The MSP says it has strict policy regarding the operation of the UAS, an Aeryon SkyRanger from Aeryon Labs Inc. The FAA-certified pilot has received specific training from the manufacturer in the safe operation of the aircraft.
Policy dictates the UAS is always flown by a two-person crew, with one acting as the pilot and the other as a safety observer. The device must remain below 400 feet and always be within line of sight of the crew. Many additional safety factors are included with the design of the device, according to the MSP.
Having realized the potential of the technology to support law enforcement missions, the MSP first purchased the Aeryon SkyRanger in September 2013. This device was selected because of its high rating in the federal Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety survey. Since that time, the MSP says, it has worked closely with the FAA to meet all safety and training requirements, as well as to develop policies and procedures for the safe and effective implementation.
In February 2014, the MSP received a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA to conduct training flights with the UAS near the MSP Training Academy.
On Feb. 25 of this year, after meeting all federal regulations, the FAA granted the MSP's request for authorization to fly the Aeryon SkyRanger for law enforcement support missions statewide. Potential missions include search-and-rescue operations, as well as crime-scene and crash investigations.
On March 4, the UAS was flown over a fire investigation near Jenison. The device collected both video and photographs of the structure to help investigators determine the origin and cause of the fire.
This authorization will allow the aviation unit to support requests for service from any law enforcement agency within the state, the MSP notes.