Huntington Beach police will start using drones, but with limits, controls


The Huntington Beach Police Department received the City Council’s unanimous approval Monday night for a one-year pilot program to learn how two drones can be used to enhance public safety.

The program will include joint training and testing exercises with the Fire Department and Marine Safety Division, according to Police Chief Robert Handy.

Drones are used in crime scene and traffic accident photography, SWAT deployments, shark detection, missing-person searches and assessing structure fires and other emergencies, Handy said.


For the last three years, Handy said, a lieutenant was sent to a drone conference to learn more about the technology and how it could be applied to local government.

“We want to try those for a year in a reactive way or proactive way,” Handy said. “It’s not a surveillance program. We’re not looking into people’s backyards unless we’re reacting to a specific tactical event.”

Councilman Patrick Brenden said he was happy to hear about that approach.

“I think some people are sensitive to the drone technology … so it’s good to hear that,” he said.

A commercial drone with entry-level equipment is estimated to cost $2,500 to $3,500, Handy said, and there may be additional costs to train personnel.

The next step, he said, is to buy the drones through a competitive bidding process. The specific type of drone hasn’t been decided.


All drone use will be documented. At the end of the yearlong period, the police and fire chiefs will report to the City Council on the program’s pros and cons.

Vega writes for Times Community News