From WZTV FOX 17 News, Nashville:
On September 18, 2015, Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long signed a purchase order for Avion Solutions to provide the county with an aircraft, thermal imaging capability, video capabilities, and associated equipment. It also included preparing and submitting the Certificate of Authorization (COA) to the FAA, which included the development of the agency's UAS Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) outlining their safe day-to-day flight operations. On-Site UAS training for 13 personnel was conducted which included Ground, Aircraft, Flight, and Mission Training, as well as lessons covering airspace, current UAS regulations, and UAS privacy/public relations issues.
Yesterday, we delivered the FAA-approved COA to Williamson County. The total time required to complete this process was approximately 90 days. There are some agencies who have been working on the COA approval process for over two years. There are also agencies that already have the equipment, but don't have the aircraft registered or the FAA approval to fly legally, and still others that are already performing UAS operations under the belief that the FAA will not take action against them. Failure to register an aircraft can result in civil penalties up to $27,500, or criminal fines of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment for up to three years. These fines can be retroactive, which will seriously affect unauthorized users, as well as the general public's perception of the agencies using them.
I am sure you are already familiar with the many uses that this new capability can provide to your agency, such as search and rescue, incident assessment, asset management during natural disasters, hazardous material spills, hostage situations, evidence collection, crowd surveillance/control, and crime scene mapping. Agencies should not be restricted from these valuable tools. Since our initial contact with Williamson County, we have added some significant new capabilities to our equipment offerings such as increased flight times and the ability to fly in almost any weather.
If you have an interest in safe and legal UAS operations or need help wherever you are in the process, please contact us for more information. We look forward to seeing you in Sevierville in July.
To see the whole Fox 17 News, Nashville video, click here.