Alachua County Fire Rescue UAS Program
Alachua County Fire Rescue's Unmanned Aerial Systems Program began in 2014. We began the program in an effort to address issues faced by Emergency Services with new technologies. Alachua County Fire Rescue is committed to be an innovative leader in the field of public safety and this program offers the opportunity to explore new applications to address issues which face our community.
The initial program was very small. One aircraft, a few people and really no idea of how we could apply the technology to field operations. Another issue we faced was the lack of other public safety agencies involved in the UAS community. There were other issues such as misunderstandings as to the needs and long term uses of the technology both by the community and even members of our own department. Another challenge was the difficulty the Federal Aviation Administration was having integrating their oversite in aviation to unmanned systems.
So what have we done ? The first step we took was to research where we wanted the program to go. Nearly everyone could see the potential benefits to utilizing unmanned aircraft in situations where manned aircraft couldn't be used or when cost and speed were limiting factors.
Fortunately the Federal Aviation Administration began to understand and pass regulations that recognized public safety as a separate entity than a general hobbyist or commercial operators of UAS system. With the adoption of the FAA Part 107 ( small unmanned aerial aircraft regulation) a path to official operations was opened.
The decision was made to obtain a COA ( Certificate of Waiver or Authorization) for our department. Although this process is difficult and challenging, once secured it makes the operation of UAS systems much easier and more effective. The FAA was actually very helpful in explaining and assisting us in this process. We also made the commitment to have all of our operators obtain their Remote Pilot's Certificate. This makes the practical operations more feasible and gives us a redundancy in personnel.
So where are we going ? Cooperation with other UAS operators, manned aircraft and allied agencies offer the best chance for the program to continue to grow. Increased utilization in support of operational exercises and training also build trust and understanding. Transparency for both the community and county government is a must. Grants and sponsors are another key to success of the program and we are working to build bridges.
One item which may be of interest to other UAS operators is the process which we went through to obtain a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization. Below you will find copies of our program's COAs.
Copy of Alachua County Certificate of Waiver or Authorization
Copy of Alachua County Fire Rescue UAS Team's SOG.
Current Aircraft operated by ACFR
(2) DJI Mavic
(1) DJI Inspire 2
(1) DJI Phantom 4
(1) DJI Matrice 210
Alachua County Fire Rescue's UAS Team has benefited from the expertise and assistance from a number of agencies both public and private. If you have an interest in public safety UAS programs, you may find these of use. We do not endorse any products but we have utilized these services in building our own program.
The FAA is a key factor in any UAS program. To visit their site click here.
Another program which is a leader in UAS operations is the Florida State University's Emergency Management Program. To link to their Facebook page click here.
A Private Company which has assisted our program is FlyMotion Aerial Systems. To visit their site click here.
Another private company which has helped our program is Edgybees. To visit their site click Edgybees
We would like to thank Liberty Health Sciences for their assistance with our program.
Cameras we currently operate:
ACFR UAS team operates a number of cameras including several optical cameras and specialty cameras such as the DJI Zenmuse Z30 30x Optical Zoom Drone Camera and the DJI Zenmuse XT2
We hope to continue our collaboration with both public and private companies to meet the needs of the community. We know we have the ability to protect the lives or our citizens, their property and the safety of our first responders. There are so many changes in the technology and regulatory issues it is difficult to know where to start if you are starting a program. If you would like more information about our program please let us know. We are more than willing to share our experiences.
ACFR was recently invited to speak at a webinar with both DJI Enterprises and Edgybees involving the use of unmanned aircraft in the fire service. The webinar can be linked below. The webinar begins at the 09:51 mark so you can skip forward to start the program. Click Here