Municipal Drones

Municipal drones: establish a program and understand your risks

By Richie Almeida, Integrated Marketing Specialist on March 14, 2019

What you should understand and consider before taking flight

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), more notably known as drones, are becoming increasingly popular these days – and for good reason. Between drone racing circuits, shooting beautiful landscape videos and even drone selfies (yes — you read that right), there are plenty of things that can be done with these scaled-down aircrafts.

It’s clear that drones can be a lot of fun, but they can also prove to be very useful for public entities.  They can help with:

  • Search and rescue
  • Law enforcement operations
  • Recovery and relief following natural disasters
  • Monitoring utilities
  • Property inspection

Unfortunately, there are risks associated with drone use as well. In the wrong hands, a drone could bring liability and privacy issues your way. That’s why public entities should develop internal policies and a formal UAS program to cover their bases. Consider the following when formalizing a drone program:

  • Will there be a dedicated team to operate the UAS? If so, who will be the coordinator?
  • What are the roles of each individual? Roles can include drone operators, trainers, maintenance personnel and more.
  • What types of operations will your drone be performing?
  • How often will drone maintenance occur? (It should be routine and records should be kept.)
  • What type of drone will you be using? (Multi-rotor and fixed-wing drones are just two examples.)

How secure is your drone?

After developing a foolproof program and having a top-notch team in charge, unexpected incidents could still slip through the cracks in the form of potential hijackings and malfunctions. That’s why it’s crucial for municipalities to stay one step ahead. In a 2016 report done by Cloud Security Alliance, various tips were highlighted to combat drone risk exposures. Some highlights include:

  • Keep your data safe – What if your drone gets lost? This is something that you may not think about until it’s too late. The last thing you want is someone with a “finders, keepers” mentality getting their hands on your aircraft. Because your drone most likely holds operational and imagery data, you’ll want this information encrypted. It should only be accessible to authorized personnel.
  • Review additional features – Third party modules can be used to add additional bells and whistles, but before doing so, perform a security assessment of the codebase of these modules. Doing so can help identify potential security risks and present vulnerabilities.
  • Keep a close eye on your tech – According to the CSA report, GPS signals aren’t always secure. Other alternatives to keeping track of your drones include cellular networks, WIFI signals, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and radio-frequency identification (RFID).
  • Plan ahead – Have a contingency plan in place that involves routine maintenance and updates, testing and trainings, and strategies to prevent and bounce back from disruptions.

Check out the full CSA report here!

Regulation Requirements

Before you take to the skies, be sure that you are complying with FAA guidelines. In order for public entities to legally fly drones, they have to either:

Drones are becoming utilized more and more each day. In fact, marketing intelligence firm Tractica reports that sales of commercial drones will exceed more than 2.6 million units in 2025. With the proper knowledge, this technology can save time, money and even lives, and could help your municipality’s operations elevate to new levels.


Is your drone covered?

Richie Almeida, Integrated Marketing Specialist

Richie is an avid movie goer with an addiction to Sour Patch Kids. If he isn’t at the movies, he is at the gym or on a hike trying to make up for his bad eating habits.


The information contained in this blog post is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace expert advice in connection with the topics presented. Glatfelter specifically disclaims any liability for any act or omission by any person or entity in connection with the preparation, use or implementation of plans, principles, concepts or information contained in this publication.

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