LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Surveillance aircraft used by the U.S. military overseas could soon be coming to the skies above Los Angeles County.
KNX 1070's Charles Feldman reports the Federal Aviation Administration is making it easier for local law enforcement agencies to fly unmanned drones.
The FAA has streamlined the process that would allow agencies to fly smaller, unarmed versions of the drones that hunt down terrorists in places such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
While the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has not yet applied for an application to fly drones over our skies, its Homeland Security chief Bob Osborne said drones could be in the department's future — with some caveats.
"We have so much congestion in the skies that I would anticipate that there would be some pretty rigid safety standards," said Osborne.
Drones are typically used over locations where helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are unable to fly, which Osborne said could have a myriad of applications here in the Southland.
"Mountain rescue, where you have a car over the side that's a thousand feet down the cliff, oftentimes our aircraft can't fly that low," he said. "It would be wonderful to know what's down there before we send a rescue crew."
Federal officials already utilize drones to patrol a 1,200-mile wide swath of land east of San Diego near the southeast California border.
But the recent expansion of drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) above American cities has raised privacy concerns among some who believe the technology could be used for surveillance on U.S. citizens without their knowledge.
President Obama set a deadline in February for the FAA to draft legislation by May 14 that would determine how it will regulate the use of lightweight drones by police and other public safety agencies.
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