Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are a rapidly growing and important part of many industries. Whether performing a search and rescue operation, helping a commercial farmer improve crop yields, or inspecting power lines after a storm; UAS are an effective, efficient, and affordable way to improve your organization.
It is essential to manage the use of drones among employees, agents, and third-party vendors. Not implementing standard procedures for commercial drone operations exposes your company to significant safety and liability risks. A UAS policy is necessary for any company whose employees or contractors may be using drones for work. Having a standard process and chain of command respective to your organization’s UAS activity creates streamlined procedures from start to finish of all UAS operations.
The value of a policy is in the structure of the management of UAS activity. By establishing a standard process and listing out roles and responsibilities, the Policy provides organizations with:
- Clarity on UAS related regulations
- Ability to share best practices across an organization
Understand your UAS needs
Before your organization writes your policy and prepares to incorporate drones into your operations, collaborate with your team and consider the following:
Things to consider:
- Why do you want to use drones?
- What kind of missions will you be flying?
- Will I need special FAA permission to fly these mission?
- Will I need or someone on the team need a Part 107 or COA?
- Who will be flying the drones?
- Will we use a third-party drone operator?
After you have a clearer direction of what kind of missions your team will be flying and who will be flying the drones, you will be better equipped to understand what to include or not include in your company’s drone policy. Having a clear understanding of your drone missions will help you write a comprehensible and easy-to-follow policy.
Looking for an industry-specific UAS policy template? Download a UAS policy template for your industry.
Core Components of a Policy
When starting your UAS program, it is vital to develop an organizational wide policy. Implementing a UAS policy will help inform businesses, directors, managers, and operators as they begin to strategize, plan, and incorporate UAS into day-to-day operations.
- Defining your UAS Team/Committee
- Operating Procedures
- Mission Authorization
- UAS Registration
- In-house/Third-party drone operations
- Payload Authorization
- Insurance Requirements
- Pre-Flight/Post-Flight Checklists
- Data Collection & Retention
- Accident Reporting
- Sanctions for misuse
Purpose or a mission statement helps provide scope of your UAS operations and adds assurance that anyone flying in the company name will obey local, state, and federal laws. Much like a company mission statement, the UAS operation mission statement communicates to your key stakeholders - employees, customers, and investors - why and how the organization will use drones.
Listing definitions will help your organization have a cohesive mindset when it comes to UAS operations. It ensures there is no confusion when using terms regarding your operations.
Designated UAS Team/Committee
Teams may be comprised according to your organizations needs, a team for a police department may differ from an university team, but the purpose of the team is the same. The UAS committee serves as a centralized committee to provide oversight for all UAS activities. The UAS committee is responsible for policy development, establishing fly/no-fly zones, flight plan approval. They make sure anyone flying a drone in the name of the organizations knows the proper protocols to follow. Establishing a committee serves as a way to protect your organization against liabilities by ensuring that drone pilots and those involved with flights have been given the the organization’s drone policies. The committee also ensures that anyone operating a drone has the proper credentials.
This section should include basic operating protocols and procedures applicable to your organization. The following are examples of general sections to include in your organizations drone policy. Basic operating procedures could include sections such as: mission authorization process, UAS registration requirements, procedures for in-house drone operators and/or third-party drone operators, payload authorizations, insurance requirements, and prohibited UAS use.
Standard operating procedures ensures your teams and anyone working with your team is on the same page when it comes to daily UAS operations. SOPs also ensure your team is working within the rules of FAA regulations and operating in the safest manner.
Drone pilots should follow proper pre-flight and post-flight procedures, whether they are part of the Part 107 guidelines or included in your organization’s drone policy. It is a good idea to provide checklists or templates for your UAS team to ensure your team is following proper FAA guidelines and documenting the process for each UAS flight.
The use of pre-flight/post-flight checklists greatly reduces the risk of an in-flight accident and ensures your team is operating in the safest manner.
Data Collection & Retention
Your team may need to distinguish between relevant and non-relevant data, and have different data retention plans depending on the nature of the data. Be clear and concise about how you plan to use the data, and have a set timeframe for how long your company will store the data.
Your organization must follow local, state, and federal laws in terms of data retention and reporting. Your organization can also implement privacy standards beyond state or federal laws as well. All reporting must meet or exceed compliance with all applicable regulations and policies.
It is always a good idea to prepared in the unfortunate case of an accident. This section gives your team the knowledge to know exactly who to call and what to do in an emergency situation.
Drone incidents may need to be reported to the FAA depending on the severity per federal law. It is essential to have all the information readily available if an accident occurs. Certain information must be collected and sent to the FAA, the people involved with the incident will need to know exactly what information to collect and record.
Employees and third-party vendors need to be made aware of prohibited use as well as punishments for misuse of drones. All sanctions should be clearly stated in the policy.
Frequently Asked Questions
You may want to consider answering some Frequently Asked Questions to help inform and educate your employees and any third-party operators on the use of drones on or near your property.
UAS policies are intended to promote the safe, efficient, and lawful operation of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS). These policies ensure your team is transparent and clear in communicating the requirements for operating a drone and ensures every member will operate them in accordance to local, state, and federal law.
Interested in implementing a UAS policy? Not sure where to start? Download our UAS policy template to help your team get started. Our policy templates serve as a starting point for organizations interested in using drones.