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A small unmanned aerial vehicle (sUAV) was used during a barricade incident involving a robbery suspect, demonstrating capabilities in SWAT operations. For the first time, the Los Angeles Police Department’s Metropolitan Division, Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) utilized the sUAV since the approval of a pilot program.

On January 9th of this year, SWAT officers encountered one of those unique circumstances where officers hoped the use of this tool would allow officers to take a suspect into custody without force. Metropolitan Division police officers who were in the area looking for a suspect in an armed robbery assumed that he was in a locked apartment. Because of the suspect’s refusal to exit and believing he could be armed with a firearm, SWAT was requested to the location.
During the stand-off with the suspect, which lasted approximately nine hours, LAPD’s specialized sUAV pilot (SWAT officer) used the aircraft to find the suspect who was hiding in the second floor.
During that time, SWAT utilized various types of communication strategies, tear gas, and ultimately the sUAV. The aerial vehicle was used after the tear gas was ineffective in flushing out the suspect.
The aerial vehicle was flown outside of the windows of the suspect’s apartment but the suspect was not seen with the sUAV. After several hours, the suspect who had been hiding in the attic space of his apartment, was located and taken into custody by officers, without any further incident.
During the operation, video footage was captured by the unmanned aerial vehicle. The ability to use such vehicle in certain situations is an important tool for SWAT, and allows officers to gather critical information that can mitigate high risk situations.
The pilot program began in July 2018, allowing the Department to use these devices with the hopes of de-escalating dangerous situations while enhancing commitment to the preservation of life. According to, the sUAV would be used in limited circumstances, under strict guidelines that consider community concerns and privacy interests. For accountability, the device would be used only by a team of officers with specific training, and with prior approval.