Choosing the Right Drone for Your Public Safety Agency
Unlike a hobbyist or even commercial pilot who specializes in photography or videography, the drones that police or fire departments use should not be off the shelf at your local store.
Instead, your department should have drones that are equipped with the right technology to meet your needs. More advanced drones such as the DJI Matrice 200 series have thermal camera capabilities, longer flight times, multiple cameras, and other features that make them better for police and fire departments. Other models like the DJI Matrice 60 are capable of carrying up to 20 pounds. This helps deliver small items to victims during search and rescue missions.
Drones that are designed for use by law enforcement, fire departments, or EMS are equipped with technology that is more advanced than the average consumer drones. Some of these are weather-resistant, have multiple cameras, and even have as much as 30x zoom capabilities. All of which help public safety agencies fly in difficult weather conditions, obtain a better visual from a far distance, or gather more intel than the average drone or camera.
The professional drone training company that you hire can recommend the best models for your agency’s needs. They can also recommend proper software, accessories, cameras, and other key equipment.
These recommendations are based on the activities and goals of your public safety agency. A fire department would benefit from thermal imaging that allows them to examine heat signatures in the aftermath of fires. On the other hand, a police department would benefit more from a drone that is equipped with a camera with zoom capabilities to allow them to monitor events and potentially dangerous situations from afar. Actually, both departments could easily benefit from both types of cameras, but, how they administer it and integrate into their operations will be different.
FAA Regulations and Part 107 Certification
As mentioned above, your department needs to adhere to FAA regulations. Drones are small and seemingly easy to fly. They’re also available for purchase at local stores and online, because of this, it’s easy to forget that they are considered an aircraft.
The FAA requires that anyone who operates a drone for commercial use hold a Part 107 Certification. This Remote Pilot license allows the operator to receive payment for their photography, videography, or survey work. This also applies to law enforcement, fire departments, and EMS teams who intend to fly drones.
In order to become certified, you must take the Part 107 exam. This exam requires extensive knowledge of FAA drone-specific regulations, airport operations, weather, radio communications, and other aviation-related information. The contents of the exam are similar to what a private or commercial pilot sees on their exam.
As a result, anyone who takes the exam needs to spend a significant amount of time studying. The best way to pass the exam is to take a prep class. A professional drone pilot training program can include preparation for the Part 107 exam.
Additionally, a drone pilot or operator needs to have up to date knowledge on all FAA regulations for drone operations. These regulations include avoiding flying within 5 miles of an airport, never flying over a crowd, and other strict rules.
As a public safety agency, your department will be eligible for waivers from the FAA in instances that require that your officers violate those regulations. By learning all of the rules and regulations, you will be better prepared to plan your missions and request any necessary waivers.
Professional Flight Training for Your Agency
Now that your agency is equipped with the proper drones and accessories, your drone operators need to learn to fly. Although they are small and seemingly easy to operate, flying a drone requires skill and practice.
Drones are technically referred to as UAVs or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. This means that they are an aircraft that can fly without a pilot on board. So while they are tiny, they are still considered an aircraft and that means that they should be flown by a knowledgeable pilot or operator.
It’s not smart to take a drone out of the box, insert the batteries, and start flying. You have to learn how to fly before you start. By learning about the way the drone operates, the available controls, and flight path programming, you can fly safely and efficiently.
From proper launching and landing to advanced maneuvers, your drone pilots will have to spend some time learning the best ways to use the devices. Without training, missions can take longer, the drones can run out of battery too soon, and a number of other easily preventable issues.
Additionally, you and your department need to be prepared to react properly in emergencies. Whether you lose GPS signal or lose sight of your drone, with the proper training, you can react calmly and take control of your drone.
Arguably the most important aspect of drone flight training for public safety agencies is flight planning. Before a mission, your drone operators should program their flight path. This planning helps immensely once their drones are in the air. The more preparation and knowledge they have ahead of time, the better.
Proper drone operation is all about safety. We have to emphasize again that it is very important to remember that drones are small aircrafts. Sending a drone up into the air without flight training can be risky especially if you’re flying over people or other potentially hazardous situations.
Establish Operating Procedures and Rules for Your Agency
Once your drone operators learn the rules and regulations, pass the certification exam, and learn to fly, you need to establish your own agency rules.
These can include instances when the drones are necessary, the proper flight protocol, and other important processes. It’s important to have streamlined rules to ensure the, very expensive and potentially dangerous, equipment is used properly.
Additionally, if a mission requires violating an FAA regulation, you need to establish a procedure for requesting a waiver from the FAA. This requires pre-planning and knowledge to obtain the necessary clearance to complete your public safety agency’s missions.
If your department is unclear on procedures, drone integration can turn out to be more of a headache than a help for your agency. This is easily avoided with clear rules and operating procedures.
Drone Integration for Public Safety Agencies
Integrating drones into your public safety agency’s operations doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, with the right training, it’s simple. Drones can help increase visualization of potentially dangerous events, monitor large crowds, and survey damage after hurricanes and other natural disasters. If your agency hasn’t taken advantage of the vast capabilities of drones, it’s time to consider integrating them.