Illinois Fire Dept. Now Allowed to Put its Drone to Use


Following a lengthy application and training process, Illinois’ Naperville Fire Department says it recently received a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate its unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

The fire department can now fly its drone anywhere in U.S. airspace, subject to any restrictions outlined in the COA, to conduct mutual aid operations. Located 28 miles west of Chicago, Naperville is home to approximately 145,000 people.

The department plans to use its UAS, which was purchased in 2015, for a variety of public-safety functions, including pre-planning for large buildings, after-action review of significant incidents, search and rescue, and natural-disaster relief.

The fire department notes that the drone cannot be used for any nighttime or surveillance operations, over any open-air gatherings or populated/heavily trafficked areas, or above 400 feet in altitude.

“As unmanned aircraft technology advances, we’ve identified several public-safety uses of that technology,” says Fire Chief Mark Puknaitis. “In challenging scenarios where it may be unsafe or impractical to send people into those situations, we can use our drone to visually identify and evaluate the circumstances of the incident. We can then better mitigate the situation or its recovery.”

Fourteen fire department employees were trained by the Illinois State Police on the drone’s usage. Obtaining the COA included an application, aircraft registration, 20-page presentation, risk assessment, training and FAA on-site approval. The COA is effective through April 21, 2018.

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