Chula Vista, CA – The Chula Vista Police Department has doubled their fleet of drones to enforce the coronavirus lockdown and help share information in the community.
The department recently added two new drones to its fleet that have been outfitted with speakers and night vision cameras, the New York Post reported.
Chula Vista is located near the Mexico border south of San Diego.
“We have not traditionally mounted speakers to our drones, but… if we need to cover a large area to get an announcement out, or if there were a crowd somewhere that we needed to disperse — we could do it without getting police officers involved,” Chula Vista Police Captain Vern Sallee told the Financial Times.
The Chula Vista police already had two drones in their fleet that they began using solely for emergency situations in October of 2018, the New York Post reported.
The new drones cost about $11,000 each, fully-equipped.
“With strong support from the community, the Chula Vista Police Department began deploying drones from the rooftop of the Police Department Headquarters to 911 calls and other reports of emergency incidents such as crimes in progress, fires, traffic accidents and reports of dangerous subjects,” the department said.
The police drones usually run between 10 and 15 calls a day, the New York Post reported.
“The outbreak has changed my view of expanding the program as rapidly as I can,” Capt. Sallee said.
He said he was working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expand the police department’s drone usage to help during the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Post reported.
“This crisis could be a catalyst to spur the FAA to free up resources faster,” Capt. Sallee told the Financial Times.
The captain said the police department would also use the drones to monitor the homeless population in the city and to broadcast messages to them, the New York Post reported.
“We need to tell them we actually have resources for them — they are vulnerable right now,” Capt. Sallee said. “It might be impractical or unsafe for our officers to be put into those areas.”