City of San Jose approves one-year program for SJPD drone

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Tuesday night the San Jose City Council voted to approve the police department to use a drone for a one-year trial. They said the drone would only be used for two situations: when the bomb squad is called out or when there is an active shooter.

After much debate and discussion, San Jose City Council members voted on the implementation of a one-year police drone pilot program.

"The drone needs to go up, it can save lives, it can make the officers more safe. It's not about surveilling the public, it's about giving us another tool that we can use on the street," Sgt. Paul Kelly from the San Jose Police Officers' Association said.

San Jose police acquired the $7,000 drone as part of a federal grant last year, but it's been grounded ever since, pending approval from the city.

For months, members of the city's Neighborhoods Commission have been working to address questions that the public may have and drafting a set of rules and regulations for the drone's use.

"It will not be used for surveillance, it does not have telephoto lenses, it does not have infrared lenses, it does not have any types of weapons or anything disruptive," Larry Ames from the San Jose Neighborhoods Commission said.

Commission leaders say the drone won't be able to record any video and will also be prohibited from flying at night. Furthermore, the drone would only be used in specific circumstances, such as an active shooting scenario or dealing with an explosive device, but community groups have raised concerns.

"The rules can be bendable, and it could very much become a slippery slope," Raj Jayadev from Silicon Valley Debug said.

Jayadev says privacy and civil liberties are at stake. He explained, "The use of new technology is one experimental, it's the reason why drones have been challenged in cities and counties, and jurisdictions all across the country."

The pilot program still needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. The earliest the drone could go up would likely be 2017.

VIDEO: SJPD to lay out plans with concerned citizens for use of drone

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