The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s (LASD) use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for “dangerous, hostile and life-saving operations.” LASD Sheriff, Jim McDonnell, explained in a press release that the drones will be used in situations like search and rescue, explosive ordnance detection, hazardous materials incidents, disaster response, arson fires, hostage rescue, and barricaded or armed suspects. The UAS will be assigned to the Special Enforcement Bureau of the LASD. Many LASD deputies have been trained on UAS operations and each have a remote pilot certification. Each drone used by the LASD will be brightly colored with the LASD logo visible so that residents will recognize when a particular drone is being used by the LASD.

The LASD responds to approximately 125 hazmat situations, 600 suspicious or unattended package and/or device calls, 500 arson/explosives situations, and 500 search and rescue operations per year. The LASD serves more than 3 million residents in the L.A. County area, spanning over 3,000 square miles.

McDonnell said, “The dangers of law enforcement can never be eliminated. However, this technology can assist us in reducing the impact of risks on personnel and allow us to perform operations to enhance public safety.” McDonnell noted that the LASD’s use of drones is not for surveillance purposes.

LASD is one of approximately 500 law enforcement agencies in the State of California, but one of only 30 approved law enforcement agencies to operate drones.