News

Menlo Park looking into drone program

 
Drone pilot Capt. Chris Dennebaum of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District prepares to fly a camera-equipped drone over areas damaged by the Carr Fire in and around Redding. (Photo by Menlo Park Fire Protection District drone team | August 2018.)

Drones may be a part of the Menlo Park City Hall's future.

Menlo Park Police Chief Dave Bertini told The Almanac Sept. 3 that he is asking the City Council to consider holding a study session, likely sometime in November, to discuss the possibility of starting a drone program to support police work, alongside work in other city departments.

The same day, the Mountain View City Council passed a policy that will permit the launch of a program to use unmanned aircraft systems – also known as drones – to aid the work of the police, fire and public works departments.

In Mountain View, on the police front, drones might be used to look for missing people; provide situational awareness by getting an aerial point of view on a situation; respond to suspected explosive devices or dangerous scenes; and to document a crime or collision scene.

To support firefighting agencies, drones might be used to document or monitor a scene, or manage hazardous material. For the public works department, drones could be used for roof, gutter or tree canopy inspections, road and construction project oversight, and to do environmental assessments, according to the Mountain View policy.

As far as Menlo Park's plans go, Bertini said, "We are in the very, very initial stages of looking at what Mountain View did."

He later added that he hopes drones would be used by other city departments such as public works, transportation, community development, and the community services departments. "Our intention is to have multiple trained and certified pilots from each one of these departments," he later clarified.

The department will have to address concerns about privacy, as well as acquire special authority from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for such a program to move forward, Bertini noted.

The FAA can permit public safety officers to use drones in areas where the public cannot, he added.

In August 2016, the Menlo Park City Council banned the recreational use of drones – along with remote-controlled model airplanes – at city parks. The ban was passed partly because the city is within 5 miles of two airports, in San Carlos and Palo Alto.

Even while recreational drone use has been cut in Menlo Park, use of drones by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District has only expanded in the past several years. In May 2016, it was the first fire agency in the state to receive approval from the FAA to operate drones, and it has had a drone crew since 2014.

The district's drones have been used to document fire damage in the aftermath of the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa in 2017 and the Carr Fire near Redding in 2018.

Drone programs across California are proliferating.

Fremont has been using drones for its police and fire departments since 2017. In February, the Fremont Police Department reported using a drone equipped with thermal imaging technology to find a student reported missing from the California School for the Deaf. The drone helped find the student, who was hiding in the dark in the bushes, and who would otherwise have been much harder to find, the department reported.

Bertini noted that a city in Southern California is working on a pilot program – "no pun intended," he joked – to use drones as first responders.

The police department in the city of Chula Vista in San Diego County began deploying drones as first responders within a 1-mile radius of the police department in October 2018 after studying the possibility with a committee exploring best practices and policies since December 2015.

The department calls the use of drones "transformational" as it allows responders to see what is happening at an incident before emergency personnel arrive, sometimes minutes later. The drones have cameras that can stream HD video back to an emergency center or the police department headquarters, as well as to the first responders, supervisors and command staff. A teleoperator controls the drone and communicates with responders in the field.

"Imagine the value of knowing that the truck leaving the scene of a robbery report is red and heading northbound, or that the report of a man with a gun is actually a 16-year-old with a BB gun, or the accident on the freeway involves a tanker truck with placards indicating a chemical hazard," the department states on its website. The department has made drone flight data publicly accessible.

These procedures raise the obvious privacy concerns around what gets recorded and who gets access to it.

In Chula Vista, video surveillance collected by drones is considered part of an "investigative record" and is not subject to public release under the California Public Records Act or Freedom of Information Act. Operators cannot intentionally record or transmit images of "any location where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as private backyards or inside private buildings, except where authorized by a warrant," according to department policy. Pilots are expected to have specific licenses under the FAA.

The Mountain View policy states that "operators will take reasonable precautions to avoid inadvertently recording or transmitting images that infringe upon an individual's right-to-privacy," though being able to do so relies on operator considerations about when to turn the recording function on and off while the drone is being deployed. The policy also states that operators should avoid flying over private property to the extent possible.

