What Should We Plan for in the Upcoming Drone Budget? – Ask Steve

A reader asked me the following question:



Our department is currently in the budget planning phase, and they’ve asked me to put in anything and everything I can think of we might need for our drone program.

Currently, our program consists of the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, and Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual drones. Can you think of any equipment, training, or other items you would include in a budget request?


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Thanks for asking.

At this time I think the logical items for the next budget are only disposable items like annual replacement batteries and a budget item for Remote ID modules that will need to be purchased. Figure $500 per drone for the Remote ID modules to be safe.

My gut opinion is that no department should buy any more current model drones from any manufacturer since the current drones will essentially be mostly grounded when the new airworthiness certified drones are finally released in a couple of years.

I’ve been right about FAA rules and the direction it has been headed and if my streak continues I see the FAA passing additional rules that make non-airworthy drones more and more restricted.

By the time the new airworthy certified drone models come out, they will have far more range and permitted capabilities. They will also significantly reduce pilot and department liability.

So for now, my advice would be to patch what you currently have and make due. That is the smart and logical plan of action.

Honestly, when it comes to training, it will come down to anything that helps pilots read, learn, and understand FAR Part 91 and the new 107 sections. And those are sections that COA agencies need to be self-regulating anyway.

The flying part is much less technical than the rule understanding issues. If pilots actually understood the rules and complied with them the flying would be the easiest part.

To stay inside the rules, current drones need to stay within line of sight, not fly over any open-air assemblies and pay close attention to the need to file a Declaration of Compliance when Remote ID modules are added.

Thank you for reaching out to me and asking your question.