March 10, 2015 —The Michigan State Police (MSP) has received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), making the department one of the first police agencies in the nation to obtain statewide authorization to fly an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) to support public safety efforts.
In Sept. 2013, the MSP purchased an Aeryon SkyRanger with an eye on the future potential of this technology to support law enforcement missions. This device was selected because of its high rating in the federal Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) survey. This survey evaluated different systems for safety, capability and reliability. Since that time, the MSP has worked closely with the FAA to meet all safety and training requirements, as well as to develop policies and procedures for the safe and effective implementation of this equipment. In Feb. 2014, the MSP received a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the FAA to conduct training flights with the UAS near the MSP Training Academy.
On Feb. 25, 2015, after meeting all federal regulations, the FAA granted the MSP's request for authorization to fly the Aeryon SkyRanger for law enforcement support missions statewide. Potential missions include search and rescue, crime scene and crash investigations.
On March 4, the UAS was flown over a fire investigation near Jenison. The device collected both video and photographs of the structure to help investigators determine the origin and cause of the fire. This authorization will allow the MSP Aviation Unit to support requests for service from any law enforcement agency within the state.
The MSP has strict policy regarding the operation of the UAS. The policy dictates the UAS is always flown by a two-person crew, with one acting as the pilot and the other as a safety observer. The FAA certified pilot has received specific training from the manufacturer in the safe operation of the Aeryon SkyRanger. The device must remain below 400 feet and always be within line of sight of the crew. Many additional safety factors are included with the design of the device.