Calif. PD gets FAA authorization to expand geographical reach of drone

The new COA will increase the Chula Vista Police Department’s range of coverage for drone operations from a three to nearly 40-mile area


By PoliceOne Staff

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. —  A California police department is the first public safety organization to be granted  FAA authorization for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations, significantly increasing the area the agency’s drones can cover.

Cape, a drone telepresence and data management firm, announced Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration has granted the first-ever Certificate of Authorization (COA) with a provision for BVLOS for a public safety organization.

Cape says it worked closely with the Chula Vista Police Department and the FAA to finalize the COA, which has the potential to open doors across the industry. 

The department’s drones have conducted more than 300 flights and have contributed to more than 40 arrests.

The new COA, which went into effect on March 15, will increase the total footprint of coverage for emergency response operations from a three to nearly 40-mile area. Under the previous regulation, the police department wasn’t allowed to fly their drones beyond the Pilot-in-Command’s (PIC) line of sight. Now, they will be able to operate drones up to three nautical miles from the PIC, more than 10x the previous coverage area.

“Our team has worked diligently with the FAA to gain approval for this BVLOS provision which is a huge regulatory win and lays future groundwork for the safe expansion of commercial drone integration across industries in the U.S.,” said Chris Rittler, CEO of Cape. “This new COA will help unlock the full potential of the Drone as a First Responder model and is a big step forward for any agency looking to leverage drones to improve the safety of their officers and their community.” 

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