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Police Seek Go-Ahead to Use Military Equipment

By Lookout Staff

October 20, 2023 -- The Santa Monica Police Department will ask the City Council Tuesday to authorize the use of military-grade cameras for mapping and locating persons in crisis inside buildings.

The Council's approval of "military equipment" -- which is required by State law -- would allow SMPD to add two state-of-the-art camera systems, according to the Department's report to the Council.

The DJI Mavic 3 and its camera systems "are designed with mapping and surveying capabilities," while the DJI Avata "will primarily serve for flight inside of structures."

DJI Mavic 3 -- which costs $4,608.65 -- is a "small but powerful device" capable of surveying large areas during a single flight powered with a battery that lasts 43 minutes, police officials said.

It is equipped with "a multispectral and an RGB camera that provides detailed colored imaging for comprehensive documentation," according to the report.

The device allows "swift and broad scene data collection" and has an omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system that ensures "safe and prolonged aerial operations."

The Police Department uses aerial mapping platforms "to improve the Department’s mapping capability to document serious traffic accidents, crime scenes, and other sensitive scenes that require investigation."

The other device -- the DJI Avata UAV -- is also "small but powerful" and is "designed for the high-precision task of interior flight."

The device -- which costs $2,255.49 -- will "assist in search and rescue and de-escalation," police officials said.

"This UAV comes with the ability to stream and capture 4K digital video, providing comprehensive on-scene awareness and evidence retention," staff wrote.

"With its capability to safely fly in small spaces, ruggedized propeller guards, and self-correcting features, this platform is a multi-role UAV that will increase public safety," staff wrote.

State law mandates that the Police Department "provide a description for each qualifying military equipment item, its purpose and authorized use, the related fiscal impact, and any required training prior to its use," staff said.

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