Overcoming the challenges of starting a UAS program


Today’s public safety agencies face more pressure to meet increasing expectations with fewer resources and overtaxed personnel. More and more agencies are looking for new opportunities and solutions. Drones known as sUAS (Small Unmanned Aircraft System) are increasingly becoming a valuable tool for Public Safety agencies to augment field personnel and through Drone First Responder (DFR) programs responding to the scene arriving prior ground units, giving critical pre-arrival information.

However, citizen understanding of commercial and first responder drones is limited, and as a result, community concerns are not uncommon. Successful programs educate the community with transparency about how and when a sUAS will be deployed.

But where do you start? Currently, agencies have two main options. The first is to apply for an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA), and the second is to have individual pilots certify under CFR14 part 107, becoming an FAA licensed remote pilot. Which do you choose? Both have advantages and disadvantages; however, this author believes that agencies should seek both a COA and have pilots certified under part 107.

For this author’s agency, I find most of our flights are during the daylight hours, and it is much easier to gain flight authorization as a part 107 pilot. However, we cannot fly at night without an FAA waiver, which can be challenging to obtain for individual pilots. On the other hand, a COA certifies an entire program and makes it easier to fly at night by filing the proper FAA notice.

Where can I get help? 21 CLETS LLC offers training and guidance in applying for and obtaining FAA COAs, and provide step-by-step instruction and documentation. This training also includes suggestions and advice for managing your sUAS program.

21 CLETS LLC is offering a California POST-certified administrator course January 27, 2021, followed up by California POST-certified Basic and Advanced sUAS operator course.

For more information, please go to https://www.21clets.com

David C. Cameron
Public Safety UAS program manager and Staff Instructor 21 CLETS LLC.