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Drones set to be deployed by Los Angeles Police Department

  • The Los Angeles Police Commission — the civilian board which oversees the department — voted 3-1 in favor of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) using the pilot program.
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, have been causing increasing concern for aviation authorities and experts, following several reported incidents of drones coming within close range of people, high-profile buildings, events, and aircraft.
A drone is flown for recreational purposes in the sky above Old Bethpage, New York on August 30, 2015.
Bruce Bennett | Getty Images
A drone is flown for recreational purposes in the sky above Old Bethpage, New York on August 30, 2015.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) signed off on a year-long test of drones on Tuesday, becoming the largest police department in the U.S. to deploy the technology.

Despite vociferous protest, the Los Angeles Police Commission — the civilian board which oversees the department — voted 3-1 in favor of the LAPD using the pilot program.

The drones are set to be deployed by the LAPD's Metropolitan Division SWAT Team in order to resolve "dangerous, high-risk tactical situations and improve situational awareness capabilities during natural disasters and catastrophic incidents," the draft proposal said.

Contentious issue

The use of drones has become a somewhat contentious issue in law, with protestors arguing the use of "small unmanned aerial systems" would give the police too much surveillance power and threaten the civil rights of LA residents.

While the LAPD has vowed to use the drones on a case-by-case basis and only under strict regulations, protestors at Tuesday's meeting reportedly expressed concern about the militarization of the police.

Activists told the LA Times in August, when the proposals were still under discussion, that they did not trust the LAPD to use the pilot programs appropriately, adding that some residents who already felt targeted by the police would be alarmed by the fear of being watched from the sky.

The police department is expected to put one drone into use and maintain a second as a backup. The drones deployed by the LAPD will not be armed.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, have been causing increasing concern for aviation authorities and experts, following several reported incidents of drones coming within close range of people, high-profile buildings, events, and aircraft.

In the U.S., drone users have been prosecuted for flying drones near a range of buildings and events, from smuggling drugs to prisons to "stalking" protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline. While in the U.K. a man was charged with flying a drone too close to Buckingham Palace, the residence of Queen Elizabeth II. Other arrests of drone operators have been made across the globe.

—CNBC's Ryan Browne contributed to this article.