A San Francisco Police Department project proposal suggested that the department’s Homeland Security Unit acquire a remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) equipped with video and infrared sensing capabilities.
The rejected proposal was submitted to the Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative last year and obtained through a MuckRock request to SFPD as part of the DroneWatch project.
SFPD Lieutenant Thomas Feledy, who submitted the proposal, estimated a cost of $100,000 for equipment and operator training. Feledy suggested that operating costs for an RPV would be less than 1 percent of the cost of purchasing, operating and maintaining full-size aircraft currently employed for similar purposes.
The proposed uses for the RPV included risk assessment for high-rise buildings or high-voltage power lines, monitoring large events and traffic and conducting search operations. Also mentioned was the possibility of providing a live video feed of post-disaster areas with suspected contamination.
The proposal emphasized the advantages of replacing piloted aircraft with RPVs, in particular the minimization of risk to personnel and the public in cases of post-disaster contamination or surveillance vehicle crash. It also suggested that the small RPV’s easy deployment, small size and minimal required operator training made it preferable to piloted aircraft.
Had the project been approved and proceeded according to its timeline, SFPD would have obtained authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration for its first video-equipped RPV by June 2013.
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