The mission of the Burbank Police Department's Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Drone Program is to provide airborne support to police and emergency operations in a safe, responsible, and transparent manner, for the purpose of increasing the safety and security of citizens in the City of Burbank.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), more commonly referred to as drones, have proven to be a valuable resource for law enforcement, first responders, and during emergency service operations. The Burbank Police Department and many other law enforcement agencies have adopted drone programs after seeing the benefits and value they provide to improving public safety. The Burbank Police Department Drone Program is not a replacement to our current air support operations (helicopter program), but rather, serves to supplement the helicopter as a more efficient and cost-effective alternative for small scale missions and operations.
The Burbank Police Department initiated its drone program in 2018 and spent several months researching the project before its implementation. While developing the program, the Burbank Police Department studied the use of drone technology in public safety operations, while also researching best practices, policies, and procedures regarding the use of UAS technology in law enforcement.
Prior to launching the drone program, several sworn police officers were trained in the operation of drones and use of UAS technology, and earned required licenses and certifications necessary to operate drones in the performance of their law enforcement duties.
The Burbank Police Department Drone Program is in its infancy and is currently being tested as a pilot program.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is a drone or UAS?
A drone, or unmanned aircraft system, is an aerial device with an onboard computer that is operated remotely, generally by a pilot on the ground, using a handheld controller. Small drones are battery operated, weigh less than 55 pounds, have several rotors similar to a helicopter, and are equipped with a video camera.
Where are videos and/or photographs taken by the BPD drone stored?
Any video(s) and/or photograph(s) collected and saved by the UAS/drone are saved and stored in the same manner as body worn camera (BWC) video and other investigative digital evidence. The Burbank Police Department stores digital evidence in a secured network database, and also in a private "cloud" service, Evidence.com. These services are authorized and certified under both state and federal regulations for the security and protection of confidential information, and are available/accessible only for official law enforcement purposes. Evidence is stored and retained in accordance with current record retention policies.
Who has access to the videos and/or photographs?
Videos and photographs collected by our UAS are generally accessible to police investigators and personnel for official use only. Like all police records, videos and photos may also be subject to additional release under the same rules and restrictions as body worn camera video and other items of evidence. Generally, UAS photos and video related to an active police investigation are considered part of the investigative record and are not available to the public under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
How is my privacy protected?
The purpose and intent of the Burbank Police Department drone program is to supplement air support operations and assist law enforcement and other first responders in various operations. Burbank Police drone operaters are prohibited from intentionally recording or transmitting images/video of any location where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, except where/when authorized by a warrant issued by a judge, or in emergency situations.
To read the Burbank Police Drone Operations training bulletin, CLICK HERE.
What type of drone(s) does the Burbank Police Department operate?
The Burbank Police Department owns and operates two DJI Mavic Pro drones, which are cost-effective, entry level drones that have been widely adopted by law enforcement agencies.
On what type of operations has the drone been deployed?
The drone has been used to capture aerial footage of traffic intersections related to fatal and serious injury collisions, and also as overwatch during a large-scale outdoor public event which spanned several city blocks.
Who operates the BPD drones?
Burbank Police drones are operated by FAA-certified and licensed operators. The Burbank Police Department has six operators, all of whom are sworn police officers. They are the only personnel authorized to operate the drones.
Who authorizes the use and deployment of the drone?
The Drone Program Manager authorizes the use and deployment of the drone. In emergency or exigent situations, the on-duty Watch Commander can authorize the deployment of a drone.
What are some examples of how the drone will be used?
The drone could be deployed during critical incidents, disasters or calamities (brush fires, earthquakes, floods, etc.), during active K-9 searches, search and rescue operations, crime scene investigations, structure fires, or as security overwatch of public events or public areas for the purposes of safeguarding the public and preventing/deterring crime or criminal activity.
Does law enforcement have different rules pertaining to the flying of drones in the City of Burbank?
There are certain exemptions for drones operated by law enforcement that are mostly applicable during emergency operations or critical missions, and most exemptions pertain to FAA rules and notification requirements.
What are the laws pertaining to drone operations for members of the public?
This information can be found here: DRONES - BMC
How does the drone program differ from the helicopter program?
The drone, as with the air support (helicopter) unit, provides aerial support to law enforcement and other first responders on the ground. The major difference between the helicopter and drone is cost. The drone costs next to nothing to operate, while the helicopter can run upwards of $1,000 per hour to operate.
Who can I contact with additional questions about the drone program, or to make a complaint about the drone program?
The Drone Program Manager, Lieutenant Claudio Losacco, at email@example.com.
Video Demonstration of the Burbank Police Department Drone
(Family Fun Day 2019)