New guidance from DHS on Unmanned Aerial Systems use for public safety

April 18, 2024

On March 28, 2024, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, through its National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL), released two important guidance documents.

These documents are designed to assist public safety agencies in making informed procurement decisions regarding commercially available small unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly known as drones.

The guidance comes at a time when drones are increasingly being integrated into public safety operations.

Drones provide first responders with aerial views that enhance situational awareness, access to hard-to-reach or unsafe areas, and the ability to be outfitted with various sensors.

These sensors can be tailored for different applications, such as the remote detection of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) agents, thus limiting exposure to first responders.

CBRNE sensor payloads on unmanned aerial systems

The first document titled “CBRNE Sensor Payloads on Unmanned Aerial Systems” focuses on the integration of CBRNE sensors into drone payloads.

It guides on selecting the most appropriate sensor for emergency response missions and addresses the cybersecurity concerns associated with these sensor payloads.

This guidance is crucial for enhancing the capabilities of UAS in critical, hazardous missions where direct human involvement is risky.

Operational criteria for Blue UAS

The second guidance document, “Blue Unmanned Aircraft Systems for First Responders,” stems from a series of focus groups conducted in November 2023.

These focus groups, comprising representatives from the fire service and law enforcement communities, identified 18 criteria for the operational assessment of Blue UAS.

They also recommended various systems and scenarios for future assessments, including search and rescue operations, post-incident damage assessments, situational awareness exercises, and nighttime operations.

Blue UAS is a project initiated by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2020 to vet and scale commercial drone technology for Department of Defense use.

It maintains a Blue UAS Cleared List of approved drones that meet cybersecurity and safety standards necessary for Defense missions.

FSJA Comment

The release of these guidance documents by the DHS underscores the increasing reliance on drone technology in public safety missions, reflecting a strategic push towards modernizing first responder tools with advanced technologies.

As drones become more embedded in public safety operations, the guidance provided by the DHS is set to play a pivotal role in ensuring that these tools are used effectively and safely.

Read Next

Subscribe Now