Monday, 19 July 2021 14:44

UAS (Drone) Operations Guideline


To establish minimum standards and provide recommended practices for Burlington County Emergency Services Organizations (ESO) with regard to the use of Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAV).


The application of this guideline shall apply to all ESO actively engaged in the use of UAV’s.


Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAV) have many uses and will support multiple activities within Burlington County. It is essential that UAVs operated by and for county emergency response agencies be operated in a safe manner and adhere to all relevant Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and local regulations, policies and operational procedures. All personnel participating in the UAV program must meet and maintain applicable FAA and local agency training, certification, and operation requirements.


Designated Operations Area: The operating area or location defining the volume of airspace to include altitude in Above Ground Level (AGL) or Mean Sea Level (MSL) and the defined geographical operational perimeter for a given public safety mission.

Digital Media Evidence (DME): The digital recording of images, sounds and associated data with probative value stored or transmitted in binary form.

Flyaway: An interruption or loss of the control link, or when the pilot is unable to affect control of the aircraft and, as a result, the aircraft is not operating in a predictable or planned manner.

Lost Link: The loss of control link contact with the remotely piloted aircraft such that the remote pilot can no longer manage the aircraft’s flight.

Person Manipulating the Controls: A person controlling the sUAS under direct supervision of the RPIC

Remote Pilot in Command (RPIC): A person that holds a current remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating and hasthe final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of the sUAS

Responsible Person: The person whose name appears on the organization’s waiver(s) with the FAA and is responsible for adherence to the requirements set forth within the waiver(s)

Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS): A small unmanned aircraft and its associated elements (including communication links and the components that control the small unmanned aircraft) that are required for the safe and efficient operation of the small unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system.

Sterile Cockpit: All conversation and communication among the flight crew will be limited to the ongoing flight operation, with a focus on safety. Conversation outside the realm of the flight operation will not be Burlington County sUAS (Drone) Guideline 1 of 6 8/15/2020 permitted.

UAS Coordinator: A public safety person responsible for mission coordination and local deconfliction of multiple aircraft. The UAS Coordinator serves as the program manager for sUAS operations.

Visual Line of Sight (VLOS): At all times the sUAS must remain close enough to the RPIC and the person manipulating the flight controls of the sUAS for those people to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.

Visual Observer (VO): A person acting as a flight crew member who assists the RPIC and the person manipulating the flight controls to see and avoid other air traffic or objects aloft or on the ground.


Agencies requiring the use of sUAS shall contact Central Communications and request a Burlington County Drone/sUAS Team response.

Central Communications shall notify a team coordinator that a sUAS response has been requested and provide the team coordinator with contact information for the IC and a brief description of the intended mission.

The team coordinator shall:

Contact the IC and obtain a full description of the intended mission.

Evaluate the weather to determine if the mission can be flown.

Evaluate the location to determine if the mission can be flown

Coordinate with other sUAS teams if additional resources are expected to be needed sUAS RECORDKEEPING


Each participating agency will maintain a common logbook for their organization’s sUAS activities. Individual pilots may keep their own records of flights, but this must be in addition to the common logbook. 

Participating agencies will be responsible for maintenance of training records related to sUAS operations. 

The responsible person listed on an FAA waiver is responsible for record keeping required under that waiver. 

sUAS records will be maintained for the life of the aircraft. 


The maximum altitude for operations is 400 feet AGL or 400 feet above the top of the structure being evaluated when applicable. 

Operations from a moving vehicle are prohibited except for operations in sparsely populated or unpopulated areas. 

Medical and Personal Requirements 

No person who has consumed any quantity of alcohol in the preceding 8 hours may serve in any sUAS crew role. 

No person using a drug that affects the person’s mental or physical capabilities may serve in any sUAS crew role. 

Visibility and Cloud Clearance Requirements for Operations

Station visibility no less than three statute miles 

All operations must stay 500 feet below clouds and 2,000 feet horizontally from clouds. 

VLOS requirement: any flight crewmember is capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses. 

Vision aids, such as binoculars may be used only momentarily to enhance situational awareness. For example, a crew member may use vision aids briefly to avoid flying over persons or to avoid conflict with another aircraft. 


