Mountain View officials make pitch for drone use

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- Drones are a controversial topic. In the South Bay on Tuesday night, the Mountain View City Council will discuss possibly buying some for city use.

In early February, Fremont police used a drone to locate a missing teen, which they say would have otherwise taken several hours and lots of resources. That's the type of technological advantage Mountain View is looking to gain.

"We have shoreline, we have major city, we have suburb. There is a lot of potential use here for it," says Katie Nelson, a spokesperson for the Mountain View Police Department.

In a memo to the city, Mountain View's police, fire and public works departments outlined how drone technology would allow for "safer" and "more efficient" ways to serve the community.

That memo will be discussed at length at Tuesday night's city council meeting, the first official discussion on a possible drone program.

Mountain View resident Elisa Canzoneri supports using drones in her city. "I imagine that if you can control an area, you are more aware of crimes, and things happening around it," says Canzoneri.

But safety could come at the risk of personal privacy.

"Technology moves faster than laws, and scenarios where they can be used. So, it (may be) better in these cases to discuss it, and then use it," says Ashish Sahu, who has lived in Mountain View for the past six years.

Those are some of the same issues raised by the ACLU.

Some of their big concerns are using drones to track individuals, or discriminatory targeting of specific groups, like gangs. They are also concerns over new uses, such as expanding from surveillance to actual intervention in situations on the ground.
But Nelson insists they are working on protocols to address those concerns.

"A typical private citizen could fly really low and potentially film into a home. We would never do that," says Nelson.

According to the memo sent to city council, these drones would not be armed. It goes on to say that duplication and distribution of drone footage would be prohibited, and drones won't be used for random or proactive surveillance.

"We would actually have to go to the location where this incident is occurring, and launch from there. We would not be flying from the police department to wherever," explains Nelson.

Though still in the beginning stages, if the city decides to move forward, possible next steps would include the individual departments coming up with drone policies specific to their department, as well as a budget.

Even then, Nelson says the first drones to fly over the city, would be at least a year away. Drone training itself can take up to eight months.
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