Being in the middle of Silicon Valley, Bertini said, "It's almost expected that we would be trying to parlay this technology to do our job better, safer and more effectively."

The next step for the idea to move forward will be to schedule a study session on the topic, after which a proposal and funding request might be developed, depending on the City Council's direction.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story suggested that the drones would be used only by the police department. As currently conceptualized, the drones would be used by other city departments as well, such as public works, transportation, community development, and the community services departments, according to the police chief.

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Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 3:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire District began its drone program with a series of public meetings and the adoption of the resultant policy statement in 2014:

Menlo Park Fire Protection District
Fire Services Manual

Policy
370



Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
PURPOSE AND SCOPE
The purpose of this policy is to establish safe, efficient and lawful operation of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District (MPFD) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).

DEFINITION:

Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS): Consists of the small unmanned aircraft weighting under 4.4 lbs, the command system, a secure control link, camera and other related safety support equipment.

Unmanned Aircraft (UA): An aircraft that is intended to navigate in the air without an on-board pilot.

UAS Flight Crewmember: A pilot, visual observer, or other persons assigned duties for a UAS for the purpose of flight.

Unmanned Aircraft System Pilot: A person exercising control over unmanned aircraft during flight. The pilot will be ultimately responsible for the operation and solely responsible for the input of commands/piloting during flight. The pilot will be qualified in the operation of the UAS by successful completion of an approved training course. The pilot must meet standards required by the FAA (possess a valid second class or higher medical certificate, must pass the required knowledge tests and must keep his/her aeronautical knowledge up to date). Pilots are authorized to evaluate and accept or decline any mission or portion thereof due to safety concerns.

Certificate of Authorization: COA (Certificate of Authorization) Issued by the FAA which grants permission to fly within specific boundaries and perimeters. Training flights cannot take place without a valid Training and Evaluation (T&E) COA and missions cannot take place without a valid operational/emergency COA.

Observer: The observer is responsible for the visual observation of the UAS while in- flight. The observer will maintain a visual observation of the UAS while in flight and alert the pilot of any conditions (obstructions, terrain, structures, air traffic, weather, etc) which affect the safety of flight.

The observer will be responsible for all aviation related communications required by the FAA. To accomplish this, the observer will be in close proximity to the pilot to ensure instant relaying of information. The observer will be certified in the operation of the UAS by successful completion of an approved training course. The observer shall meet standards required by the FAA to possess a valid second class (or higher) medical certificate, pass the required knowledge tests and keep their aeronautical knowledge up to date.

POLICY
It shall be the policy of those personnel of the MPFD who are trained in the use of the UAS to use this resource to protect the lives and property of citizens of MPFD and first responders in full compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including but not limited to applicable State and Federal Constitution and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.

The use of a UAS can support first responders in emergency situations which would benefit from an aerial perspective enabling responders to detect dangers that could otherwise not be seen and support the incident commanders in tactical decision applications. The UAS can also be utilized for approved training & evaluation missions, pre-fire planning and public education needs.

OVERVIEW
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 provides for the integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into national airspace by September 1, 2015. Existing federal law requires the Administrator of the FAA to develop and implement operational and certification requirements for the operation of public unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system by December 31, 2015.

REQUEST & AUTHORIZATION
MPFD will obtain a COA from the FAA in order to conduct operational, training & evaluation missions, Pre-Fire planning and Public Education events. Requests for deployment of the UAS will be made through the Operations Chief, Training Chief, Battalion Chief or San Mateo County Dispatch. Approval for requests will be determined by authorized Chief Officers from MPFD. On approval, the on Duty Battalion Chief will request a UAS call-out.

Dispatch personnel receiving the request for an UAV call-out shall contact the MPFD on-duty Battalion Chief with the available information regarding the request. The Battalion Chief will gather the information pertaining to the request. The Battalion Chief will contact the UAS pilot and notify him/her of the mission. The pilot will determine if the UAS can be deployed safely and practically. If the request comes from an outside public safety agency the request will be directed to Dispatch at (650) 363-4963.

When the UAS is being flown, operators will take steps to ensure the camera is focused on the areas necessary to the mission and to minimize the inadvertent collection of data about uninvolved persons or places.

