Is My Agency Ready for an sUAS Unit?

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Embry-Riddle's Joe Cerreta provides operational qualification training to Daytona Beach Police Department's Sergeant Tim Ehrenkaufer, Detective Alex Manjasek and Officer Matthew Smith.

Across the country, public safety agencies are utilizing sUAS to reduce time and costs while keeping their communities safe. In Florida, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has worked with the Daytona Beach Police Department’s Aviation Unit on a number of fronts to assess hurricane damage, catch criminal suspects and support firefighting efforts. On the West Coast, agencies have used drones to assist in efforts during the recent California wildfires.

“A public safety agency’s sUAS unit can reduce the risk to its first responders and increase efficiency during an emergency response or recovery effort,” said Dr. Joe Cerreta, an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle. “These tools can support firefighting, search and rescue, accident reconstruction, damage assessment, and more.”

Key Considerations

Establishing a successful sUAS public safety unit doesn’t happen overnight. An intense amount of planning, training and education are involved before the first drone ever takes flight.

“It all comes down to creating a professional aviation program,” said Embry-Riddle Assistant Professor David Thirtyacre. “Insurance, liability, risk assessment and mitigation, proper training, and operational oversight are all huge pieces to consider in the public safety sector and often neglected until something goes wrong - and things go wrong all the time with sUAS.”

Thirtyacre offers several key takeaways for agencies that are considering an sUAS unit:

  • Identify objectives up front
  • Conduct a cost/benefit analysis
  • Assess available resources
  • Research and invest in training and equipment acquisition

Community Relations

Additionally, community acceptance can greatly impact successful implementation.

“One of the major challenges facing any public service agency looking to integrate UAS in their operations are the major community concerns,” shared Anthony Galante, an aviation safety officer for Daytona Beach Police Department and Embry-Riddle assistant professor. “One of the first steps that must be accomplished is to get community acceptance. To do this, you must include the community in all aspects of the decision-making processes and your program must have complete transparency.”

Looking to solidify your organization’s plan for a sUAS unit? On October 15, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Professional Education launches a four-week, online sUAS Fundamentals for Public Safety course. Interested individuals can also participate in the sUAS for Public Safety certificate, which includes courses in Developing a sUAS Standardization Program and sUAS Ground School. For more information, visit

Posted In: Unmanned Systems