the use of UAVs despite the strong objections expressed by a majority of people providing comments on the program. The Los Angeles County sheriff's Civilian Oversight Commission approved a call to ground the LASD drone program 5-4, but that vote is not binding on the department, and Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the agency will continue to use the aircraft.

(LA Sheriff's Department drone image from file)

FMI: Original Report

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