The Gulfport Fire Department is one of six agencies in the State of Mississippi that operates an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security (MOHS). The UAV flies under the MOHS’s Certificate of Waiver / Authorization on file with the FAA. (FAA Form 7711-1) (COA# 2016-ESA-198-COA). Potential Uses for the UAV are:
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Benefits to the agencies and the community
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) do not require a qualified pilot on board to operate the UAV or the attached equipment such as cameras, FLIR (forward looking infrared), etc. UAV operators and system operators remain safely on the ground reducing their exposure to threats.
UAVs are able to enter environments, which may be hazardous to pilots of manned aircraft. These threats may be natural or manmade. They include hazardous waste, fire, smoke, threatening weather, and ground fire from perpetrators.
UAVs provide superior situational awareness while minimizing the danger to which operators are exposed.
UAVs and trained operators minimize response time to most emergency situations. UAVs can be launched from a safe location within close proximity to the scene.
UAVs designed for law enforcement come in two categories, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and fixed wing. This allows for their use in different environments that may restrict the size of the launch area. VTOL may be) launched and landed in a very limited space.
UAV operators should be in direct contact with incident command, enhancing communication between command and air assets. Community safety is enhanced by the rapid response of air assets to an emergency. Many UAVs designed for law enforcement use can be launched within five minutes. In most cases manned aircrafts must take off and land at an airport under the direction of air traffic controllers, which can adversely delay response time.
UAVs designed for law enforcement use are small enough to be stored in containers, which are the approximate size of a small backpack, or in small cases that can be carried in patrol vehicles, thereby minimizing response time. Agencies wishing to utilize UAVs must obtain a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure compliance with federal requirements thus ensuring UAVs are operated in accordance with strict federal guidelines.
The cost benefit of utilizing a UAV designed for public safety as compared to manned aircraft is substantial. It should be noted that UAVs are not designed to take the place of manned aircraft. The use of UAVs would supplement the aerial capabilities of a law enforcement agency to provide enhanced service to the public.
The minimum average hourly cost to operate manned aircraft in the Mississippi Department of Public Safety’s Aircraft Pool is $500-$600 per hour. The cost of purchasing a manned aircraft similar to those being utilized by most departments is in excess of $800,000. These figures do not include personnel costs.
According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the average hourly cost of operating a UAV designed for public safety use ranges from $30 to $50. The costs of UAVs designed for law enforcement ranges from a few hundred dollars to over $40,000. These figures do not include personnel costs. Training