LA County Sheriff’s Dept. Ready to Deploy New UAS

Now approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) is bringing on board an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to be used in what it calls “dangerous, hostile and life-saving operations.”

At a press conference held yesterday, Sheriff Jim McDonnell explained that the drone will be used in situations such as search and rescue (SAR), explosive ordnance detection, hazardous materials incidents, disaster response, arson fires, hostage rescue, and barricaded or armed suspects, according to a press release from the LASD. Specifically, the UAS will be assigned to the Special Enforcement Bureau.

Annually, the LASD says it responds to approximately 125 hazmat situations, 600 suspicious or unattended package/device calls, 500 arson/explosives situations, and 500 SAR operations. The department, which describes itself as the country’s “fourth largest policing agency,” serves more than 3 million residents in an area of over 3,000 square miles.
The department says a number of deputies have been trained to operate the UAS, and each one has a remote pilot certificate from the FAA. McDonnell explained at the press conference that the drone, brightly colored with the department’s logo, will be easily identifiable by the public.

“The dangers of law enforcement can never be eliminated,” said McDonnell. “However, this technology can assist us in reducing the impact of risks on personnel and allow us to perform operations to enhance public safety.” He noted that the UAS will not, of course, be used to “spy on the public” or deployed for “random surveillance.”

The sheriff added that the LASD is one of roughly 500 law enforcement agencies in the state of California but one of only 30 approved to operate drones.

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