Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Fairfax County, Virginia


TTY 711

4890 Alliance Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030

Office of Emergency Management,
UAS Coordinator

About the UAS Program

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) provide enhanced operational capability, safety, and situational awareness for first responders, other staff or volunteers, affiliated partners, and the community.  They can operate in many types of environments (natural or manmade), or other critical incidents which 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.  
  • a cost benefit compared to manned aircraft. 
  • a viable, safe, and supplemental asset to other manned aircraft assets.

Though UAS is not a replacement for manned aircraft that have a different set of capabilities, 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. 

FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

I See the Terms UAS, UAV and Drone; What Is the Difference?

A UAV is an unmanned aerial vehicle and differs from an unmanned aerial/aircraft system (UAS) in one major way: a UAV is referring to the aircraft itself, not the ground control and communications units.

The word drone is the most popular synonym for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or unmanned aerial/aircraft system (UAS).  UAV and UAS are terms that originated with the military and now, because of all the public access to these types of aircraft platforms, the term “UAS” has emerged as a replacement for "UAV” and “drone”.

What Types of Missions Does the UAS Program Fly?

We have created a detailed mission profile page within the UAS Program Manual (starting on page 9).  A few examples include:

  • pre- and post-disaster assessments
  • search and rescue
  • situational awareness
  • fire scene management
  • traffic, crash and highway management

What Are the Operational Hours of the Fairfax County UAS Program?

Our program currently is authorized to fly up to 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset (also known as "civil twilight").

What Equipment Does the UAS Program Use?

Currently we are using the following DJI aircraft: 

  • Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual
  • Mavic 2 Zoom
  • Mavic Pro Platinum
  • Phantom 4 Pro

The cost of our equipment starts at approximately $1,000 per aircraft with the more advanced DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual costing $3,000.

What Training is Provided to the Pilots?

Fairfax County requires that all UAS pilots obtain the FAA Part 107 license.  Each pilot must take a 2-day Part 107 preparation course prior to taking the FAA examination.  Once the pilot has successfully passed the examination, they will then take a 90-minute classroom orientation followed by a 2-3-hour initial hands on flight training program.

Each pilot is then required to take an additional 2-3 hours of advanced training which covers emergency procedures, safety, privacy, data management, airspace restrictions and policy and procedures. 

Each agency will have individualized training that will prepare their pilots for more specialized missions such as forensic analysis, and pre- and post-damage assessment.

All pilots will be required to take and pass a final examination prior to becoming a certified Fairfax County UAS pilot.

A minimum of 2-3 hours of flight time or missions will be required every 90 days to maintain proficiency.

Once a year, each pilot will be required to take the updated policy course to ensure they are aware of any new legal or procedural changes.

What Fairfax County Agencies Can Fly UAS Missions?

The Board of Supervisors approved the “public safety” UAS program on May 21, 2019, and adopted the UAS Program Manual authorizing the Fire and Rescue Department, Office of Emergency Management, Police Department and Sheriff’s Office to participate. 

On June 25, 2019 the Board of Supervisors approved non-public safety County agencies to enter the program after they complete a formal process.

Can You Present to My Organization or Provide More Information?

If you would like to talk with the UAS Program Manager or schedule a presentation, you can either email them at UAS@fairfaxcounty.gov or call 571-350-1234, TTY 711.

Do I Have to Register My UAS?

You must register your UAS with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for recreational use.

If you are going to fly as a Part 107 commercial pilot, you must take an additional FAA test.

Can I Operate My UAS in Fairfax County?

Fairfax County has the most restricted airspace in the United States and because of that, there are limitations as to where you can legally fly

If a Neighbor's UAS Bothers Me, What Can I Do?

Under federal law, it is a felony to willfully damage or destroy aircraft, 18 U.S.C. § 32. 

If you have a neighbor that is flying a drone over your home, you can report it by calling the non-emergency police department number at 703-691-2131, TTY 711.

Board of Supervisors Approves Program

On May 21, 2019, the Board of Supervisors approved the public safety small unmanned aircraft system program.

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.

Official Public Feedback Period Closed

A series of public meetings were held and written comments on the draft program were previously submitted by the close of business Feb. 8, 2019, to be included in the official public record.

Additional comments can be made at UAS@fairfaxcounty.gov or by calling 571-350-1234, TTY 711.

2019 Public Information Meetings

We hosted six public information meetings located throughout Fairfax County. Each public information meeting began at 6:30 p.m. with a static display of unmanned aircraft, followed by a presentation outlining the program.

After the presentation, there was an opportunity to ask questions from representatives of the Office of Emergency Management, County Attorney’s Office, Police and Fire and Rescue departments.

Jan. 14 Moved to Feb. 4 due to weather
Mason District Governmental Center (Community Room) 6507 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003

Jan. 16
South County Governmental Center (Room 221C)
8350 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA 22309

Jan. 23
McLean District Governmental Center
1437 Balls Hill Road, McLean, VA 22101

Jan. 24
Sully District Governmental Center
4900 Stonecroft Blvd, Chantilly, VA 20151

Jan. 28
Reston Community Center – Hunter Woods
2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston, VA 20191

Jan. 30
Braddock Hall – Kings Park Library
9002 Burke Lake Road, Burke, VA 22015

Feb. 4
Mason District Governmental Center (Community Room)
6507 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003

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