NFPA receives AFG to develop free public safety drone compliance program for the fire service

NFPA is developing a free public safety drone compliance program with immersive training and a searchable knowledgebase - thanks to a Fire Prevention and Safety Grant from FEMA.

Fire departments are increasingly using drones for structural fires, wildland fires, search and rescue efforts, hazardous material responses, natural disaster efforts, and other events that would benefit from increased situational awareness. Despite this trend, many US fire departments lack the proper information, knowledge, and experience needed to establish and maintain a legally sound public safety program that is compliant with FAA regulations, and the standards produced by ASTM International, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and NFPA. This may result in fire departments deploying unmanned aerial devices inaccurately; inappropriately gathering information during an incident; and interference with manned and unmanned flight operations. All these missteps needlessly expose fire departments to liability.

The NFPA research project will document fire service drone programs and case usage – and produce the guidance, learnings, and best practices that US fire departments need to establish successful drone programs. More specifically, the research project will:

  1. assess the current level of understanding, policies, and standards on public safety drone usage;
  2. generate educational content that helps departments to comply with current regulations and standards;
  3. track fire service drone programs via an accessible portal; and
  4. freely disseminate information and training so that departments can establish regionally and nationally compliant public safety drone programs.

Here's what the project will entail.

  1. The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, will conduct a literature review of the fire service drone landscape and collect compliance and usage data.
  2. NFPA and subject matter experts (SMEs) at the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting at the State of Colorado, Department of Fire Services will review the latest public safety drone usage research, testing, regulations, policy, and training content.
  3. The Research Foundation will then convene a technical advisory panel consisting of fire authorities, standards developers, public safety officials, emergency managers, researchers, regulators, and government leaders to advise on the project's scope, messaging, curriculum, and deliverables.
  4. The NFPA data and analytics team will synthesize the collected information to support curriculum development efforts and populate the portal.
  5. The Research Foundation will host a public safety drone workshop and findings will be distributed.
  6. SMEs and curriculum developers will build a self-paced, interactive online training program, educational videos, and augmented virtual reality tools as part of a full educational suite. The curriculum will cover proper administration, operation, safety, and maintenance of public safety drone deployment.
  7. All materials, research, and information collected as part of the project will be available for free to U.S. firefighters on the NFPA website.
  8. The NFPA data team will build an online repository for all the information captured, and host content on a dedicated, interactive, searchable site where departments can upload and search drone action incident reports.

NFPA released NFPA 2400 Standard for Small Unmanned Aerial Systems in 2018 to help the fire service address organizational deployment, professional qualifications, system selection, as well as care and maintenance for public safety drone programs. The new NFPA drone research project is currently underway and deliverables will be available in September 2021.

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Cathy Longley
Communications Manager, informing stakeholders about NFPA thought leadership, subject matter expertise, resources, initiatives & research.

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