Our Fire Department Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for UAS Drone Ops

I wanted to share our UAS Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) if it can help other departments who may be developing a similar document.

Our approach at the Wake Forest Fire Department in Wake Forest, North Carolina is a bit different than other departments. We opted for the professional pilot approach as described in this article. Other departments may decide a different approach is better for them.

You can read our SOP by clicking here.

In our SOP you will notice some important sections.

Section 2 Scope

In section two we have closely defined the role for the UAS (drone). Any drone is an aircraft and as such it has inherent risks for flight and liability exposure for the department. So UAS operations are restricted to a range of calls that make the most sense for maximum effectiveness.

Section 3 Procedure

As with most departments attempting to integrate the UAS we have appointed someone to be the chief pilot of drone operations and this person, me, most hold a all valid certifications and while not part of this SOP I am also an FAA certificated aircraft instrument pilot as well. Our approach to UAS operations first as an aircraft is probably a unique point of view.

Section 4 Operational Requirements

Experience has shown me that the least safe landing zone (LZ) for the UAS is at the scene. The launch and recovery location are determined at the sole discretion of the pilot. Being right at the scene has the advantage of being collocated with the incident commander but it poses a greater risk to safe operation, members of the department, and the public by establishing the LZ there.

Instead, information can be exchanged on a radio and streaming video can be shared most simply via a private live stream video channel on YouTube or through the use of more advanced UAS incident software.

I can’t stress enough why the scene of the incident is nearly always the least safe location because of congestion and/or distraction.

If I can answer any additional questions about our SOP please don’t hesitate to contact either Fire Chief Ron Early or myself using the form below.

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