Atherton Police Department adds drone to law enforcement tools

by Contributed Content on July 26, 2023


Atherton Police Department (APD) has introduced its most recent addition to the investigations team — the APD Drone Program. Small, remotely operated Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, are an efficient and effective way of providing law enforcement with instant and critical information to respond to calls for service, emergency situations or to conduct criminal investigations. Types of calls the drone may be deployed to include:

  • Burglaries
  • Residential alarms
  • Lost or Missing persons
  • Disaster Response/Recovery
  • Public Safety and Life Preservation Missions such as active shooters, barricaded subjects,  dangerous fleeing suspects, etc.
  • Mass gatherings (public) where public safety concerns exist
  • Traffic accidents

The APD utilizes the Paladin Nighthawk autonomous drone with Watchtower control software. This autonomous drone does not require additional support personnel and is specifically designed for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operation. The drone uses a cellular LTE connection, which allows it to reach a three mile radius limit required by the FAA with ease.

The three mile radius covers all areas within the Town limits of Atherton when the drone is deployed from the Town Center. With a 55-minute battery life, users have ample time to gather overwatch operational information for most incidents and emergency situations.

To protect the privacy of individuals, operators are prohibited from intentionally recording or transmitting images of any location where a person would reasonably expect privacy, such as a residence or yard. Officers take reasonable measures to prevent recordings in these areas, such as deactivating recording devices and vacating the immediate airspace whenever possible.

Drones are only deployed when there is a specific public safety need or incident that warrants their use. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the use of drones to record or transmit images in private areas is strictly prohibited.

For question on the Drone Program, please contact Commander Daniel Larsen at

Content from Atherton Online

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