FAA Approves Drone Use for Search and Rescue Effort

UAS will be used to locate a missing Plano woman.

UAV Texas EquuSearch

Photo credit: Maha Calderon, MahaPix Studios

The FAA has issued an emergency Certificate of Authorization (COA) to the National Institute of Standards and Technology of Gaithersburg, Maryland, for the use of a drone to aid in the search for a 23-year-old woman who disappeared recently near Plano, Texas. The request to the FAA came from the Plano Police Department.

The emergency COA was issued within 24 hours of the request and is limited to the time period from September 11 through sunset on September 15. Texas EquuSearch, a non-profit search and rescue operation that has had a contentious relationship with the FAA in the past as a result of its use of drones, will conduct the legal drone operation.

Organizations can apply with the FAA for an emergency COA to legally use drones in natural disasters, search and rescue and other urgent operations where there the potential for loss of life is high. Other conditions that need to exist for an emergency COA to be issued are that the UAS in question must operate under a COA for a different purpose or location, and that the use of a manned aircraft for the purpose of that specific operation is deemed inefficient.

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