Faa/Hpd Unmanned Aircraft System (Uas) Test Project

December 6, 2007 - In response to earlier inquires initiated from Mayor Bill White’s office, several representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration traveled to Houston on August 2, 2007, to present a proposal to Mayor White (and to representatives from the Houston Police Department) for “A Test Project for the Houston Police Department and the Federal Aviation Administration.”

The FAA proposed two primary objectives for a test project involving unmanned aircraft systems:

· For FAA - “To gather data to determine if the identified mitigations reduce risk to (an) acceptable level.”
Note: By “mitigations,” the FAA is referring to actions taken in response to potential hazards. For example, as noted below in more detail, various safety precautions were taken associated with the UAS flight demonstration to assure the safety of persons and property.

· For HPD - “To determine the utility and affordability of the unmanned aircraft system.”

Having seen increasing interest in the potential for UAS public safety applications from various law enforcement agencies across the nation, the FAA selected two locations for UAS test projects: Houston and Miami.

On November 16, 2007, having received approval from the FAA in the form of a COA (Certificate of Authorization), the Houston Police Department hosted a flight demonstration of the Insitu, Inc. unmanned aircraft system known as the ‘Insight’ UAS.

The flight demonstration (approximately 40 miles west of downtown Houston, in a sparsely populated, rural area) was attended by representatives from various law enforcement agencies, as well as FAA representatives and a representative from the local air traffic control. (Mayor White did not attend the November 16th UAS flight demonstration).

For the November 16th demonstration, a number of safety precautions were taken, including pre-notification of nearby aircraft operations, overflight of the demo sight to search for any potential aircraft not known to the FAA, placement of ‘spotters’ (HPD helicopter pilots) around the perimeter of the demo site, use of ground-based radar at the demo site, maintaining line-of-sight operation, and tracking of the ‘Insight’ UAS by Houston Air Traffic Control via a transponder.

The flight demonstration was a success (receiving praise from the attending Federal Aviation Administration representatives), affording local law enforcement officials the opportunity to view a UAS in operation and to consider potential, future public safety applications.

At this time, no additional Houston-area UAS flights associated with the FAA/HPD UAS Test Project are planned prior to June of 2008. These flights will not take place until the completion of multiple meetings with the FAA to consider all possible hazards and mitigations. Furthermore, these test flights will, as with the November 16th demonstration, take place in a rural, sparsely populated area, yet to be identified location.

There has been no timeline established associated with practical use of UAS for public safety missions.

The test project objectives remain the same, as noted above, with “Safety” remaining the highest priority.

For additional information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.