The Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) has received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate drones in emergency scenarios just beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) within Close Proximity of the operator and at a Low Altitude (CPLA), according to a post on the city's official Facebook page. This waiver is the first of its kind and follows months of technical and policy development alongside Skydio, a U.S. drone manufacturer. The permissions allow CVPD to perform life-saving missions, such as urban search and rescue, where an operator can fly beyond line of sight while staying below 50 feet in altitude above nearby obstacles (such as trees or buildings). Thanks to Skydio’s computer vision-based detect and avoid capabilities, CVPD was able to satisfy FAA requirements for ground and air risk mitigation.
“Close Proximity, Low Altitude flights will enable our drone teams to respond more quickly and efficiently to emergencies--enhancing the safety of the public and our officers. The Skydio Autonomy system enables officers to fly a drone safely and reliably in emergency situations without fear of crashing,” said Lieutenant Don Redmond, CVPD UAS Commander.
Current FAA regulations require drone operators maintain line of sight to their aircraft at all times to mitigate risk. However, BVLOS missions provide critical value for public safety use cases from search and rescue to major incident response. To operate Beyond Visual Line of Sight, first responder agencies must receive special permission from the FAA based on demonstrated safety measures and operational best practices. In rapidly evolving scenarios, CVPD first responders can now safely fly their Skydio 2’s without being forced to maintain visual contact or wait for FAA approval.