At its meeting today, Tuesday, May 21, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a Public Safety Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program.
The county’s UAS program will provide an enhanced level of operational capability, safety and situational awareness for the Office of Emergency Management, Fire and Rescue, Police and Sheriff by delivering relevant high-quality imagery, data and customized geospatial solutions using unmanned aircraft.
Fairfax County’s UAS program is designed to assist public safety personnel with search and rescue, flooding assessments, pre- and post-disaster damage assessments, crash reconstruction, fire incident/scene management and investigations, hazardous materials responses and situational awareness for wildlife management.
The county’s program will focus on responsible and accountable operations; the safety of the public and UAS flight crews; the protection of individual privacy, civil rights and civil liberties; compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws, regulations, and policies; public information; data management; and operation and training requirements.
Following today’s vote, county public safety agencies will begin an approximately 90-day process of equipment purchases, pilot certifications and flight/ground school training with a “go live” for real-world operational flights beginning in late August/early September. All pilots in the county program are required to have a remote pilot certificate with small UAS rating issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. In addition, a UAS program manager will be appointed and a UAS Steering Committee, with public representation, will be created to provide oversight to the program and ensure adherence to the county’s UAS program manual and training requirements.
A UAS notification group has been created in Fairfax Alerts to provide public notifications for missions or training flights.
For questions about the program, a copy of the program manual, information about the equipment used, flights that have taken place, presentations and details of public outreach efforts, visit the UAS webpage. In addition, the UAS program can be reached by both email (UAS@fairfaxcounty.gov) and phone (571-350-1234).
Today’s approval of the program followed two years of work by a county UAS Work Group formed in May 2017 and a UAS Task Force that was created in fall 2018. The task force included representation from groups and organizations such as the ACLU, NAACP, George Mason University, area chambers of commerce, Audubon Society, FAA, Fairfax Federation, McLean Citizens Association, Leadership Fairfax, the Fairfax Area Disability Services Board, Communities of Trust, the commonwealth of Virginia and numerous county agencies.
UAS can operate in many types of environments (natural or manmade), or other critical incidents that might be hazardous to the safety of first responders or others. UAS provides a unique, viable, safe, versatile, supplemental tool for incident commanders and first responders. For some missions UAS provide first responders with a tool that can access areas where manned aircraft cannot fly due to weather or other safety regulations.
Note to Media: Roy Shrout, deputy coordinator, Office of Emergency Management, and chair of the UAS Work Group is available for media interviews. He can be reached at email@example.com or 571-350-1225.