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Los Angeles Fire Department Seeks Approval to Start Drone-Training Program

Los Angeles City Council is considering a proposal that would give the LAFD the go ahead to launch a drone program for training and emergency use.

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) has requested permission from the City Council to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for fire and medical response.

In a report coinciding with the request, LAFD Battalion Chief Richard Fields states the drones could protect firefighters from entering hazardous areas and deliver a strategic advantage. He also cites consideration of the community’s historic interest in preservation of privacy as a nationwide trend toward drone adoption mounts, according to statescoop.com.

“Capitalizing on advanced technologies via [drones] will greatly improve our tactical effectiveness and provide for a more efficient deployment of resources in both the emergent and expanded incident management scenarios,” Fields says in the report.

If approved by the city, LAFD will start testing the drones while making a second request to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a certificate of authorization, a document that would recognize the city’s drone program at the national level.

The department’s approval efforts include reaching out to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the development of what the LAFD considers a strict privacy policy. In reference to a 2011 ACLU report on drone privacy, LAFD states in its report the drones would only be used during training exercises and emergency incidents. The policy also notes that video recorded would be securely archived, and the department would publish quarterly reports on its drone use.

“It is the ACLU’s opinion that uniform rules should be enacted to ensure ‘we can enjoy the benefits of this new technology without bringing us closer to a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the government,’” Fields says, quoting the ACLU’s report.

LAFD’s approval efforts follow Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s recent announcement that his agency will begin using an UAV to aid deputies responding to arson scenes, suspected bombs and hostage situations. In a press release, the agency avoided using the term “drone,” and mentioned several times that the device would not be used for everyday surveillance.

A city spokesperson told StateScoop there is no definite time frame when the City Council will review the LAFD proposal.

About the Author

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Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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