The civilian panel that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department unanimously approved guidelines Tuesday for a drone program the LAPD wants to create, reports KNBC.

The debate over the LAPD's use of drones began three years ago when the department acquired two of the devices, which it ultimately decided against using in the face of protests from activists fearing surveillance uses. But the department reversed course and in August presented the Board of Police Commissioners with a plan to create a pilot drone program.

The newly approved guidelines do not give a green light to the creation of the program. After posting the guidelines on the department's website for two weeks and receiving more public feedback, the board is scheduled to vote on final approval of the pilot program.

"Our challenge is to create a policy that strikes a balance, that promotes public safety and does not infringe on public policy rights. The best way to do that is through a strong policy, that creates maximum transparency, accountability and oversight, and I believe this proposed policy does that," Commissioner Shane Murphy Goldsmith said.

According to the approved guidelines, drones would be used in a limited capacity, including high-risk tactical operations, barricaded armed suspect responses, hostage rescues, and situations involving threats of exposure to hazardous materials and the need to detect explosive devices.

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