MPFD will maintain a website location and phone number for public input to address citizens’ concerns and recommendations.

The use of the UAS will be limited to the authorized missions described herein.

The UAS will not be equipped with any weapons.

The authorized missions for the MPFD UAS are:

In response to specific requests from local, state or federal fire authorities for fire response and prevention

In response to any transportation type emergencies as defined in the Code of Federal Regulations Chapter 49.

Search and Rescue (SAR) missions as defined in California Government Code Section 26614

Structural collapse & building evaluations for rescue, safety and occupancy

Response to hazardous materials spills

Disaster response and recovery to include natural or human caused disasters including a full overview of a disaster area for post incident analysis and documentation.

Public Education development & training videos & documentation

Training missions as authorized by the Training Certificate of Authorization

Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) missions

Any missions that deploy fire based tactical paramedics for on scene evaluation and monitoring.

Public safety and life preservation missions to include barricaded suspects, hostage situations, active shooters, apprehension of armed and dangerous and/or violent fleeing suspects, and high-risk search warrants









PROCEDURES

A UAS operation requires a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the FAA.

A UAS will only be operated by personnel, both pilots and crew members, who have been trained and qualified in the operation of the system. All agency personnel with UAS responsibilities, including chief officers, will be provided training in the policies and procedures governing UAS use.

All flights will be approved in advance by the Operations Chief or his/her designee (at least the rank of Chief Officer). UAS and all related equipment will be available and issued at MPFD Station 1 Battalion Chiefs Office or Response Vehicle.

All flights will be documented on the mission dispatch form designed for that purpose and all flight time shall be accounted for on the form. The reason for the flight and type of mission as specified above and name of the supervisor approving the operation will also be documented.

The administration, safety policy, training requirements, general operating procedures and pre/post flight actions are contained within the MPFD UAS Operations Manual.

Upon issuance of the Operational COA from the FAA, this will be a one year pilot program. All procedures, laws and regulations on UAS usage, shall be reviewed as follows: The MPFD Operations Chief and Training Chief shall meet quarterly on the use of the UAS to include an audit review, flight documentation review and provide a quarterly and annual report to the Fire Chief.


DATA RETENTION AND PROCESSING

Upon completion of each UAS mission the recorded data shall be reviewed and evaluated.
All retained data shall be maintained or destroyed pursuant to the MPFD records retention policies and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

PROTECTION OF RIGHTS AND PRIVACY CONCERNS:

UAS Commanders, operators and observers will consider the protection of individual civil rights and the reasonable expectation of privacy as a key component of any decision made to deploy the UAS. Each UAS operator and observer will ensure that operations of the UAS are consistent with local, state, and federal law.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 4:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Correction - Here is the latest MPFPD Drone Policy:

