A press conference has been scheduled to discuss the nationally recognized Chula Vista Police Drone as First Responder (DFR) program’s new FAA approval to be the first police agency in the nation to launch drones from anywhere within city limits to respond to 911 calls and emergencies. The approval expands DFR from approximately 33% coverage of the city to 100% coverage providing airborne support to public safety operations in a safe, responsible, and transparent manner. DFR operations have proven to protect the public, preserve the peace, and reduce response times while increasing the overall quality of life in Chula Vista.  Police Chief Roxana Kennedy will be joined by Mayor Mary Casillas-Salas.

Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy describes how the DFR program helps save lives and maintain a safe community. “As a chief of police, my primary concerns are the safety of the public and the safety of my officers. Since 2018, the DFR program has made an incredible difference in how we respond to emergency calls for service. It allows officers to see what is happening at a scene, including what risk may or may not exists, before they round the corner and are thrust into a dangerous situation. The DFR program makes our officers, our citizens and even the subjects we encounter, safer. In my opinion, drones are immensely important to the future of public safety and are a critical lifesaving tool… I can’t imagine our operations without them.”

The press conference will take place on Friday, March 19, 2021, at 9:00 AM at the Chula Vista Police Department. Our goal is to update how the DFR program has reached a new milestone and expanded operations citywide.

The Department’s DFR journey began in November 2018, when Chula Vista Police were selected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as one of only ten teams in the nation to be a part of the FAA’s Integration Pilot Project (IPP) and was the only law enforcement member to participate. The IPP is a federal initiative designed to help integrate drones into the National Air Space. Here are additional highlights.

  • In May 2019, Chula Vista Police became the first law enforcement agency in the country to be authorized by the FAA to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) in an urban area. FAA regulations usually require drone operators to maintain visual line of sight of drones at all times while in flight. The BVLOS authorization allowed the Department to fly drones to emergency incidents up to three miles away from the launch site, beyond visual line of sight. This allowed the department’s drones to fly as first responders to many more emergencies across the community, often arriving long before officers on the ground.
  • In August 2019, the FAA authorized the department to open a second launch site, greatly expanding the area its drones could cover. The second launch site allowed the department to provide DFR services to about 33% of the city’s geographic area but, due to its density and commercial activity, is responsible for about 70% of the priority calls for service.
  • In November 2020, Chula Vista Police received FAA approval that allowed two drones to fly in close proximity airspace for a single incident. The department is currently the only law enforcement agency in the country to receive this authorization. This allows drones to stay longer at the scene of an emergency incident and provide real-time information to first responders.
  • In April 2020, the Department became the first police department in the nation to test and successfully use Live911, a revolutionary software that live-streams 911 calls directly to officers in the field. Drone operators and officers can monitor Live911 to get a “jump-start” on emergency calls, reducing the department’s response time. The Live911 program also provides quality information to responding officers for enhanced decision-making. The ability to hear a caller’s voice, rather than only getting an electronic description through Computer Aided Dispatch systems, can create faster and safer outcomes for everyone involved.

The DFR program has recently expanded its capabilities and can now respond to any location in Chula Vista within minutes. On February 23, 2021, Chula Vista Police received FAA approval for complete drone coverage of the city allowing this innovative and groundbreaking technology to provide services throughout the rest of Chula Vista. Chula Vista Police have since opened additional launch sites and begun DFR operations from Southwestern College, Ayres Hotel, and Sharp Hospital.

Citywide coverage by DFR allows for a rapid response to calls citywide and an overhead view of emergency incidents. The DFR program helps keep Chula Vista safe by providing a faster response to emergencies, helping stop crimes in-progress, and helping locate and apprehend offenders, all while helping de-escalate incidents by providing real-time critical information to first responders. To date, the department’s DFR program has responded to over 5,400 calls for service. The drone was the first on-scene to over 2,500 incidents and assisted in the apprehension of more than 650 offenders. The DFR program can also help officers locate and provide services to victims of crimes and others in need, provide crucial video evidence of crimes-in-progress, help search for lost or missing persons, help provide detailed documentation at the scene of a crime, and much more.

We are incredibly proud to share our accomplishments and want the community to know we are dedicated to providing ground-breaking services in a way that safely and effectively leverages new technologies so that the department is more-effective, protects the safety of our community, respects the rights and expectations of the community, and is responsive to our city’s needs.

Chula Vista Police are committed to public transparency. The department carefully logs all drone flights and makes its flight data and flight maps available to the community on its website at

https://www.chulavistaca.gov/departments/police-department/programs/uas-drone-program.

Media are instructed to direct all inquiries to Lt. Miriam Foxx @ 619-476-2452 or mfoxx@chulavistapd.org .

Additional DFR videos are available upon request.

Here is a video of the press conference:  https://www.facebook.com/chulavistapd/videos/2737762119867799