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SDIS Drone Program

In 2015, several of our fire district members expressed interest in utilizing drone technology for fire service operations including rescue and post-fire activities. They laid out their plan to help limit exposure to staff at fire scenes while conducting searches. The use of a drone would allow them to scan the scene immediately and help reduce the cost of other aircraft to conduct the search. 

Though we saw this as a great opportunity for our members, we saw several challenges. Our liability coverage document expressly excluded anything related to aircraft flight operations. Management staff decided to find a way to cover drone operations. In addition to helping the fire service, we saw this as an opportunity to provide training, guidance, and coverage to all members. Our risk management team also saw this as a way to help our members eliminate staff from having to access the more hazardous areas during inspections (e.g. roofs, irrigation flumes, bridges, dam faces, piers, etc.). 

SDIS Liability Coverage
It is important for you to remember that in order to have liability coverage for your drone operations, you must be able to prove you were in compliance with all federal, state and local laws at the time of the claim.

SDIS Drone Services

  • SDIS Risk Management drone pilots are available to assist members with doing infrastructure reviews of your facilities. The purpose of these reviews is to assist members with identifying potential property loss exposures and preventive maintenance items. It can also allow for easy inspections of areas that are difficult or unsafe to access. 
  • Sample Standard Operating Policy
  • Sample Night Flight Waiver Application
  • Drone Training Opportunities

Contact Risk Management to request any of the above services at

FAA Airman Certificate Testing Changes
On January 13, 2020, the FAA will launch improvements to the way all applicants are tested for an FAA Airman Certificate. The upcoming Airman Knowledge Testing changes apply to all certified pilots of manned and unmanned aircraft.
One of the most important changes is the requirement that all applicants obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) prior to registering for a knowledge test. The FAA is hosting 4 webinars to explain the new testing system and changes for those who will test on or after January 13, 2020. More information is available here.

Recreational Flyers - Interim Safety Guidance Available to Explain How, When and Where You Can Fly Your Drone
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued interim safety guidance for recreational flyers that reinforces recent changes to how, when and where users can fly drones for recreational purposes.

The FAA’s Advisory Circular explains the conditions users must comply with in order to fly under the exception for recreational flyers, and simplifies information in the Federal Register Notice. 

This AC outlines eight conditions:

  1. Fly strictly for recreational purposes.
  2. Follow the safety guidelines of a community based organization.
  3. Keep your drone within your line of sight, or within the visual line-of-sight of a visual observer who is co-located and in direct communication with you.
  4. Operate in a manner that does not interfere with, and gives way to, any manned aircraft.
  5. Do not fly in controlled airspace (around and above many airports) unless you are flying at a recreational flyer fixed site that has an agreement with the FAA.
  6. Fly your drone at or below 400 feet when in uncontrolled or "Class G" airspace.
  7. Pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test.
  8. Register and externally mark your drone, and carry proof of registration with you.

Learn more about the rules you should follow to fly your drone safely.