In 2017, the Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD), located just south of San Diego, began exploring the idea of using drones as an autonomous response to calls for law enforcement service. What came out of that research was a concept we know today as Drone as a First Responder, or DFR. The idea is that the drone changes from a reactive tool where an officer on scene might deploy a drone stored in their vehicle to a proactive tool that allows the drone to be the first unit on scene, able to transmit real-time data to en-route personnel. After building out a concept of operations (CONOPS), Chula Vista turned to Skyfire for assistance in getting FAA approval. Because the concept of DFR requires aircraft to fly beyond visual line of sight of the pilot (BVLOS), the regulatory hurdles were massive. Skyfire was quickly invited to join the FAA Integrated Pilot Program (IPP) and got to work creating an Operational Risk Assessment that would address safety concerns and mitigations for a public safety agency to fly beyond visual line of sight. After months of extensive work with the FAA and CVPD, the FAA approved CVPD’s CONOPS and risk assessment and granted one of the very first BVLOS type authorizations in the country. Since then, CVPD’s DFR program has responded to over 4,000 calls and has expanded to multiple locations within the city of Chula Vista.
Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing a series of posts on establishing DFR for a public safety agency. We’ll discuss everything from community buy-in and transparency, to regulatory approval, to resource requirements and CONOPS preparation. We’ll talk about what makes a successful DFR program as well as pitfalls to avoid. Skyfire is proud to have navigated this industry since inception and continues to provide cutting edge solutions to agencies looking to utilize drones for emergency response. Our foremost mission has always been to propel public safety and critical infrastructure forward through aerial solutions. We ensure they receive the most up-to-date accurate information available, free of charge. This series continues in that vein and will highlight what DFR is and what it takes to implement where you are.
Author: Ben Kroll
Ben Kroll is a co-founder and the Chief Operating Officer of Atlanta-based Skyfire Consulting. Ben manages the day to day operations at Skyfire which was founded in 2015 and serves the public safety industry by integrating drone technology into law enforcement and fire-rescue agencies. From a background in curriculum development as an FAA licensed flight instructor and commercial pilot, Ben has brought his manned-aviation experience to the drone industry and serves as a thought leader and international speaker on the integration of drones into multiple industries. As a member of the FAA Integrated Public Partnership program, Ben wrote the first of its kind “Beyond Visual Line of Sight” authorization and safety assessment for Chula Vista Police Department’s Drone as a First Responder Program.
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