sUAS (drone) Technologies in Local Government:
Is it there yet? No. Should it be there? Yes. If so, when? Soon.
History Shows Aerial Technologies Valued By Local Governments.
We all know that many, mostly larger, communities and governments commonly use helicopters and planes to support much public safety and other essential needs of the local government. Airborne Law Enforcement Association (ALEA) formed in May of 1976 to support safe and cost-effective airborne operations. The proliferation and effectiveness of aircraft for the public good is well known and widely supported as an essential tool. But we also know these “typical” aircraft and their operational costs are not insignificant, hence the use in mostly larger jurisdictions. Nevertheless, as a pilot or a pedestrian, who would want these operations to skimp on costs that help ensure safe operations!
sUAS (small Unmanned Aircraft Systems/drone) Technologies Changes the Scope of Use.
sUAS equipment and the many types of sensors (cameras, thermal imaging, NDVI (something for you to look up,) etc.) available make the use of drones very attractive, from a strictly cost standpoint, when compared to manned aircraft. Understand; the sUAS requires a pilot and possibly other crewmembers too. He/she/they just stay on the ground and let the UAS and its sensor/s gather the needed information remotely. However, it cannot be very remote, meaning the UAS must remain in visual site of the pilot/crew. This along with other restrictions such as: not being able to fly over people or at night creates limitations on their overall effectiveness. Yes, there are ways to obtain waivers/authorizations to conduct these and other types of operations, but that is way beyond the scope of this overview/introduction. In keeping with a previous theme: ALEA, within the last year, changed its name and scope. Now known as Airborne Public Safety Association https://publicsafetyaviation.org and incorporates the use the sUAS (drone) technologies in its public sector safety programs. By the way, as a corporate member of ASPA, and a firm believer in their programs, especially those developed to keep sUAS operations Certifiable, to strict standards, and Safe for local governments to use. Therefore, yes sUAS operations have a place in local government and may be more practical & cost-effective in much smaller local jurisdictions, as well as the larger ones.
sUAS Technologies Currently in Use by and for Local Governments
While currently “in use” by many local governments for many different applications from infrastructure inspections, flood control, mapping, even crime scene documentation, etc. the use in comparison to its capabilities and potential is tiny. Those local governments that have an interest in using sUAS for enhancing its local capabilities and more cost-effective services for their people should start evaluating the options and costs of various programs that use sUAS technologies. A very important and critical reason for my existence, “my why,” in this space is to help local governments through a comprehensive and logical process to define what, if anything, makes sense for their local jurisdiction and its current environment. http://www.aerialvisionspro.com/inspections/consulting/ There are currently ten (10) local jurisdictions of various sizes and geography working with the FAA to evaluate drone innovation projects. The goal is to help the FAA relax or minimize some of the regulatory restrictions that hamper the effectiveness of sUAS technologies for local governments and public safety.