Policy
342
Menlo Park Fire Protection District
Menlo Park FPD Fire Policy Manual
Copyright Lexipol, LLC 2019/05/15, All Rights Reserved.
Published with permission by Menlo Park Fire Protection
District
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) - 119
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
342.1 PURPOSE AND SCOPE
The purpose of this policy is to establish safe, efficient and lawful operation of the Menlo Park Fire
Protection District (MPFPD) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).
342.1.1 DEFINITIONS
(a) (a) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS): Consists of an unmanned aircraft weighing
less than 55 lbs., the command system, a secure control link, camera and other
related safety support equipment, including ground control base stations and
specialty vehicles designed to support unmanned flight operations.
(a) (b) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV): Refers more specifically to the unmanned
aerial vehicle itself. MPFPD has multiple UAV assets available within its fleet.
(a) (c) UAS Flight Crewmember: A Pilot in Command, Visual Observer, or other
persons assigned UAS duties for the purpose of flight.
(a) (d) Certificate of Authorization (COA): Issued by the FAA and grants permission
to fly within specific boundaries and parameters.
(a) (e) Pilot-in-Command (PIC): Person who has final authority and responsibility for
the operation and safety of flight, has been designated as the PIC before or
during the flight, and holds the appropriate category, class and type rating, if
applicable, for the conduct of the flight. The PIC is solely responsible for the input
of commands/piloting during flight operations. Pilots are authorized to evaluate
and accept or decline any mission or portion thereof due to safety concerns.
(a) (f) Visual Observer (VO): The Visual Observer is responsible for the visual
observation of the UAS while in-flight. The VO shall maintain a visual observation
of the UAS while in-flight and alert the Unmanned Aircraft System Pilot of
any conditions (obstructions, terrain, structures, air traffic, weather, etc.) which
may affect the safety of flight. The VO is responsible for all on scene radio
communications between the Incident Commander or designee and the Pilotin-
Command, in addition to all aviation related communications required by
the FAA. The Observer shall stay in close proximity to the Unmanned Aircraft
System Pilot to instantly relay information. The Observer shall be certified in the
operation of the UAS by successful completion of an approved training course.
The Observer must meet requirements established by the FAA.
Menlo Park Fire Protection District
Menlo Park FPD Fire Policy Manual
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
Copyright Lexipol, LLC 2019/05/15, All Rights Reserved.
Published with permission by Menlo Park Fire Protection
District
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) - 120
(a) (g) Notice to Airman (NOTAM): Time critical aeronautical information which is
provided to air traffic control towers within a (5) five mile radius of UAS flight
and is of either a temporary nature or not sufficiently known in advance to
permit publication on aeronautical charts or in other operational publications and
receives immediate dissemination via the National NOTAM System.
(a) (h) Visual Line of Sight (VLOS): Visual contact between PIC or VO and a UAS
sufficient to maintain safe operational control of the aircraft, known location, and
be able to scan the airspace in which it is operating to see and avoid other aircraft
or objects aloft or on the ground.
342.2 POLICY
It is the MPFPD’s policy that MPFPD personnel trained in the use of the UAS will use them to
protect the lives and property of citizens and first responders in full compliance with all applicable
laws and regulations, including but not limited to State and Federal Constitution and Federal
Aviation Authority (FAA) regulations.
The use of a UAS can support first responders in emergency situations by providing an aerial
perspective which will enable first responders to detect dangers that could not otherwise be seen
and support incident commanders in tactical decision applications. The UAS can also be utilized
for approved training & evaluation missions, pre-emergency planning, public education, disaster
pre-planning, and disaster deployments.
342.3 AUTHORITY
MPFPD has obtained a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the FAA in order to conduct
operational, training and evaluation missions, pre-fire planning, pre-emergency planning, public
education, disaster pre-planning and disaster deployments.
342.4 PROCEDURE
Requests for UAS deployments will be made through the on duty MPFPD Battalion Chief directly
or via San Mateo County Dispatch. Approval for requests will be determined by on the duty
MPFPD Battalion Chief by initiating a UAS Call Out procedure. If the request comes directly to
MPFPD Battalion Chief, the information will be gathered and communicated to San Mateo County
Communications Dispatch @ 650.363.4963
Menlo Park Fire Protection District
Menlo Park FPD Fire Policy Manual
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
Copyright Lexipol, LLC 2019/05/15, All Rights Reserved.
Published with permission by Menlo Park Fire Protection
District
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) - 121
UAS Call Out procedure: The Battalion Chief will gather the information pertaining to
the request and contact the Pilot in Command and notify him/her of the mission with all
pertinent information available. The Pilot in Command will determine if the UAS can be
deployed safely and practically and either accepts or declines the mission. The on duty
Battalion Chief will make all notifications of mission acceptance or declination directly to
the requesting party or through San Mateo County Dispatch.
342.4.1 FLIGHT OPERATIONS
(a) All emergency response missions shall be approved by the on duty Battalion chief
