The Los Angeles City Council cleared the way Friday for the fire department to start using drones during its efforts in fighting fires and responding to other emergencies, although it will need to seek a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration first.
The 14-0 vote came over the objection of the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups, which have been raising concerns that the drones could be used to conduct surveillance and invade the privacy of the city’s residents.
Drones operated by municipalities have proved to be controversial. The Los Angeles Police Department received two donated drones in 2014 but has dropped any current plans to deploy them due to public objections.
An LAFD report on the potential program addresses the issue of privacy concerns, saying the devices would not be used to monitor or provide surveillance for law enforcement.
If the department receives the waiver from the FAA, it would become one of the first major metropolitan fire departments to have a significant drone program.
The report did not estimate the cost of the drone pilot program, but said the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation has offered to fund its operating costs.
–City News Service
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