Mountain View city officials are considering deploying unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, for use by its police, fire and public works departments.
This Thursday, Aug. 15, residents will be able to weigh in at a public discussion on drone use from 7-9 p.m. at 1000 Villa St.
Following an informational briefing, attendees will be able to offer feedback or ask questions. A live stream of the event will be posted for community members to view the event and ask questions in real time.
At the April 9 city council meeting, police Lt. Saul Jaeger spoke about the ability of drones and available technologies — high-zoom and infrared cameras, environmental sensors, and live streaming and sharing of video — to enhance operations and improve work safety.
“It’s used for increased situational awareness and better decision-making overall,” Jaeger said.
The public works department has proposed to use drones for roof, gutter and canopy inspections, environmental assessments and project management. The fire department has also categorized drones as a valuable asset in monitoring active fires, managing mass casualty and hazardous materials incidents, and aiding in life-saving efforts before and after a natural disaster.
For the police department, aerial drone views and thermal imaging could be used in a disaster response and recovery, an active pursuit of a suspect or a missing persons search. The technology would also provide officers with an improved ability to document crime scenes, collisions and respond to dangerous scenes.
Many local police departments, including Sunnyvale, San Jose and Santa Clara have also expressed interest in a drone program. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, an early adopter of unmanned aerial vehicles, reportedly has deployed DJI Phantom drones on over 30 missions.
Jaeger said city officials intend to incorporate ACLU recommended safeguards into they city’s drone policy to protect citizens’ right to privacy.
Among other considerations, Mountain View would prohibit placing weapons on an unmanned aerial vehicle, conducting random or proactive surveillance activities or using drones for anything other than official city business, according to the staff report presented to city council. The city would also establish guidelines for data collection and retention.