11-Dec-2012 Source: Grand Forks County
On November 27, 2012 the Federal Aviation Administration issued the Grand Forks County (North Dakota) Sheriff’s Department a Certificate of Authorization (COA) permitting the operation of a Draganflyer X6 small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) within the 16 counties located in northeastern North Dakota. The counties include: Grand Forks, Rolette, Towner, Cavalier, Pembina, Pierce, Benson, Ramsey, Walsh, Nelson. Wells, Eddy, Foster, Griggs, Steele and Traill. The additional 15 counties were specified as they are within the same North Dakota emergency services mutual aid region as Grand Forks County. The COA allows the operation of the Draganflyer X6 below 400’ above-ground-level within a defined incident perimeter during daytime visual conditions. Issuance of a Notice to Airman (NOTAM) and notification to affected air traffic control facilities is required one hour prior to aircraft launch.
The Draganflyer X6 is a six rotor helicopter style sUAS weighing less than 3 pounds. The X6 is capable of streaming real-time video to a ground station as well as taking high-definition digital still images. The sUAS will be operated by University of North Dakota commercially rated pilots who will work in concert with specially trained law enforcement sensor system operators. The sUAS will be utilized to assist with various public safety missions such as searches for missing persons, post-disaster assessments, and traffic accident/crime scene photography. At the present time there are no plans to use the aircraft to conduct covert surveillances.
The Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Department Small Unmanned Aircraft Unit has been training for over 18 months. The Unit is a collaborative effort between the Sheriff’s Department and the University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. Each pilot has received training from factory representatives. Each law enforcement sensor system operator has completed a 24 hour sensor system operator/visual observer course conducted by University of North Dakota John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences instructors. In addition, Unit teams of pilots/sensor systems operators have completed many simulated public safety missions. The Unit successfully completed a Federal Aviation Administration compliance inspection in September 2012.
The Unit is currently awaiting review of general mission profiles by the University of North Dakota’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research Compliance Committee. Upon completion of this review, the Unit will begin deployment of the sUAS. It is anticipated that deployments will begin in January 2013.