Rutherford County leads country with FAA Approval to use drones over crowds

Nov 23, 2018 at 08:00 am by tchoate

FAA Approval of drones

Rutherford County, Tennessee has received an FAA approval to conduct commercial UAS ("drone") operations over crowds of people, becoming the first and only county government in the U.S. with this capability. 

The technology provider is Vantage Robotics and their Snap UAS is approved for both emergency and non-emergency situations. 

“We’re excited at Vantage, both to be continuing to pave new ground for safe and legal UAV use near people as well to see Snap contributing to public safety,” Vantage said in a press release

The FAA waiver comes a little over a year after the FAA granted CNN a “first-of-its-kind Part 107 waiver” that allows the media organization to fly a small UAS over people. CNN also utilized the Snap UAS. 

“Additionally, we’re pleased to see that the FAA has demonstrated a repeatable waiver process for Vantage to expand our support of additional customers for commercial operations over people,” Vantage stated. 

As part of the FAA waiver application for Rutherford County, Vantage demonstrated the minimal risk involved with flying the Snap UAS over people. Snap is a low-risk option for these types of operations thanks to a combination of the drone’s shrouded rotors, lightweight design, and ability to absorb significant energy on impact thanks to its frangible design.

According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Brian Robertson, the chief information officer of Rutherford County, stated “Demands of today’s local governments mean we must function in as many scenarios as possible. The ability to safely and appropriately maneuver our aerial assets over and near event personnel or participants gives our program several new possibilities.”

“Whether for routine coverage of numerous events such as Main Street’s Jazz Fest in May, Uncle Dave Macon Days in July, or during incidents such as the November 6 tornado, the ability to capture the gravity or details of these events from the unique perspective is a major addition to this public service.”

Rutherford County has lead the way locally in the innovative use of UAS technology for aerial mapping and other applications.  Robertson was involved in organizing one of the earliest local conferences on the topic of UAS/UAV/drone technology in his role as Chairman of Mind2Marketplace, a local nonprofit focused on applications of technology to advance economic development.

What do you think about government use of drone technology to assist in managing public safety at dangerous emergency sites, events or demonstrations.  Let us know on social media on in the comments below.

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