You're Not Alone
Government agencies across the country have encountered challenges in attempting to establish and operate their own drone programs. This can prove to be a costly mistake, leading to significant federal penalties and the potential loss of qualified immunity. Such repercussions may result in civil liability for the agency, its officers, and the community at large.
Numerous agencies may not be fully aware that the FAA classifies drones as aircraft, subjecting them to substantial penalties for non-compliance with federal guidelines governing the proper operation of unmanned aircraft. It is crucial to adhere to these guidelines to avoid legal and financial consequences.
We Won't Experience That
While numerous communities have recognized the advantages of qualified immunity in their operations, a new era of enforcement has emerged concerning the safe operations of unmanned aircraft.
Due to the FAA's regulation of drones, the conventional protection previously enjoyed by local or state agencies does not provide safeguard against federal enforcement actions for an agency or town. It is essential to be mindful of this shift in enforcement dynamics to navigate potential legal implications effectively.
It won't happen to us
Given the recent regulations on Remote ID, drones now broadcast their license plate numbers, allowing any member of the public to capture the license plate number of a drone and file a complaint with the appropriate federal authorities.
A notable case involved a Real Estate Company who utilized an unlicensed drone pilot resulted in a fine of approximately $11,000.
With this new technology being able to detect drone license plate numbers up to a mile away in some cases... People have the ability to capture that information and submit a valid or invalid complaint to regulatory agencies.
The new RemoteID technology has increased the risk of illegal or improper drone operations becoming part of an investigation and could result in substantial penalties and enforcement action (even against government agencies). This is why it is imperative to ensure your unmanned air operations are properly conducted.
The local drone guy (Tim) has helped us for years
Many times, a town may choose to enlist a local drone enthusiast that they know and trust to assist them with drone operations. While it may seem unproblematic, there are concerns that arise over time.
Let's delve into the considerations when using the local drone enthusiast:
Is Tim adequately insured to meet the standards of a government contractor or NGO organization?
Does Tim possess the required FAA license for public safety operations?
Is Tim's aircraft properly licensed through the FAA?
Did Tim pull the proper data before flying? Such as controlled airpsace, NOTAMS, METARS, and any FAA waivers required to operate legally?
Who within your agency authorized this risk and liability?
What is Tim doing with the video?
If there is a medical victim, how is Tim complying with HIPPA?
How does Tim maintain chain of custody for law enforcement matters?
If Tim is called to testify in court, what training and certifications can he present to the court to justify his credentials to perform said public safety operations? Will Tim's testimony or lack of proper drone certifications or public safety standing endanger the criminal case?
Is Tim properly insured for public safety operations?
- Is the drone owned by Tim or his LLC?
- Is Tim properly licensed by the FAA and recurrent? What other training does Tim have?
- Did Tim violate someone's civil rights regarding 4th amendment protections?
Good Samaritan Laws:
If Tim regularly provides services or is compensated in any way, this may rule out any protections Tim may have under the Good Samaritan laws.
As the local drone enthusiast, is Tim adhering to the manufacturer's recommendations for proper operation and maintenance of the aircraft?
Have any accessories installed by Tim raised concerns regarding weight, center of gravity, drag, power consumption, etc.?
In the event of aircraft malfunction leading to severe bodily harm or death, every detail of the operation and the aircraft will be scrutinized. It's essential that drone operations are conducted safely, legally, within manufactures recommendations, and that proper insurance is in place.
We have stopped using Tim, and now Rob from a nearby department handles all our drone operations.
While some agencies opt for a local officer or firefighter over a local drone enthusiast like Tim, surprisingly, these situations may not be significantly better.
In fact, such arrangements can lead to liability for both the agency allowing Rob to operate a drone and the agency receiving the assistance of his services.
Considerations when using someone like from a nearby department for drone operations:
Ownership of the Drone:
Many agencies may not realize that their members "personal" drone being used for "agency" use could raise a wide range of risk to all parties.
Insurance for the Drone:
If Rob owns the drone personally, who carries the insurance for his operations?
Use of Personal Patrol Car or Ambulance:
Agencies typically don't authorize the use of personal police cars or ambulances for official business. Why then do some agencies think it's acceptable for Rob to use his personal aircraft for official purposes?
Some communities may still view drones as novelties and may not be aware of the strict regulations and compliance required to meet FAA standards and ensure National Airspace safety. The lack of awareness stems from the newness of drone technology, and the potential repercussions of improper use may not be fully understood by prosecutors, underwriters, or agency command staff until it's too late.
It's crucial to bridge the knowledge gap and ensure that drone operations align with regulatory standards to mitigate legal and safety risks.
Federal Dollars & Drone Safety Act
With the passage of the recent Drone Safety Act, prohibitions have been put in place at the Federal level to stop the purchase of certain drones and also stop the operation of those drones if they were purchased with Federal dollars.
Where these new acts extend down to any local agency who purchased or is operating drones that were purchased with Federal dollars.
Thankfully AFRS is not impacted by these new acts because our devices were purchased with private donor dollars.
AFRS also values our national security and this is why we have the ability to operate our drones in offline mode, block traffic to third parties using our vehicle data firewalls, and also created the technology to be able to stream content to first responder phones and laptops without internet dependencies.
By choosing AFRS to support your agency or municipality, you can be confident that AFRS is duly authorized to operate as an emergency service organization, ensuring our drone operations fully comply with FAA regulatory requirements.
Benefits of utilizing AFRS:
Derived Authority from State Law:
AFRS operates under ORC 9.60, allowing any government agency to summon us through a verbal request or engage our services regularly through a contract. (within our coverage area)
AFRS is registered as a FEMA disaster organization, enabling us to provide disaster relief services to the Federal government. Additionally, we are authorized to enter into contracts and offer services to other Federal agencies.
Our leadership staff maintain certifications from Homeland security and associated organizations. Where this training includes topics like: Counter drone terrorism, Public safety drone operations, Aeromedical drone operations, Cyber security, Incident command, and many more.
AFRS maintains fire department insurance, with each drone individually underwritten and insured by its unique serial number. Beyond insuring our emergency robotics, we carry multi million liability coverage to address municipal concerns.
All AFRS pilots are certified Ohio firefighters and hold FAA pilot licenses. Our leadership ensures that pilots stay updated on certifications and licensing requirements.
Rapid Response Times:
At the writing of this article, some of our most recent response times have been 6 minutes, 20 minutes, and 30 minutes. Where our coverage areas are designed to be a 30 minute drive time radius. This ability to rapidly deploy is a benefit to your organization and community.
MARCS Radios/Backup Coms:
In addition to holding a contract with MARCS and being equipped with radios capable of inter-agency communication - We also maintain backup PTT/Data/Voice communication through Firstnet and other providers.
This level of communication allows us to easily integrate with any communications center or field personnel.
AFRS CAD system can interface with most common message formats and communication methods. This allows your team to easily integrate AFRS into your automated dispatch systems.
AFRS is granted immunity under state law for public safety activities related to fire, search, and rescue efforts.
Less Hassle/Shared Services:
By leveraging the services of AFRS, a state/local agency or community can wash their hands of all things drone related! In addition, communities can realize substantial savings by leveraging shared services as each community shares a little of the financial load VS one community footing the bill for everyone.
How do we realize the services of AFRS?
Have your community leaders give us a call at 614-642-4900 and select option 2 for administration. From there we will schedule a a meeting to provide you a demonstration of our equipment and discuss how we can best collaborate to enhance your public safety plans.
We look forward to working with your team and enhancing your capabilities.
This short video highlights our capabilities and common scenarios faced in the field.
The use of individuals' names in this article is solely for demonstrative and illustrative purposes. Any resemblance to real persons, living or deceased, is purely coincidental. The names have been employed to provide context and examples, and no intention exists to portray any individual mentioned in a false or misleading light. This disclaimer serves to clarify that the utilization of names is not intended to infringe upon the privacy or rights of any person.
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YOU MATTER! Join AFRS and Make a Difference At AFRS, we believe that many hands make light work, and your talents and wisdom can help us provide amazing emergency services to those in need. We take pride in offering remote-friendly opportunities, respecting the time you dedicate to others. In many cases, you can volunteer from the comfort of your home. Please note that all volunteers are subject to background checks and license verification where applicable. Interested persons should send their resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org Current Volunteer Positions Available: BOARD MEMBERS Our bylaws require all board members to have active/retired experience in Fire, EMS, peace officers, military, or be actively employed by a national infrastructure organization (hospital, transportation, utilities, etc). Board members should be able to: Effectively communicate Work remotely Participate in committees Promote AFRS Attend monthly meetings (remotely) Board members can expect: Regular email communication Attendance at monthly online board meetings Acting in the best interest of AFRS Occasional attendance at functions or group meetings with AFRS customers/vendors Minimum term of office: 3 years The ideal candidate for this position would have prior board experience and uphold high moral standards. FIREFIGHTERS AFRS relies on Ohio certified firefighters to operate our public safety grade drones. Fire pilots should be able to: Perform regular firefighter duties. - Waivers may be possible in some cases Work remotely without direct supervision Attend monthly meetings (remotely) Operate electronic devices and computers Hold an active Fire 1/2 certification Hold or obtain an FAA 107 pilot's license with night ops certification Have a clean driving record and valid driver's license Function in high-stress environments and dynamic situations Fire pilots can expect: 12-hour shifts (0600-1800 or 1800-0600) No more than 36 hours of volunteer/work per week Exposure to elements and dynamic situations Rewarding training and experiences Life insurance and LOD benefits Disability/injury benefits Remote-friendly environment in many cases Leadership buy-in and genuine appreciation Live drone prophecy test The ideal candidate for this position would be a certified firefighter who holds a FAA 107 license and NFPA 2400 training. Considerations will be made to train up the right candidates to become drone pilots and obtain their NFPA 2400 training. Candidates should also be passionate about their community and eager to learn new technologies that enhance public safety. DISPATCHERS AFRS recognizes the vital role that dispatchers play in our success. They are the "voice" that enables amazing things to happen within our organization. AFRS dispatchers have the ability to work from home anywhere in the United States. Dispatchers should be able to: Effectively communicate via voice, text, and email Have moderate or advanced computer skills Work alone and unsupervised without micro-management Adhere to policies and procedures Provide a stable/reliable internet connection from home Provide a stable/reliable Windows PC, Chromebook, or Android tablet Maintain a quiet background when handling telephone or radio activities Utilize web-based tools such as Google Maps, Open Maps, weather apps, chat, video conference, and others Dispatchers can expect: Flexible shifts that suit your availability No more than 36 hours per week Fast-paced and rewarding environment Communicating with other government agencies on recorded lines Remote-friendly environment for anyone based in the US Leadership that truly values your contributions Making a difference in others' lives and enhancing community safety Regular training and one-on-one mentoring Ideal candidates for this position include individuals passionate about serving the public and eager to learn new skills. SOCIAL MEDIA / VIDEO EDITING AFRS's emergency robotics capture a vast amount of data, including photos and videos that may need to be processed for marketing, fundraising, and training purposes. This remote-friendly position is open to volunteers anywhere in the United States. Social media volunteers should be able to: Perform post-processing of video content Interact with various social media platforms (TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) Process messages and respond professionally Review statistical data from each social media platform and relay trends to leadership Create slideshows or collections for gallery display or training purposes Resize, edit, crop, and alter images and video Attend monthly membership meetings Accomplish tasks without direct supervision Social media volunteers can expect: Flexible schedules that fit your life No more than 36 hours per week Team environment Remote-friendly - Work from home Interested persons should send their resume and cover letter to email@example.com