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Photo of a first responder using an unmanned aerial system

DHS Releases Guidance for Unmanned Aerial Systems for Public Safety Missions

Posted: March 28, 2024

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) released 2 guidance documents to aid public safety agencies with procurement decisions related to commercially available small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or drones.

Why is this important?

Over the past decade, first responders have begun integrating UAS as a resource for a variety of operational needs, because drones can:

  • Provide first responders with an aerial view of their environment.
  • Access hard-to-reach and unsafe areas.
  • Be outfitted with various sensors tailored to address different applications, such as remote detection of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) agents, limiting first responder exposure.

Guidance document 1

The first document, CBRNE Sensor Payloads on Unmanned Aerial Systems PDF, outlines considerations for integration of CBRNE sensors into a UAS payload and the selection of the most appropriate sensor for the emergency response mission. It also outlines special considerations for the cybersecurity of CBRNE sensor payloads on UAS.

Guidance document 2

The second document, Blue Unmanned Aircraft Systems for First Responders PDF, is a report on a series of November 2023 focus groups conducted by NUSTL with representatives from the fire service and law enforcement communities. These focus groups identified 18 criteria for Blue UAS operational assessment. They also recommended several systems and scenarios for NUSTL consideration for inclusion in future operational assessments of commercial UAS for first responders. These included a search and rescue operation, a post-incident damage assessment, a situational awareness exercise, and nighttime operations.

Blue UAS is a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) project started in 2020 to rapidly vet and scale commercial UAS technology for DOD use. The DOD maintains and updates a Blue UAS Cleared List of approved drones that are validated as cyber-secure and safe to fly for DOD missions.


This article is based on content in the
March 28, 2024 InfoGram.

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