Manteca Police will conduct a question and answer forum regarding the department’s drone program at the Manteca Civic Center council chambers, 1001 W. Center St., at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 26.
The city has purchased three drones with asset seizure proceeds typically taken from those convicted of drug selling.
Manteca Police Chief Jodie Estarziau has emphasized drones will be deployed in very specific situations. That includes helping police track suspects that bail on foot during chases, searching for missing persons, and for use when SWAT may be dealing with a situation involving barricaded armed suspects. They will not be used for general surveillance.
Three Manteca Police officers have taken two-day courses to operate drones that were required before they could take the required FAA exam.
Drones essentially make it affordable for agencies such as Manteca Police to have the type of air support a helicopter would allow when searching for a missing person or chasing a subject fleeing on foot such as through neighborhoods and across yards.
The two-day course officers took is the same one that FAA requires for those wishing to seek licenses to become commercial drone pilots to shoot aerial photography for purposes such as selling real estate.
The FAA requires pilots to maintain visual contact with drones. That coupled with the fact police agencies still have to to use the same legal processes required to secure warrants to conduct searches restricts how drones can be deployed.
At the same time the use of drones in public places such as parks where there is no assumption of privacy, police drones would be no different than someone using a single lens reflex camera or a smartphone to record videos or take videos.
Batteries limit air time to roughly 20 minutes.
Manteca Police drones will be clearly marked with the world “police” as well as either the department’s badge or logo.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin