Mtn. View police try out drones at Shoreline

Mountain View Police Department drone
Courtesy of Katie Nelson
Mountain View Police Department and security company Aptonomy test drones near Shoreline Amphitheatre at last weekend’s Audiotistic festival.

The Mountain View Police Department had eyes in the skies over Shoreline Amphitheatre last weekend, employing drones to patrol the Audiotistic festival.

It marked the department’s first foray into using unmanned aerial systems, which were flown by members of the security drone company Aptonomy.

On the city website, Mountain View police reported a week prior to the hip-hop, dubstep and dance musical festival that they planned to test the drones to help ensure concertgoers’ safety at the two-day event.

Aptonomy volunteered its time and equipment to enable police to determine whether its services would be a good fit for the department going forward.

The drones were to be flown in “short increments of time throughout the first (day) of the two-day festival,” according to the police press release. The drones would not fly over residential areas or neighboring businesses – or over the concert venue itself.

“They will also circle the perimeter of the venue, never over areas where there will be crowds, as well as the parking lots to look for, and alert us to, criminal activity such as auto burglaries, fights and other incidents that require our response,” the release stated.

Officers planned to work with Aptonomy to fly the drones over areas where footage could help identify problematic traffic areas so that they could be deployed to ease the flow of cars.

Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson later said that her department has observed other agencies using drones “with great success,” specifically the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, the Fremont Police Department, the Lodi Police Department and the Menlo Park Fire Department.

“We are always looking for new ways to be more effective and provide the highest level of safety and security for our community,” Nelson said. “Drones are another tool we have been exploring that could be used during critical events, such as barricaded subjects, documenting large crime scenes, such as vehicle collisions, and locating missing people.”

Nelson said a decision on the future use of drones won’t be made until after the department evaluates how last weekend’s Aptonomy demonstration went. There is no set timeline for when the Mountain View Police Department could approve the new service, but Nelson noted that “in no way would it be an immediate adoption.”

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