Drones set to patrol at Shoreline music festival

Local tech company to aid police with crime-fighting drones this weekend

Mountain View police will be on the lookout for crime from a different vantage point this Saturday, using security drones to monitor Shoreline Amphitheatre during the two-day Audiotistic concert festival.

Employees from San Jose-based Aptonomy will be working with the Mountain View Police Department to deploy the high-tech drones on July 14, the first day of the event. From overhead, the drones will use sensors and artificial intelligence capable of detecting suspicious activity ranging from car break-ins to drug deals around the perimeter of the concert venue and the surrounding parking lots.

Depending on how the drone debut goes on Saturday, officials may consider adopting a permanent drone program to assist Mountain View police in everything from crisis situations and surveying crime scenes to patrolling large-scale events, including making Shoreline's concert venue safer.

"Our hope is that, should the drones prove to be an effective way to help us more quickly respond to public safety calls, traffic problems and medical issues, we may be able to move forward with creating a program here at MVPD that will serve the community in the same capacity," according to a statement released by the department last week.

Aptonomy markets the drones, which weigh about 30 pounds and have a 5-foot wingspan, as an effective way to monitor large areas in a short amount of time and an alternative to putting first responders in harm's way. The devices are equipped with software that allows the drones to fly autonomously, avoid obstacles and detect "anomalies" without human interaction, and can spot problems like a vehicle that isn't in the right place or a suspicious person breaking through a fence, Aptonomy co-founder John Daniels told the Voice.

"These are some of the most advanced, industrial-grade type drones for security in the entire world," Daniels said.

Since the company was founded in 2014, Aptonomy has used its drones to help out law enforcement agencies throughout the country, and recently worked with the city of Louisville, Kentucky on a public safety program where the company's security drones would automatically respond to the sound of gunfire.

"It's much quicker, and you don't get a human involved," Daniels said.

The hope is that the drones will be able to spot potential criminal activity around Shoreline including auto burglaries, fights and drug deals, and could provide officers with "real-time traffic flow information," according to the department's press release. Daniels said the drones could prove to be pretty useful at concerts, where a large number of people leave their vehicles and possessions unattended.

During the 2017 Audiotistic concert at Shoreline, which took place on July 15 and 16, six people were arrested on drug sale-related charges and one person was arrested for public intoxication, according to the police department's crime blotter. Another concert attendee was cited for possession, and there was a report of a battery and two reports of drug sales.

Four Aptonomy employees are planning to come to Mountain View during the Saturday concert to operate the drones, which will be flown once an hour for 20- to 30-minute intervals. Police spokeswoman Katie Nelson said the company is volunteering its time and equipment, and it won't cost the department any money, and stressed that the usage of drones this weekend is a one-time demo.

"We are only in the exploration phase of potentially implementing a drone program and are looking to make the best decision possible for our community," Nelson told the Voice. "Nothing has been finalized."

If police officials like what they see this weekend and decide to move forward with a permanent drone program, they wouldn't be the first. Law enforcement agencies in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties have adopted drone programs, and the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety is exploring the idea of buying drones to assist its police officers, Nelson said.

Drones have a pretty strong track record in helping police search for and rescue missing people and track down shooting suspects, Nelson said. They can also be used for thermal imaging during fires, which came in handy when fire crews sought to put out the deadly 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.

The drones at this weekend's concert will stick to rules and regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration, and will not fly directly over crowds, homes or nearby businesses, instead sticking to a circular pattern along the perimeter of the venue. None of the Mountain View police personnel assigned to the Saturday concert are certified to operate drones, Nelson said, so it will be up to Aptonomy employees to manage the flights.


15 people like this
Posted by Fantastic
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jul 11, 2018 at 2:24 pm

I am glad Mountain View police is exploring new ways to fight crime. For people who are not breaking the law or doing anything suspicious, we have no reason to fear surveillance and I am glad for it. It helps keep our community safer and I feel the loss of privacy tradeoff is worth the additional security.

23 people like this
Posted by privacy
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jul 11, 2018 at 2:39 pm

@Fantastic, please post your name, home address and phone number. If you're not doing anything wrong, you shouldn't mind being monitored.

12 people like this
Posted by Part107
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 11, 2018 at 2:50 pm

So the city doesn't allow flying drones on city property and if you want to film using one you need a 5 million dollar insurance policy. But the police can go ahead and fly over Shoreline park...
P.S. Did the Police ever admit that the "drone" that "caused" the power outage a few years ago wasn't even a drone? (It wasn't)

43 people like this
Posted by Umbrellas for sale
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2018 at 3:15 pm

OMG. So Stupid. Is there an urgent need? An ongoing crime problem where people are repeatedly victimized? If so it's been well covered up.

