The Age of the Drone Police Is Here

3 days ago 15

ON A WEDNESDAY afternoon in August, Daniel Posada and his girlfriend were screaming at each other at a bus stop when someone called 911. From a rooftop a mile away, the Chula Vista Police Department started the rotors of a 13-pound drone.

The machine lifted into the air with its high-resolution camera rolling. Equipped with thermal imaging capabilities and a powerful zoom lens, it transmitted a live feed of everything it captured to a sworn officer monitoring a screen at the precinct, to the department’s Real-Time Operations Center, and to the cell phone of the responding officer racing to the scene.

It flew northwest at 392 feet above the southwestern border town, a suburb of San Diego, passing near a preschool and a church, then near a financial services center used by Chula Vista’s immigrant communities to send money to their families. En route to Posada, the drone—a Matrice 300 RTK—would cross the airspace of 23 blocks, potentially exposing thousands of Chula Vista residents to the gaze of law enforcement over an incident that had nothing to do with them.