Article by Brent Klavon, ASEC
In August of 2016, the U.S. enacted the small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) regulation, often called Part 107. This ushered in a new era in aviation, creating a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman certificate for “remote pilots” and criteria on where and how sUAS may operate. Although public safety organizations may develop their own program under these new regulations, getting started can be confusing and many don’t know what equipment to purchase, how to train, who should fly and a host of other concerns. Before you charge ahead, we recommend you consider the following five questions to determine if drones are suitable for your own organization.
First - what drone enabled capability does your organization need? Most public safety organizations use drones for three basic reasons: to collect actionable information, reduce risk to personnel, and/or to be more efficient during routine operations. Drones can enhance situational awareness for an underway boarding, assist with search and rescue, conduct shoreline security sweeps, and support bridge inspections. Drones will not solve all your problems, but they just might help keep your personnel out of harm’s way.
Second – does local or state laws permit use of the drones? The FAA regulates air safety to include requiring waivers to fly drones near airports or at night. States and municipalities legislate privacy and property, for which numerous laws have been passed in the last couple years affecting how drones may be operated. A good source for reviewing drone-related state laws is produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Ensure the drone operation will comply with local ordinances as some municipalities have added additional permitting and insurance requirements that typically only apply to commercial operators.
Third – will civic leadership or public opinion affect how the drone is used? If so, it’s critical to generate support early in the process. Raising public awareness is important for organizations that will use drone capability in the public domain as a government entity. Many drone programs, especially law enforcement, were grounded because of public distrust of the drone’s intended purpose. A drone program that adheres to privacy laws and is transparent will build public and civic support for public safety drone programs.
Fourth – is there sufficient budget? Organizations will need to develop a budget that includes start-up and sustainment funds to procure not only drone equipment, but spare batteries, tablets, controllers, data storage devices, travel container, replacement parts, insurance, and FAA testing fee’s. Programs can be grown from within, but many times Risk Managers prefer outsourcing the process to an independent, credentialed vendor to lower organizational exposure. Either way, the organization will need to develop the program’s training, tactics, and procedures for incorporation into its own manuals and policies.
Fifth – what is our organizational policy? Organizational policies should be reviewed to determine program governance, management, and jurisdiction. Consider how the drone will be deployed, who will operate it, for what purpose and can it be done within a culture that promotes safety as a priority. What happens to the images from the drone’s camera? How will the data be stored, disseminated, destroyed and who has access? These types of policy questions should be raised early in the process to identify any gaps that will need to be addressed. The capability drones can provide are undeniable and the future certainly includes technology that will assume more of the dull, dirty and dangerous missions.
After answering the five essential questions you should have a better understanding if drones should be added to your organization’s toolbox. ASEC COO Mike Marrinan states, “With the right help, any organization can develop a safe, compliant and value added drone program. We are thrilled to work with O.C.E.A.N.S. to provide this service to assist organizations in developing successful drone programs and provide training.”
O.C.E.A.N.S. LLC is a Jacksonville Beach, Florida based Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business that brings together decades of experience in improving maritime interdiction, naval architecture, survivability analysis, port and border security systems, piracy and terrorism mitigation, enterprise architecture, software development, systems life cycle management, systems engineering, training, exercise, evaluation, research and development.