General Operations 

The RPIC is required to hold a valid Part 107 license from the FAA. 

The RPIC of sUAS shall be directly responsible for, and is the final authority on, the operation of that aircraft. 

sUAS operations shall be incorporated within ICS, when established.

Crew members assigned to a sUAS operation shall not serve in other roles during a mission. 

Deployment of sUAS operations shall include the establishment of take-off, landing, and drop zones to allow for safe operations. 

Risk Assessment

sUAS operations shall only be conducted following a risk assessment that is performed by the RPIC. 

The risk assessment shall address the operational risks’ severity and probability. 

Prior to sUAS operations, the RPIC shall develop mitigations to reduce the risks identified. 

The RPIC shall verify mitigations do not create new hazards to the operation. 

Data Collection 

The RPIC shall ensure all digital media evidence collected by the sUAS is transferred to storage within their agency’s computer network unless turned over to a law enforcement agency directly. 

DME that is not of evidentiary value shall be maintained for at least 30 days. 

RPICs shall ensure that evidence collected complies with patient privacy requirements, such as Cathy’s Law in New Jersey, and other privacy best practices. 

SD cards or other mediums used to collect photographic evidence shall be formatted and empty prior to use so no other information is present. 

The crew shall verify that the mission is taking place within permissible airspace through a source such as or the Airmap app. Personnel can use any appropriate app or website for flight information. 

Pilots may apply for automatic airspace authorizations when needed through the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system by using the Airmap app. 

The FAA has an expedited waiver process called the Special Government Interest (SGI) process that allows Part 107 pilots to fly in controlled airspace, beyond line of sight, or with a waiver of other rules with expedited approval. Notes and the SGI application form are located in the Drone Program team drive. 

If operating in a mutual aid setting, the crew shall obtain a briefing from local police or fire department personnel regarding possible hazards in the area. This briefing is an additional step in flight planning and does not take the place of NOTAMs. 

The crew will designate a secure place from which to take off and land. If necessary, the crew will use cones, caution tape, or other high visibility methods to mark off the takeoff/landing area. 

The crew will maintain a sterile cockpit throughout all operations. 6.6. During flight operations, the crew will handle emergencies in the following manner: 

If a sterile cockpit cannot be maintained, the crew will land the aircraft. For example, a bystander taking attention from the flight crew poses a hazard to the safety of the flight. 

If an aircraft enters the operations area, the crew will take the following actions: 

Confirm the sighting 

Avoid the aircraft 

Accident Reporting 

The RPIC must report any sUAS accident to the FAA within 10 days if any of these conditions exist: 

Serious injury to any person 

any loss of consciousness 

head trauma 

broken bones 

lacerations to the skin requiring suturing 

Damage to any property, other than the sUAS, if the cost of repair/replacement is greater than $500 

Reports can be filed online with the FAA or by phone through the nearest FAA office 


Night operations of sUAS take place between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight. These operations require a waiver from the FAA. 

Civil twilight times are published in the federal air almanac and can be converted to local time. 

Each participating agency will be required to maintain their own waiver from daylight operations. 

In order to fly and sUAS at night, the following conditions must be met:

The flight crew must adhere to the following limitations on flights: 

Aircraft shall not travel more than 1250 feet from the launch area.

Aircraft shall not exceed 250 feet AGL at any point. 

A visual observer must be used at all times 

Visual observers shall be trained in night operations and signed off by the responsible person for the waiver.

Visual observers shall be provided a copy of Chapter 17 of the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge and they shall sign off on their understanding of the topics contained within.

All crew members will wear high visibility vests for the duration of the incident. 

All RPICs shall be trained in nighttime operations. 

The sUAS must be equipped with lighting capable of being seen from 3 statute miles away and as required by waiver. 

The sUAS must be equipped with a white strobe light attached to the underside of the aircraft capable of being seen from 3 statute miles away. 


Each organization’s UAS coordinator shall develop a maintenance program to cover the following items:

Routine cleaning 


Maintenance necessary due to operating environment or operational applications 

Battery maintenance and longevity

All maintenance shall be documented in the sUAS logbook maintenance section.

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