Public safety agencies that operate drones can now apply for a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
In the past, public safety agencies have always had to maintain a visual line of sight when operating unmanned aircraft (UAS). Recognizing the need to support public UAS operators acting in an active first responder capacity, the FAA last week announced the “First Responder Tactical Beyond Visual Line of Sight” (TBVLOS) waiver.
According to the FAA:
In a time of extreme emergencies to safeguard human life, first responders require the capability to operate their unmanned aircraft (UAS) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) to assess the operational environment such as a fire scene at a large structural fire, to conduct an aerial search on a large roof area for a burglary in progress, or to fly over a heavily forested area to look for a missing person (see diagram below for a visual perception).
These temporary BVLOS flights are flown to both reduce risk to first responders and to ensure the safety of the communities they serve. The FAA will issue in advance, upon receipt of a complete and accurate application, a 14 CFR 91.113(b) waiver that will allow temporary UAS TBVLOS operations within specific conditions and requirements
While some public safety agencies deploy UAVs to enhance emergency response operations, reports of potentially hazardous or unlawful drone activity — many of which occurred near airports or aircraft — increased dramatically over the past two years, according to the FAA.
In Maryland, local governments are preempted from regulating drones. Last year, a report from a statewide workgroup on drone use in Maryland described the challenges drones create for local law enforcement and the need for clarification of rules and authorities.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.