How limited? LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says they're going to purchase just two drones-one to operate and one for backup.
Despite privacy concerns, police received permission Tuesday to fly drone aircraft under a one-year pilot program that limits their use to risky situations and natural disasters.
The Los Angeles Police Commission meeting to discuss the issue was interrupted by vocal protesters trying to prevent the department from using drones.
Opponents of drone usage fear "mission creep" that could lead to arming the aircraft or using them to spy on the public.
The drones will not be deployed with any weapon systems and will be used primarily in tactical or natural disaster situations where putting an officer on the field could be unsafe, according to guidelines in the system's proposal.
"Each flight must be approved by a high-ranking officer".
Following public concerns, several changes were made to the police department's drone policy, "including the ban on facial-recognition software". They can also be used during search and rescue operations, or when looking for armed suspects who have "superior firepower", an "extraordinary tactical advantage" or who are suspected of shooting at an officer.
For the most part, there are no objections to the rules. The LAPD insists the drones will be strictly regulated: Ars Technica cites the guidelines that spell out "permissible uses" (e.g., "barricaded suspects" and "natural disasters"), as well as prohibited ones (any that are "in violation of the law or Constitution").
The overwhelming majority of the correspondence the commission received has been in opposition, which makes some sense. The city borrowed $70 million to keep from having to dip into reserve funds to pay its litigation costs.