Drones Added to Arsenal of Fairfax County’s Public Safety Agencies

Fairfax County’s public safety agencies will begin using drones — technically called Unmanned Aircraft Systems — by early September.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday (May 21) to approve the program, which the county says will “provide an enhanced level of operational capability, safety and situational awareness.”

The county plans to purchase between six to eight devices, which cost $3,500 each. Costs are expected to be absorbed in the county’s existing budget.

The equipment will be used by the Office of Emergency Management, Fire and Rescue, Police and Sheriff in order to deliver “high-quality imagery, data and customized geospatial solutions,” according to the county.

The program will also be used to complete search and rescue, pre- and post-disaster damage assessment, crash reconstruction, and fire management.

County officials say the program will not be used to conduct random surveillance, target individuals solely based on individual characteristics or for personal business and other unauthorized uses.

The next three months will be spent setting up the program, certifying pilots and completing training. Drones will begin flying between late August and early September.

All pilots in the program must obtain a remote pilot certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Commission. A steering committee will be set up to oversee the program.

The county will also notify the public through Fairfax Alerts about missions and training flights.

The program was approved following the creation of a working group in May 2017 and a task force last year.

More information about the program is available online.

Photo by Jared Brashier

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