and/or the Incident Commander.
(b) A UAS shall only be operated by personnel, both pilots and crew members, who have
been trained and qualified in the operation of the system. MPFPD personnel with UAS
responsibilities, including chief officers, shall be provided training in the policies and
procedures governing UAS use.
(c) Pilot in Command (PIC) reports to the Incident Commander, Division / Group
Supervisor or designee as determined by the Incident Commander. The PIC will
accept or decline the mission and has final authority and responsibility for the operation
and safety of flight. The PIC will determine the need of a Visual Observer and
communicate that information to the IC any time before or during the mission. MPFPD
UAS Pilots are identified on the PLATOON ROSTER.
(d) Visual Observer if assigned, reports to the Pilot in Command and is responsible for
radio communications between the PIC and the Incident Commander, Division / Group
Supervisor or designee as determined by the Incident Commander, when face-to-face
communication is not possible.
(e) Communications between UAS operations and Incident Command is best suited
for face-to-face method unless a Visual Observer is assigned. Pilots in Command of
a UAV do not have the ability to operate a communications device (portable radio,
cellular phone, etc.) unless true hands-free technology is being utilized.
(f) Identification: The Pilot in Command, Visual Observer, or other persons assigned
UAS duties for the purpose of flight will be identified by high visibility clothing with the
appropriate UAS position identifier.
Menlo Park Fire Protection District
Menlo Park FPD Fire Policy Manual
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
Copyright Lexipol, LLC 2019/05/15, All Rights Reserved.
Published with permission by Menlo Park Fire Protection
District
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) - 122
(g) When the UAS is being flown, Unmanned Aircraft System Pilots shall take steps to
ensure the camera is focused only on the areas necessary to the mission.
(h) All flights will remain in FCC compliant, GPS reception mode and comply with FAA
flight restrictions near designated Class A & B airports and municipal airports.
(i) Airport towers within 5 miles of flight will be notified by the PIC, VO or designee. All
pertinent information regarding the operation will be provided to the tower. A NOTAM
(Notice to Airmen) will be filed electronically or by telephone as required by the FAA
COA. At all times the flight will comply with the criteria provided in the FAA COA.
(j) The administration, safety policy, training requirements, general operating procedures
and pre/post flight actions are contained within the MPFPD UAS Operations Manual.
(k) All flights shall be documented on the appropriate mission log form including flight
time. The flight objective, type of mission and name of the supervisor approving the
operation shall be documented.
(l) The UAS shall not be equipped with weapons.
342.4.2 MISSION USE CASES
The authorized missions for the MPFPD UAS may include but are not limited to:
1. In response to specific requests from local, state or federal fire authorities for fire
response and prevention.
2. In response to any transportation type emergencies as defined in Title 49 of the Code
of Federal Regulations.
3. Search and Rescue (SAR) missions as defined in California Government Code Section
26614.
4. Structural collapse and building evaluations for rescue, safety and occupancy.
5. In response to hazardous materials spills or hazardous materials investigations.
6. Disaster response and recovery to include natural or human caused disasters including
a full overview of a disaster area for post incident analysis and documentation.
7. Public Education development, training videos & documentation.
Menlo Park Fire Protection District
Menlo Park FPD Fire Policy Manual
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
Copyright Lexipol, LLC 2019/05/15, All Rights Reserved.
Published with permission by Menlo Park Fire Protection
District
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) - 123
8. Pilot training missions which will be scheduled and directed by the UAV program
coordinator under authority of the Training Chief or his/her designee.
9. Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) missions.
10. Any missions that deploy fire based tactical paramedics for on scene evaluation and
monitoring.
11. Public safety and life preservation missions to include but not limited to hostage
situations, active shooters, threats for use of incendiary or explosive devices.
12. Post fire or incident investigation to assist with cause, origin and documentation.
13. Providing close air support in the form of real time tactical information and personnel
accountability on a wide range of emergency scenes.
342.5 DATA RETENTION AND PROCESSING
Upon completion of each UAS mission the recorded data shall be reviewed and evaluated. All
retained data shall be maintained or destroyed pursuant to the MPFPD records retention policies
and in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
342.6 PROTECTION RIGHTS AND PRIVACY CONCERNS
Unmanned Aircraft System Pilots and Observers will consider the protection of individual civil
rights and the reasonable expectation of privacy as a key component of any decision made to
deploy the UAS. Each Unmanned Aircraft System Pilot and Observer shall ensure that operations
of the UAS are consistent with Fire District, state, and federal law. All video and audio obtained
from an active incident will be retained in accordance to the Fire District’s data retention policy.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 6, 2019 at 6:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Why does it make sense for MP Police Department to spend a lot of taxpayer dollars and years of personnel time to replicate an FAA approved capability that already exists in the Fire District?


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