How about they Police the freeakin' roads instead!!!
Write tickets for red light runners. GAWD! This is a Police force?!?! Toy-boys out playing in the park to catch ...wait, what sort of ongoing violent crime are they fighting or expecting???

Did you know an alcohol checkpoint for all exiting roads would ACTUALLY protect citizens instead of you out in the park giggling with your new toy as you check out cleavage....because there is no ongoing problem out there. AAAARG, and WE pay their salaries!!

Get off the joystick and write some GD tickets!

42 people like this
Posted by Ridiculous
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 11, 2018 at 3:52 pm

First of all the whole "if you're doing nothing wrong then you shouldn't mind being spyed on" is crap. Why post anonymously? Why have curtains on your windows if you have nothing to hide?

Is this concert a real high crime area? Six drug busts and one drunk in public doesn't sound like we're all in serious danger and need spy cameras flying around to watch everyone. The article mentions thermal imaging but thank God the Supreme Court says that the cops need a warrant to do that.

30 pound autonomous drones flying underneath the final approach to Palo Alto Airport seems like it will be more of a safety hazard than a safety benefit.

If the cops want to move forward with this I hope they have a series of public meetings to gather input. The county requires public input by law before implementing spy tech. The city should too.

10 people like this
Posted by pilot
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 11, 2018 at 4:33 pm

I do wonder how this is legal. I assume Aptonomy is being paid for this, if so this is commercial use, and thus likely illegal. The fact that this is just 2 miles from palo alto airport and one from moffet also makes it dangerous. Has anyone notified the towers? Faa?

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 11, 2018 at 4:45 pm

I really hope that none of these drones ever crash into innocent pedestrians

42 people like this
Posted by Privacy = Freedom
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Ubiquitous monitoring of crowds is a hallmark of a totalitarian state. Orwell himself couldn't have imagined the overwhelmingly fine-grained surveillance under which we currently live. Equipping the police with drones to monitor whole populations can only lead to abuse and social control; in fact, it ALWAYS does.

@Fantastic: Think you don't have anything to hide? 1. EVERYONE likes their privacy. If you don't, please post all your email and social media login information so we can all peruse your lifestream. 2. When you dismiss concerns because you personally may be well protected (which almost certainly means you're white, male and affluent) you are also showing contempt for those who DO need privacy: oppressed peoples, victims of domestic violence, and activists attempting to fight back against the increasingly authoritarian state, in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Privacy is a necessary prerequisite for true freedom. To those paying attention, every step towards its elimination is a cause for alarm.

4 people like this
Posted by Aerial Commuter
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 11, 2018 at 4:59 pm

Yeah, if one of these beasts encroaches on my aircraft on the GPS 31 final to KPAO there's going to be hell to pay. Make damn sure Aptonomy keeps those things below treetop level.

3 people like this
Posted by dont go away mad
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 11, 2018 at 5:11 pm

dont go away mad is a registered user.

Look what you started!! George Orwell!

2 people like this
Posted by Abuse phase one
a resident of Gemello
on Jul 11, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Drones are used around the world to monitor, spy and kill. Vladimir Putin will soon be flying drones here by the thousands. They will be duly marked AMAZON or the like.

18 people like this
Posted by Pat McRotch
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2018 at 6:44 pm

How about they fly those drones over the Shoreline Safeway parking lot? Or maybe just have a patrol car there on concert nights. That shopping center has turned into our own little slice of Stockton

4 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 11, 2018 at 6:56 pm

This is how it starts. People like "Fantastic" thinking that surveillance is just fine. "If you have nothing to hide..." has always been a spurious argument. As of now, privacy is right. If we let things slide, not for much longer. Shall we hover a drone over Fantastic's backyard?
I don't know anything about Audiotistic concerts, but seven arrests out of 20,000 people seems waaay below the average rate.

15 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jul 11, 2018 at 8:25 pm

Juan is a registered user.

Mountain View residents and MVPD should not pay one dime to police the Amphitheater. It is outrageous that Live Nation continues to schedule acts that are frequented by out-of-town criminals who bring their drugs and crime to our city. Live Nation has not hired sufficient security, that much is obvious.

As for the privacy concerns, the Amphitheater is a known den of drug dealing and crime. If you want privacy then go anywhere else in the city. Drug dealers shouldn't have a right to privacy.

