Police to fly small drones in USA by Christmas?

Patrick Egan

A gift for the small unmanned aerial systems industry? The FAA may come to an understanding with the DOJ by Christmas.

America lags behind many countries in creating rules and permissions for sUAS,systems weighing less than 150kg. Current FAA regulations effectively make it impossible to launch a UAV at the drop of a hat to chase or watch somebody. In fact a Police operator would have to notify the FAA and they would then have to publish the activity. Not the best. That does not only hold back the Police, but other government operators such as the Fire service. They might need rapid access to airspace, in the UK West Midlands Fire service use a small multi rotor to look for hotspots still active in big fires and quick surveys to find the best access points for rescue.

Australia, South Africa and most of Europe have regulations that allow operators to use civil UAS commercially. China is considering bigger things. Rumours of unmanned cargo flights taking place within China beginning as early as 2014 abound on the web. Some even suggesting that autonomous cargo flights across Asia might quickly become the norm.

With military UAV pilots and aircraft coming home from around the world and big defence spends on UAV’s falling the industry certainly needs a leg up at the moment

There have been whispers that the FAA and DOJ were putting together a MOU along the lines of that currently in place with the DoD. Of course, there would be challenges that would need to be overcome, as the DoJ doesn’t have it’s own restricted and/or warning airspace like the DoD. I’m not privy to all of the details, but I’m sure that there are vendors pushing for groups 1 and 2 at greater altitudes that 400’ AGL and out further than 1500’. Not really anything surprising by any stretch of the imagination, as the lack of viability is glaring even to the layperson. Anyway, there was optimism from within the community that a long awaited market would finally be opening up, giving needed relief to a community with few legal income streams. Looks like the hopes have been dashed yet again. However, as a consolation prize we have what appears to be a sort of blanket COA process enabled by the end of the year. I think it overly optimistic on a couple of levels. One being that we are fast approaching the holiday season and the second, that the COA process is so bad it should hardly be called a process, as that implies some sort of progress and really it is for all practical purposes a filter, or firewall at best. We’ll just have to wait and see if the UAPO leadership can come through.

About Patrick Egan

Patrick Egan served as a full member on the FAA’s sUAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee. (Order 1110.150).  As a full member, and as Director of Special Programs for the Remote Control Aerial Photography Association. (RCAPA), he represented the “silent majority” or small business users of small Unmanned Aircraft System and their concerns regarding airspace integration. He also is a member of the International Coordination Council, which inputs to the WG-73 and the AUVSI Airspace Advocacy committee. He has spent many years applying and collaborating on uses for unmanned aircraft technology.  Patrick currently trains LTA ISR systems deployment teams for a OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project.

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Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).