So you got a drone...now what?
It seems nearly everyday we read about a new police or fire department buying, or being gifted, a nice shiny new drone. The newspaper writes a story, the chief or a captain is quoted saying how drone technology will help the department do their jobs better, and everyone leaves very happy with the new tool.
But the drone is only one step in the process of building a well-trained, legal, and sustainable public safety drone program. Once the dust settles there are some key questions you have to consider in order to make sure you get the most from your new drone.
Are you legal?
The FAA has provided two certification frameworks for public agencies to operate under. Part 107 is an individual certification that is designed primarily for individual commercial operators, but can work well for a drone program just getting started with a few operators.
The second framework is the Public Agency Certificate of Operation (COA), which is designed for public agencies to be able to fly with maximum flexibility. There are two types of COAs: Blanket and Jurisdictional. The Blanket COA authorizes the agency to fly in Class G airspace anywhere in the Us, while the Jurisdictional COA gives the agency authority to fly specifically in the agency's jurisdiction, subject to airspace restrictions. It is Skyfire's firm belief that a Blanket/Jurisdictional COA combo is the best, most sustainable and flexible regulatory framework for a public safety drone program to operate under.
For a great breakdown on the differences between Part 107 and COA, check out this infographic.
Are you well-trained?
While there's no substitute for simply amassing flight hours on the sticks, getting started with a solid training regimen is a great way to get your drone program off to a great start. So, ask yourself how you're going to ensure that every new operator gets consistent foundational training, how you'll document this training, and how operators will get continuing education in tactical skills.
Here at Skyfire, we've developed a high-powered 2-day training program that consists of 8 hours of ground school, discussing piloting concepts and the regulatory framework the department has chosen to perform under, and 8 hours of direct flight experience with a comparable drone to the one the department will be using. AFter 60 departments, this training regimen has proven effective in establishing the basic training guidelines for our client departments.
Who will write your guidelines?
Every new tool of program in public safety needs to be documented with a consistent program of guidelines, so that everyone at all levels understand who can operate, under what circumstances, and what to do in an emergency. A key question you need to ask yourself is who will develop the guidelines and SOPs for your department?
Starting a drone program is exciting and impressive, but before you fly there are some key pieces you have to get into place for sustainable, long-term success.