18 people like this
Posted by Really!
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jul 11, 2018 at 10:20 pm

First of all you don’t have a right to privacy in a public place. The last time I checked the area around the Amphitheatre is public. If u know drones are there and u want you privacy don’t go to that public place. By the way you know those billion dollar Satalites hovering the planet...there monitoring you! You know the guy or gal standing on the corner with that $1000 cell pone with HD cameras...they are monitoring you! those high definition cameras located on every Google building in MV...they’re monitoring you! The thousands of drop cams at private business and homes facing out to the public street...they are monitoring you! How about the bank atms...monitoring you! At least the MVPD is informing you of its purpose and is governed by federal, state, and local laws. As for notifying the air port.,,it’s the law. Of course the airport was notified! As for flight zones. Drones cannot fly over 400 feet. If there is a flight at 400 feet 2 miles from the airport you have a lot more to worry about then a 30 lbs drone! “Pilot” it’s a demo! No one is getting paid so it is not commercial use. Even if they were getting paid and it was commercial use. You only have to have a FAA license to operate the drone for commercial use. I’m sure Aptonomy’s pilots are licensed. People need to calm down. It’s not about the crime stats. Amphitheatre is being used as a test case because of its vast and commercial area. It’s the ideal place to demo the drone. Better there then over your home?! I’m hearing a lot of fear mongering by ignorant people that don’t know the laws or rules about drones. Please educate yourselves and have some faith in your local police department that they will continue to do right by the citizens the serve!

4 people like this
Posted by pilot
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 12, 2018 at 9:25 am

The last five nautical miles of the GPS RWY 31 approach course for Palo Alto Airport are authorized down to 460 feet AGL. This is required to get under the clouds to a point from which you can safely visually land. So presumably these drones will be limited to WELL BELOW 400 feet, given that Shoreline is directly under that approach corridor. In fact, I'm kind of shocked that the FAA authorized any drone activity at any altitude that close to the final approach course for an active airport. Either they're limited to something like 150 feet, or they didn't actually get authorization from the FAA.

Web Link

14 people like this
Posted by Gee, great PR MVPD
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2018 at 11:10 am

Coffee with a cop will not sooth the instant distaste I got in my mouth for the MVPD after reading what they will be doing.

I consider myself a big police dept supporter, but if they continue in this direction that will change quickly. It may have already. Very very sad to see them erode their standing with the community.

5 people like this
Posted by Alex M
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 12, 2018 at 3:47 pm

@Privacy - Surveillance of public places is beneficial. Without it, the Boston Marathon bomber would have never been caught, for example. Surveillance of private property is another matter, but that isn't what this article is about.

@Part107 - it isn't that the city doesn't allow flying drones. The fact is that Mountain View is under the Moffett Field and SJC controlled airspaces. The airspace floor is at ground level in a 5 mile radius around SJC (which reaches the edge of Mountain View), and over Mountain View the floor is at 2500 feet. Also, we're under the outer ring of the San Francisco Terminal Control Area. AND we're in the approach path of the Palo Alto airport. So it kinda makes sense to disallow flying objects that might interfere with aviation traffic. However, if you have permission from the FAA to fly a drone over Mountain View, there probably isn't anything the city can do about it. Professional photographers DO get permission.

As for the police drones over Shoreline amphitheater, it sounds like they just want a new toy to play with, and their time would be better served actually policing the area using checkpoints and physical presence. And I wonder if they thought of the liability in case of an accident. I would like to see a public proposal with public feedback before they adopt this technology.

2 people like this
Posted by Alex M
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 12, 2018 at 3:50 pm

@Pilot - remember, fireworks are shot off over the Shoreline Amphitheater too. They're not very high altitude though. I would expect 30-pound fixed-wing drones would be flying much higher.

8 people like this
Posted by Just because you can
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2018 at 4:20 pm

doesn't mean you should.
The negative impact this will have on the police and how they are perceived will not be worth the expected benefits. BTW, what ARE the expectations of this? A few public intoxication arrests? Maybe? I could see if there was a compelling reason of impending crime, but it looks more like a blind expedition. A buzzing eye in the sky seemingly peering down on you, even if it's not, gives nobody a good feeling.

I'm holstering the "Thumbs up" I usually flash at the cops when I see them until I see how they address this, and they should do so quickly.
This is a community relations disaster.

20 people like this
Posted by Film the police
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2018 at 7:04 am

If this is the future, it looks like they've taken an us against them stance, so it's time to start folming MV's cops.

Film them when they sit in their cars using their cell phones, film them while they sit door to door in the parking lots and note how much time they spend there. Film them as they speed for seemingly no reason. Film them ALWAYS when they pull you over. Make sure to get the lic plate and or name/badge. Film them as they come and go to work and note what kind of driver they are in their private vehicle. Film them outside their house, they may be violating civil codes.
If they have nothing to hide, they should not mind this at all.

4 people like this
Posted by Really!
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jul 13, 2018 at 5:05 pm

The last I checked this is still the United States of America. As long as the Officer is in a public place he or she can be filmed or recorded. As long as you don’t directly interfere with the officer performance of duties you can film, record or take pictures. Most Officers know this and welcome it. Most of them will probably just drive away from you. “Film the police” you’re missing the point of this. Times are changing and so is technology to do the job. Remember, those drones and cameras are filming the police as well as the bad guys. Tasers are a good example of equipping officers with different effective tools to do today’s job. Before tasers officers only had lethal options in certain situations. Now there is a less lethal option if the situation calls for it. We shouldn’t not be afraid of change and progress. Especially if that change will help the police better protect our communities and put bad people in jail. I’m not saying we should turn a blind eye to police activities. We all have a responsibility to keep our city government in check, but I don’t see this as an over reaching, “ big brother” move to spy on law abiding citizens. It’s simply another tool to make the job more successful in protecting the community.

