Skyfire Consulting, a public safety UAV consultancy, has received FAA approval for the first active emergency response Certificate of Authorization with a Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) provision for public safety as part of the FAA’s Integration Pilot Program (IPP).
Working on behalf of the Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) with the support of the City of San Diego, and in partnership with software company Cape, Skyfire authored an extensive safety and risk mitigation analysis that enabled the police department to operate drones over a much larger area.
Ben Kroll, Skyfire’s COO and lead on the Chula Vista project, said: “This authorization truly pushes the boundaries of what’s possible for public safety agencies with drones.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without the immense support of the FAA’s IPP team and our very dedicated and patient partners at CVPD, Cape, and the City of San Diego.”
Since October 2018, CVPD has operated the nation’s first ‘Drone as a First Responder’ programme in partnership with Cape, where drones are integrated into daily emergency response operations as part of the San Diego UAS IPP.
Since its launch, CVPD drones equipped with the Cape Aerial Telepresence platform have conducted more than 300 flights, accounting for more than 80 hours of flight time without incident or accident, and have contributed to more than 40 arrests.
The new authorisation, which went into effect March 15, 2019, will increase the total footprint of coverage for emergency response operations from a three to nearly 40-square-mile area.
Compared to the current regulation, which prevents the drone from being flown beyond the Pilot-in-Command’s (PIC) line of sight, CVPD will now be able to operate drones up to three miles from the PIC, or more than 10 times the previous coverage area.
During operations, the drone’s camera live streams HD video to the command centre, where an operator can maneuver the drone and the camera accordingly.
With the drone typically arriving on scene well before ground units, the command centre can better identify and dispatch needed resources to the scene.
Officers are also able to live stream updates from mobile devices which gives them full visibility of the situation before arriving.
Kroll said: “This COA is a recognition of the vision our industry has been striving for, to allow drones to arrive on scene before we put law enforcement officers and firefighters in harm’s way.”
Skyfire’s partnership with CVPD, Cape, and the San Diego IPP team is the latest example of the company’s mission to improve the lives of first responders, and the safety of the public, using UAVs.
The company’s team of pilots, project managers and intelligence analysts recently became the first team to provide live streaming aerial video to law enforcement agencies during the NFL’s biggest game this past February.