NCSP & SPTC Host Joint Conference on Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Policy

March 14, 2014

On March 6, 2014, the New York State Preparedness Training Center (SPTC) and the National Center for Security & Preparedness (NCSP) hosted an open conference on the current trends and policy and future expectations surrounding domestic employment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technology. This conference is part of the NCSP's annual public policy colloquium. The conference was held at the Empire State Plaza, in Albany, NY, where over 60 participants representing state and local first responder agencies and private sector partners discussed the various debates and policy implications of using UAV/UAS technology on US soil.

The conference featured speakers that represent scholars, policy makers, law enforcement, emergency response leaders, and civic groups with expertise in this emerging technology and policy field. NCSP Director Rick Mathews commenced the conference with a discussion on emerging technology and its application in training first responders. Mr. Mathews provided participants with an overview of the cutting-edge training program at the SPTC, including state-of-the-art venue development. During his presentation, Mr. Mathews identified the need for training in emerging technology and its integration into existing training programs for first responders across disciplines.

Amongst this year's featured speakers was International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Executive Director Bart Johnson who discussed the IACP's efforts to assist law enforcement and first responder communities in operating UAS safely and legally in domestic airspace. To accomplish this, the IACP's Aviation Committee released the IACP's Recommended Guidelines for the use of Unmanned Aircraft in 2012. During his presentation, Mr. Johnson also identified the benefits of UAS employment in law enforcement operations along with the need for sound policies governing UAS operations.

Representing the fire and emergency services community was New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) Fire Specialist Robert Jewell. Currently, the OFPC is the only state agency utilizing small UAVs during crisis and emergency operations. During his presentation, Mr. Jewell discussed the precision and operational benefits of UAS technology in HazMat and search and rescue operations as well as arson investigations and fire suppression operations. Mr. Jewell also provided participants with a first-hand look at small UAS operations presenting several videos from emergency operations and training sites.

Representing private sector partners and businesses were Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR) Program Manager Andrea Bianchi and Measure, Inc. CEO Brandon Declet. NUAIR is located outside of Syracuse, and operates the only Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved UAS test site in the Northeast. NUAIR's goal is to identify how to safely integrate UAS into national airspace. During her presentation, Ms. Bianchi discussed the types of UAS technology, the various applications, and the process for obtaining a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA to operate UAS in domestic airspace. Mr. Declet identified the opportunities and ambitions in the private sector to integrate UAS in myriad efforts including providing humanitarian aid, shipping, and precision agriculture.

The conference culminated with a panel of the featured speakers. During the panel discussion, the speakers answered a wide range of questions from participants that addressed privacy concerns, legislative and legal debates, technological capabilities, as well as the benefits and challenges of procuring and obtaining approval for UAS operations by both government and private sector agencies and organizations.

This year's conference was a success, with active participation by all those who attended. Participants discussed the technology of unmanned aircraft, the benefits and challenges to safe operations, and the legal trends and policies that need to be incorporated in the regulation of UAS. Additionally, participants gained a better understanding of the potential benefits associated with employment of UAV/UAS within the borders of the United States, the current legal trends, and the need for pliable policies that are designed to keep pace with evolving UAV/UAS technology.