4 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2018 at 5:29 pm

First off, this is supposedly a test to see how drones can help police/monitor large events. There are probably plain clothes police in crowd anyhow so having a drone overhead should be viewed the same way.

The bigger issue is safety for all attendees. I wonder what the survivors of the concerts in Las Vegas or Manchester would think about added security at concert venues?

8 people like this
Posted by Uh Yah, he was in a hotel
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 13, 2018 at 7:45 pm

I agree 100% Right or wrong, it's still a community PR disaster. How they will be perceived by many would be supporters will change.

10 people like this
Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 14, 2018 at 5:50 am

This makes me sad. Really MVPD?

I tell my kids all the time, if you make bad choices, sometimes the results are longer lasting than you had ever thought.
Legal issues aside, this is a very bad choice.

5 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2018 at 10:47 am

Yes, the Las Vegas shooter was shooting from a hotel, but a drone could possibly have seen him before the police in the ground, since he had shot out through broken windows. Manchester was someone in a suicide vest who had been lurking around outside. The concert in Paris was inside.

Drones over any place that has big crowds could help with security.

I look on this as a security measure, nothing at all with spying on the concertgoers. If terrorism is going to be thwarted we need all the tools available.

2 people like this
Posted by Dr. Emmett Brown
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2018 at 1:25 pm

Drones? Where we're going, we don't need drones.

12 people like this
Posted by Hypothetical hindsight
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2018 at 4:55 am

Please...enough with the "They could have maybe helped" stuff. It's about the public's perception. MV Cops are appearing as leering spy cam creepers with this. That's the new perception. Creepy freaks you don't want to talk to or come into contact with, and god forbid, don't let them near your kids.

8 people like this
Posted by Humble observer
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2018 at 12:30 pm

But -- on this as on many, many other subjects -- the "perception" of some of the public is precisely the problem here!

MVPD have carefully explained, in detail (both to the Voice reporter and in statements to the community by electronic media) that this was a trial run, to check out the idea's practicalities.

Readers with excitable imaginations are spinning their own extrapolations and speculations, untethered even to the experiment's stated details; then forming opinions and posting comments -- all based on their own extrapolations, forgetting who created those. Even readers untroubled by existing event- and crime-scene surveillance, or by today's ubiquitous security cameras, cellphone video, helicopters, spy satellites -- even, probably, readers who elsewhere boast about their own new front-door video.

New technologies are often greeted this way. If something is strange or could have dark connotations -- especially if you don't (or don't bother even to try to) understand even the information that's readily available about it -- then cultivating petty fears of risk or persecution is part of human nature. (Unfortunately so, since it causes misconceptions and ignorance that are counterproductive even to the fearful.) This pattern already attends countless other technologies (some of them decades old) that people don't or don't want to understand -- the internet records a vast archive of their fears and fantasies.

2 people like this
Posted by The really fumbled it
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2018 at 1:16 pm

They did not expect such a recoiled response from so many. They need to fix that. Just because the concert is over, the lingering bad taste will fester over time. They've damaged their image IMO.

4 people like this
Posted by The really fumbled it
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2018 at 1:18 pm

I also think some people commenting have paychecks directly tied to the new tech. Some read like obviously bogus Amazon product reviews.
They're trying to make money and that will depend on cities buying their stuff, so they'll sell it hard.

Like this comment
Posted by zap
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2018 at 2:28 am

Everyone here IS aware that MVPD routinely go through the trunks of people at Shoreline Amp before concerts right? RIGHT? Not so hard to see for yourself. I've seen it more than once either at concerts or when I'm at the dog park.

Maybe they had permission. Maybe they intimidated people who were too young to know better. But showing up in their full tactical vest getups to sweep the parking lot to see if Johnny Skateboard has a few beers stolen from dad seems excessive to me.

All the histrionics here and all y'all are already oblivious to the fact we've already got police half dressed in riot gear bum-rushing people and tearing apart their trunks at every concert

Like this comment
Posted by Looking down your top
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2018 at 4:55 am

all in the name of law and order.

Like this comment
Posted by Really!
a resident of North Bayshore
on Jul 17, 2018 at 7:12 am

Really! 33 comments in a city of 70,000+ residents is hardly an indication that MVPD “they fumbled It” It simply says 33 people chose to comment on a subject they fill compassionate about rather right or wrong.

Like this comment
Posted by Yah but
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2018 at 9:15 am

People are talking.

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