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Post Date:10/10/2019 10:58 AM

The Chula Vista Police Department’s (CVPD) Drone as a First Responder (DFR) program reached a major milestone, surpassing 1,000 missions in support of patrol operations.

CVPD’s innovative DFR program is part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS Integration Pilot Program (IPP), which began in 2018. Among the primary goals of the IPP is to expand the integration of drones into the National Airspace System (NAS). In response to the FAA’s request for proposals for the IPP, the City of San Diego established a consortium of public and private entities, including the City of Chula Vista, to collectively apply to be part of the FAA’s IPP.

In May 2018, the FAA selected the San Diego consortium as one of ten IPP test sites nationally with CVPD’s DFR program as one of the most promising public benefit use cases within the IPP. CVPD’s IPP proposal, as part of the larger San Diego IPP, was designed to test the use of drones to respond to emergency calls for service proactively in order to provide real-time video to first responders.

The desired primary outcome of CVPD’s DFR program is to provide better real-time intelligence to first responders in order to respond with the best tactics and resources. CVPD staff worked closely with its technology partner, Cape Aerial Telepresence, San Diego IPP partners, and the FAA to develop the DFR program, train its pilots and acquire the necessary permits and Certificates of Authorization (COA) from the FAA prior to launching the pilot program.

On October 25, 2018, with its newly approved FAA COA, CVPD officially began DFR operations with a single drone which could respond to emergency calls for service within a one-mile radius of the police station. CVPD intended to demonstrate that drones could provide routine aerial intelligence for emergency calls and improve public safety in a cost-effective manner.

DFR proved to be an immediate success by providing real-time data to officers and supervisors on dozens of emergency calls each week. Since its inception, CVPD’s DFR program has achieved several significant milestones:

  • •• First in the nation 1,000 DFR mission milestone
  • •• First in the nation Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) provision to a public operator COA granted from the FAA. The furthest response to date was 3 nautical miles from the station.
  • •• Expansion from one to two remote launch sites.
  • •• Expansion from two to four drones.
  • •• The DFR area of operations now covers approximately 33% of the geographic area of the city; an area responsible for about 70% of its Calls for Service (CFS).
  • •• 130 arrests with drone support.
  • •• 21% of DFR calls are cleared without ground support, thus freeing up ground units for higher priority calls.
  • •• Rapid on-scene response with the drone averaging about 120 second response time.
  • •• “Live911” scanning which allows the drone Teleoperator to hear incoming 911 calls and decide to launch before critical calls are processed and dispatched.
  • •• DFR has proven to be a valuable de-escalation tool which provides officers and supervisors with critical situational awareness to allow better planning and the best use of tactics.

CVPD’s DFR program is one of very few public safety programs in the FAA’s IPP, and has proven one of the most successful IPP project areas with concern to daily and repeated operations. Since its inception CVPD’s DFR program has been awarded the California Police Chief’s Association’s prestigious Excellence in Technology Innovation Award. CVPD’s program is also nationally recognized as the one of the most innovative new paradigms in public safety. Chief Roxana Kennedy and CVPD staff have been asked to present the program to public safety and drone industry groups nationally in recognition of CVPD’s groundbreaking work with DFR, which has proven itself to be one of the most promising innovations in modern policing.

CVPD would also like to thank the Chula Vista Police Foundation, Paradise Valley Hospital, Rush Properties and Prime Health Care for their support of the DFR program. The Police Foundation funded four drones and related equipment critical to establishing the DFR program and Rush Properties, Paradise Valley Hospital and Prime Health Care provided a second launch site at their facility. The establishment of a second site greatly improved DFR range and the number of emergency calls the drone could respond to. Their cooperation and coordination was essential to expand the benefits of DFR to the southern portion of Chula Vista and CVPD is grateful for their help.

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