Homeland Security and Emergency Services

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

A UAS black droneUnmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Overview
Drones have emerged as an important and effective tool in responding to emergencies and disasters and DHSES, like many government agencies across the country, has developed a program to use drones for public safety/emergency response purposes. In compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules governing the use of small (< 55 lbs) unmanned aircraft systems, DHSES has obtained a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the FAA and all DHSES drone pilots must pass an FAA UAS pilot exam and participate in training. DHSES pilots must also complete ongoing current training.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Overview
Drones have emerged as an important and effective tool in responding to emergencies and disasters and DHSES, like many government agencies across the country, has developed a program to use drones for public safety/emergency response purposes. In compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules governing the use of small (< 55 lbs) unmanned aircraft systems, DHSES has obtained a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the FAA and all DHSES drone pilots must pass an FAA UAS pilot exam and participate in training. DHSES pilots must also complete ongoing currency training.


How DHSES is using UAS
DHSES can use drones for a variety of public safety/emergency response purposes including:

  • Conducting damage assessment.
  • Gathering and maintaining situational awareness during emergencies.
  • Conducting fire investigations or hazardous materials response activities.
  • Performing search and rescue operations (e.g., swift water, technical rescue, etc.).
  • Conducting infrastructure assessments.
  • Providing UAS related training for state and local first responders and other partners.

Privacy
DHSES recognizes the importance of conducting its UAS operations in a manner that does not infringe on individuals’ privacy rights.   To protect these rights, DHSES has adopted a Privacy Policy and designated a Privacy Officer to ensure that agency operations follow federal and state laws related to privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. Additionally, any UAS recorded data captured by agency personnel that are deemed irrelevant or immaterial to the UAS mission or another public safety purpose will be purged within 30 days after completion of the UAS mission and not retained by the Agency.
The UAS Privacy Officer is also responsible for:

  • Acting as a liaison to citizen and community privacy advocacy groups.
  • Responding to public and other inquiries regarding the agency’s UAS privacy practices.
  • Receiving and investigating allegations regarding policy violations.
  • Reporting investigative findings to the agency’s UAS Program Coordinator and the Agency Head.

Members of the Public that wish to make a complaint that his/her privacy rights have been violated during a DHSES drone operation may complete the following DHSES UAS Privacy Complaint Form and submit it to uas@dhses.ny.gov for further review and action if necessary.  Please be aware this process is solely for DHSES operations and is not intended to be the complaint process for any other federal, state or local UAS activities.


DHSES UAS Training Program
DHSES, in partnership with state and local agencies and the University at Albany developed a UAS training program at the State Preparedness Training Center (SPTC) in Oriskany. The training program offers several different courses to help public safety agencies develop their own UAS programs and train UAS operators. Courses include:

  • UAS Awareness Workshop
  • UAS Part 107 Preparation Course
  • UAS Operator Course
  • UAS Advanced Operator Course

For more information on the SPTC’s UAS Training Programs, please contact Meghan Dudley at Meghan.dudley@dhses.ny.gov

Reporting
In accordance with the agency’s privacy policy, DHSES will annually provide a general summary of its UAS operations during the previous year, including a brief description of the types of UAS operations conducted provided that such information does not endanger public safety or interfere with public safety operations.
In 2018, DHSES flew 88 missions. See below for a breakdown of the DHSES flight statistics.