Drone funding approved for San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department, Lockheed-Martin 

click to enlarge First responders use the AirCover LifeSaver 425 and other such drones to evaluate fires and other disasters from the air using high-quality video. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • First responders use the AirCover LifeSaver 425 and other such drones to evaluate fires and other disasters from the air using high-quality video.

San Mateo County’s request for money to purchase a drone was approved last month, but county officials said Monday that plans to deploy the controversial robot are not moving forward.

A grant of $70,000 for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office to buy a small surveillance drone dubbed a “fully autonomous first responder” by developer Lockheed-Martin was approved March 14 by the Bay Area Urban Areas Security Initiative, which doles out money to local law enforcement for counterterrorism activities.

San Mateo County’s request for the drone was first reported by the Oakland Tribune. Efforts by other Bay Area law enforcement agencies, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, to buy and deploy drones have been abandoned after public outcry.

Drones are a key part of the United States’ international efforts to combat terrorism, but lethal drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan have led to questions over their legality and the rights of due process.

Though the grant to acquire a drone was approved, the device will not be deployed anytime soon, according to a county spokeswoman.

Though the grant to acquire a drone was approved, the federal sequester means those funds are no longer available, and the device will not be deployed unless more money becomes available.

“Unless additional funding becomes available this project will not move forward,” Capt. Mark Wyss wrote in an email.

Drones are used by first responders to gauge the severity of fires and other disasters. The machines can stay in the air for about 25 minutes and transmit high-quality video, including at night using an infrared camera.

croberts@sfexaminer.com

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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