The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released to the law enforcement community guidance explaining the legal framework for the agency's oversight of aviation safety in the U.S., including unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operations.
According to the FAA, the proliferation of small, relatively inexpensive UAS presents the agency with a challenge in identifying people who do not follow the rules of the air or who endanger the nation’s airspace.
So, the FAA says, it is asking the law enforcement community for help.
The guidance describes how UAS and model aircraft can be operated legally, as well as the options for legal enforcement actions against unauthorized or unsafe UAS operators. The document also discusses the law enforcement community’s vital role in deterring, detecting and investigating unsafe operations.
The agency says that state and local police are often in the best position to immediately investigate unauthorized UAS operations, and as appropriate, to stop them.
The document explains how first responders and others can provide invaluable assistance to the FAA by taking the following action:
- Identifying potential witnesses and conducting initial interviews;
- Contacting the suspected operators of the UAS or model aircraft;
- Viewing and recording the location of the event;
- Collecting evidence;
- Identifying if the UAS operation was in a sensitive location, event or activity; and
- Notifying one of the FAA’s Regional Operation Centers about the operation as soon as possible.
The FAA says its goal is to promote voluntary compliance by educating individual UAS operators about how they can operate safely under current regulations and laws, but the guidance makes clear the agency’s authority to pursue legal enforcement action against persons who endanger the safety of the National Airspace System.
The guidance stresses that while the FAA exercises caution not to mix criminal law enforcement with agency administrative safety enforcements, the public is best served by coordinating and fostering mutual understanding and cooperation between governmental entities with law enforcement responsibilities, the agency concludes.
The FAA’s full guidance can be found here.