Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), otherwise known as drones, are the next frontier for public safety.
In that spirit, we’re developing a comprehensive Public Safety Unmanned Aircraft Systems program and would like to hear from you. For the next 30 days, our draft UAS Public Safety Program Manual and other information is available at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/uas. Please provide your comments and suggestions through the form on the page or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Written comments on the draft program must be received by the close of business Feb. 8, 2019, to be included in the official public record.
In addition, we are hosting six public information meetings located throughout Fairfax County. Each public information meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a static display of unmanned aircraft, followed by a presentation outlining the program at 7 p.m. After the presentation, there will be an opportunity to ask questions from representatives of the Office of Emergency Management, County Attorney’s Office, Police and Fire and Rescue departments.
The Fairfax County UAS program will provide an enhanced level of operational capability, safety and situational awareness for first responders, other approved participating agencies and decision-makers with relevant high quality imagery, data and customized geospatial solutions using unmanned aircraft while continuing to maintain the public trust. The program for staff would be designed to support a variety of mission types, with a focus for public safety on life safety. Identified mission types include, but are not limited to:
- Search and rescue.
- Flooding assessment.
- Pre- and post-disaster damage assessment.
- Transportation management.
- Crash reconstruction.
- Fire incident/scene management and investigations.
- Hazardous materials responses.
- Situational awareness for wildlife management.
- Terrain mapping.
For more information, view page 6 of the draft manual. The training program for staff pilots will include not only Federal Aviation Administration flight/observer training and safety protocols, but also, the protection of individuals’ privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties, and data dissemination, storage, retention, and security requirements.
The UAS program would not be used for the following:
- To conduct random surveillance activities.
- To target a person based solely on individual characteristics, such as, but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, or disability.
- To harass, intimidate or discriminate against any individual or group.
- To conduct personal business or any other unauthorized use.
For more information, view page 9 of the draft manual.
A UAS notification group would be created in Fairfax Alerts that would allow you to sign up for notifications of missions or training flights. These alerts would be sent out geo-coded only to the immediate area in which flight operations will be taking place. Other existing alternative alert/notification methods may be used in certain instances, particularly if an emergency or critical incident is occurring.
There would be an initial purchase of six to eight drones, with an estimated cost of approximately $3,500 each for equipment and required accessories by the Office of Emergency Management, the Fire and Rescue Department and the Police Department. These costs will be absorbed within existing budgets.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems are, of course, popularly available for purchase. The new county program would permit the Park Authority to offer:
- Recreational and business trainings, classes and events.
- Multiple venue opportunities for county residents to fly (indoor/outdoor).
- Virtual reality, children’s camps and UAS racing.
The airspace around Washington, D.C. is more restricted than in any other part of the country, including a 15-mile no-fly zone. Pilots are expected to abide by all applicable FAA regulations, safety guidance and airspace restrictions. View this map to see where you can fly:
As a result of state legislation effective July 1, 2018, the use of unmanned aircraft is allowed on Park Authority lands not in the restricted airspace. View the list of parks by zipcode where you CANNOT fly a drone, as well as other park information. The Model Aircraft Site at Poplar Ford Park is the recommended site for drone use.
Although the Park Authority is not able to regulate the use of drones, we are hopeful that operators will respect other park users, stay clear of wildlife and natural and cultural resource areas and generally, be respectful in their use of unmanned aircraft over parkland.
Flying a drone in a reckless or irresponsible manner is a violation of federal law and FAA regulations that could result in civil fines or criminal action. Per FAA guidance, incidents are handled by local law enforcement, who will contact the FAA as necessary.
Contact the Fairfax County Police Department if:
- You see a drone operated in a reckless manner that could endanger other aircraft or people on the ground.
- A drone crashes in your yard, hurts someone or damages your property.
- Police Emergency: 9-1-1
- Police Non-Emergency: 703-691-2131, TTY 711
To help the Park Authority track incidents of drone misuse in the parks, please also report the incident to a staff member or by email at email@example.com.