The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has launched a new program dedicated to the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for public safety purposes.
The department’s multi-purpose, small UAS will be used for a variety of public safety missions across Texas, including flight missions related to officer safety, search and rescue, disaster support, aerial observation support, crash reconstruction, crime scene photography, and communication tower inspections, says DPS.
DPS notes that employees operating the drones must be FAA-certified and must receive at least 10 hours of practical training. To date, three DPS employees have received the required UAS training and are now authorized to begin operating a DPS UAS during daylight hours. So far, the program’s fleet includes 17 drones, which may increase as public safety needs warrant, says the department. The 17 aircraft cost a total of approximately $70,000 and were paid for with existing funding, grant funding or seized funds.
According to the department, the UAS program will provide critical aerial support and will bolster the work of the existing DPS aircraft fleet, which includes fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters. The conventional aircraft fleet regularly conducts numerous and specialized public safety missions and aerial operations throughout the state; with the addition of the UAS program, the DPS aircraft fleet now totals 41 – with nine planes, 15 helicopters and 17 UAS.
As with all of DPS flight missions, the department says its drone program must comply with department policy, Texas laws, and federal rules and regulations to ensure that the privacy rights of citizens are respected and upheld. The department’s policy (adopted in December 2017) related to the UAS program can be found here.