On February 4th, 2019

Law Enforcement Agencies – Embrace Your Role in UAS Regulations!

Interactions between local law enforcement and UASs have increased significantly and will continue to do so as more departments gain drone programs and authorities increase. As technology improves and grows, so do the uses and the number of Law Enforcement agencies using UASs.1 The number of Public Safety offices that have applied for waivers from the FAA, have grown by 86% since 2015 (from 148 in 2015 to 910 in May 2018).2 This increase means that those departments should have a stake in how new regulations take shape, and with proposed rule modifications which would increase the authorities and responsibilities of local law enforcement, law enforcement agencies (LEAs) across the nation should want to help shape new regulations and voice any concerns.3

The FAA has released another advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), the Safe and Secure Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which has many proposed rules law enforcement should be aware of. The subjects include:4

  1. Standoff Distances – the amount of space between a small UAS and the closest person or object
  2. Performance Limitations – restrictions on maximum altitude, airspeed, acceleration, climb rate, and maneuverability
  3. Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) Operations – a decentralized communication architecture which could support more structured airspace and operations for small UAS without active control from the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization
  4. Payload Restrictions – limitations on type and weight of payloads
  5. Small UAS Critical System Design Requirements – the use of redundant systems to prevent navigation failure and to maintain airworthiness

The ANPRM does not provide any specifics about what each proposed rule would be, but rather lays out the reasons why there should be rules regarding each subject. Further, the ANPRM elicits public input, providing a great opportunity for LEAs to influence what the future rules will be.

When reviewing the proposed rules, LEAs should consider their current and future experiences, operations, authorities, and the effect of the proposed rules. For example, would a required standoff distance cause an increase in calls related to perceived violations? Would the LEA be able to respond to those calls? Or, what capabilities would law enforcement need to monitor the UTM? Would, or how would, an office respond to deviations from intended flight paths via UTM?

As drones are an increasing part of our lives, it is important for law enforcement to understand the dynamic regulations and how they may influence those rules. If this is the first time your agency is hearing about this ANPRM don’t worry, there is still time! The ANPRM was released in January 2019 and no announcement has yet been made with contact and dates. This means there is extra time to prepare your comments and directly influence developing regulations before they are finalized. PropelUAS urges all LEAs to get involved!

UAS regulations can be confusing, as can knowing the types of waivers your program may need. If your LEA wants to better understand current and future regulations and their impact, or is looking to stand up a drone or counter-UAS program, please reach out. Our team of experts can assist in navigating the red-tape, developing and integrating an operation plan, determining the right procurement strategy, and forming a communication strategy.