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The City Journals

Herriman City takes flight: Drones to help accident investigation, search and rescue

Feb 21, 2019 02:03PM ● By Jennifer Gardiner

Herriman City now has two active drones available (Photo Courtesy Herriman City)

By Jennifer Gardiner| [email protected]

As a way of keeping up with the future of aviation, Herriman City officials recently introduced two new drones, bringing a wide range of potential benefits, opportunities and capabilities to the community.

In February, two employees became Federal Aviation Administration-certified drone pilots as part of the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Department in an effort to help the city with reconstructing accidents, search and rescue operations, and to better help other departments, especially after dark. 

Drone pilot training was recently implemented as a way to help employees understand the importance of drone usage as well as the privacy and safety of its residents. 

City leaders have purchased two drones. 

Tami Moody, the director of Herriman City Administration, said she and other city officials want to make sure people understand that drones won’t run all day, every day; officiala are working on training additional pilots to have them available for on-call situations. 

City leaders plan on starting a process of working to educate the public and local business owners of the appropriate use of drone technology. By getting ahead of the questions and concerns, city administrators will be able to help prevent misuse and abuse. There will be community meetings and town halls in the future to help residents bring up any concerns and get answers to their questions. 

Brown said being a pilot is supplemental to the employees’ other duties and responsibilities, and the training they participated in is twofold.

“One is accident reconstruction training using drones,” said Moody. “The other is what is called a Daylight Waiver certification that allows us to fly after sunset. We still need to apply for that waiver, and after that is returned by the FAA, our trained pilots will have the ability to fly at night if needed.”

The drones will be used to help with multiple operations and departments, including search and rescue operation with the police, accident reconstruction, surface analysis for engineering, GIS, parks and water, creating contours for engineering projects, aerial photogrammetry, analysis of traffic patterns, video for communications and planning, and development and analysis of drainages. 

Moody said they will be following all of the FAA rules when flying and will create a list of restrictions based on the FAA guidelines. Safety of the reisdents and employees come first, said Moody.

There will be a comprehensive policy and procedure for drone use, including, but not limited to maintenance, logging, flight planning, safety protocols, flight notifications and training.

Drone use has increased over the years around the world and has become increasingly popular for use within each state’s county and local governments. The Bard College Center for the Study of the Drone reported an 82 percent increase of drones use by public safety agencies from 2016 to 2017. 

Applications for drone usage around the country varies based on region. For example, the Flathead County Mosquito Control uses them to help combat the pesty insects, and in Kentucky, Louisville police use drones when responding to shots fired calls. 

Drone usage in municipalities is still new and will come with its own set of challenges, but drones are quickly changing the way many agencies deal with and respond to multiple situations. 

Many people are familiar with drones after hobbyists have used them in various capacities, sometimes incorrectly and even hindered working operations, making some people feel drones are invasive and unsafe. But as the sales of drones have skyrocketed from $443 million in 2015 to $1.9 billion in 2017 (Westerncity.com), the popularity of these high-flying hovering cameras continues to increase at a zooming rate. 

There is also the challenge of the cities now using drones with having to manage conflicts over municipal airspace, protecting residents’ privacy, noise complaints and any other situations that could arise as the community and the city come to agreements on its usage.