SAN PEDRO, Calif. — Port of Los Angeles police officer Chris Fischer has been on the force 11 years. His primary, full-time role is on the dive team and now he’s also one of the department’s five drone pilots.

The Los Angeles Harbor Commission approved the drones for operational missions in December 2019. The whole program is so new they’re still finding ways to put them to use.

They haven’t completed an official mission with the drones yet.

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It’s up to officers to call for drone assistance if they think it will be useful. There could be a lot of ways for drones to help:

  • Search and rescue missions
  • Spotting hazardous spills
  • Locating fleeing suspects
  • Identifying hotspots during a fire
  • Observing damage after a natural disaster like an earthquake

Fischer can pinpoint the moment he became interested in drones.

“We were on a call a few years ago where unfortunately we lost a helicopter in our port. We were responsible for the recovery and while searching we actually thought it would be a good idea if we had the possibility to use a drone to search for the remains of the helicopter, and then we got to thinking that drone probably could have taken the place of that airship,” said Fischer.

The Port of L.A. encompasses more than 40 miles of waterfront.

The department bought three kinds of drones and each has a backup for a total of six aircraft.

The cameras shoot high quality video. One is able to zoom in 30 times and another is a thermal imaging camera.