Starting a Drone Program

If your agency is planning on starting a drone program, you’ve come to the right place. As a retired police captain and public safety trainer I am uniquely qualified to help you understand the steps required to operationalize your drone program.

One of the first steps is to get your remote pilot certificate. To help you prepare for the remote pilot exam I have created my own online training program, the remote pilot test preparation course. I’ve trained hundreds of GIS specialists, police, firefighters and first responders. You can learn more about that training program here.

As an authorized dealer I can also help you select the right equipment for your needs. I carry all of the major brands like DJI, Autel, Parrot and Fox Fury.

If you’re just starting out I recommend you download and review the USDOJ Report on Drones for Public Safety Agencies but while you’re here, please keep reading. I’ll share a few basics on getting started.

Step 1. Determine how you will use UAS in your operations

I recommend you start by identifying how you will use a drone and and how it will add to your existing capabilities  Some examples include:

  • Situational awareness
  • Search and rescue
  • Crime scene documentation
  • Accident reconstruction 
  • Mapping
  • Fire scene management

Step 2. Choose a path for FAA approval

The FAA has a good guide for public safety agencies looking to start a program.

FAA Logo

There are two ways for your agency to obtain FAA approval for flight operations. Your pilots may operate under the Part 107 rule[1] (obtain an airman certificate with a small unmanned aircraft system rating) or, your agency may apply for a certificate of authorization (COA)[2]. Some agencies do both as each of these certifications authorize specific activities. Obtaining the Part 107 certification requires you to pass a knowledge exam and will require study and preparation. The COA process involves the agency to obtain FAA approval through an online portal. This process is a bit more complex and requires the preparation and submission of a number of documents. The COA process may take few weeks or could take up to 60 days.

Fortunately, the FAA no longer requires your sUAS pilots to obtain a manned aircraft pilot’s license as they once did. However, agencies applying for a COA need to show the FAA that their pilots and observers have obtained sufficient training. I can aid your agency in navigating through this process. My training will support the FAA’s training requirement. For more information about a COA please visit the FAA’s website.

Step 3. Identify and purchase the equipment for your program

Before you start looking at equipment it is wise to give thoughtful attention to how you plan on using it. This will help you make informed decisions about what equipment to choose and believe me, there are lots of choices!  I am a dealer that carries most everything that law enforcement is looking for. I am a retired Captain from Green Bay so I have a good understanding how agencies use the equipment and which equipment would be suit them.  I have tested everything I sell.  Once you reach the point where are looking for equipment I can provide you advice and quotes.  

If you decide to hire me to train your pilots, I’ll customize the training to include setup and use of the equipment you will be using. To accomplish this, it would be best for you to purchase the equipment early on in the program.  If your agency does not yet own your own equipment, I do have training units available. Titletown Drones is a Wisconsin based dealer and I offer public safety packages. As part of my consulting services, I will give you advice on which equipment to buy.

I created the video below to demonstrate a popular public safety drone with thermal capabilities.  While there are a lot of choices out there this video touches on the difference in some of the most popular drones and their thermal camera systems.  

Step 4. Identify your Pilots and Schedule Training

In order to operationalize your program, I recommend that your pilots start by obtaining the Part 107 certification from the FAA. Doing so will provide them a strong working knowledge of airspace rules and unmanned aviation principles. My online training program will help your pilots prepare for and pass the FAA’s written exam.

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