National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Unmanned Aircraft System, Data Specialist

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UASD Incident Position Description

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Data Specialist collects, stores, and disseminates data and intelligence collected by agency and contracted Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for wildland fire incidents. The UASD works in conjunction with an Unmanned Aircraft System Pilot (UASP) or Unmanned Aircraft System, Manager (UASM) to provide tactical and strategic information for incident command teams.  The UASD works in the Air Operations functional area.

All UAS missions shall be conducted in accordance with the NWCG Standards for Fire Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations, PMS 515, and applicable federal/state policies [e.g., Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Interior (DOI), United States Forest Service (USFS), etc.].
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Leadership Level 1, Follower (Provide Action)

  • For additional information review Level 1 description, expected behaviors and knowledge, suggested development goals, and self-study opportunities.

Prepare and Mobilize

  • Ensure individual readiness.
  • Obtain and assemble information and materials needed for kit:
    • UAS sensors. 
    • Hardware and software.
    • Communications equipment.
    • UAS support equipment. 
  • Gather critical information pertinent to the assignment:
    • Resource Order. 
    • Spatial data and base maps.
    • Special needs (UAS/hardware/software/data).
    • Transportation/lodging arrangements.

Arrival at Incident

  • Check in at Incident Command Post (ICP).
  • Verify chain of command.
  • Discuss communication protocols/procedures. 
  • Coordinate with Supervisor to determine:
    • Data objectives (deliverable and timeline).
    • Required meeting/briefing attendance.
    • Hours of operation.
  • Develop data for Launch and Recovery Zone (LRZ) and provide GIS data to incident through established protocols.
  • Determine Ground Control Station map and data requirements.
  • Determine final data product(s), delivery location, and delivery time/method.
  • Review the Incident Action Plan (IAP) and obtain briefing, objectives, and intent from supervisor. 
  • Request necessary incident dependent equipment (i.e., external hard drive) through incident ordering channels. 

Perform Unmanned Aircraft System, Data Specialist-Specific Duties

  • Acquire data in accordance with: 
  • Conceptualize UAS intelligence products based on incident objectives, fire behavior, risk assessment, and leader’s intent. 
  • Evaluate sensor applicability, capabilities, and limitations. 
  • Coordinate with UAS team members to direct sensor employment for data and imagery requirements.
  • Collect, store and manage data, and maintain metadata necessary to facilitate incident UAS operations.
  • Maintain and update UAS LRZ locations as needed.
  • Create and update maps and data for Ground Control Station (GCS) operability using appropriate system and incident standards.
  • Process and analyze UAS imagery using appropriate software.
  • Disseminate intelligence products, data, and imagery to incident personnel per established protocols or as necessary for the situation. 
  • Utilize Crew Resource Management (CRM) principles to maximize the collective skill set of the team.

Communicate and Coordinate

  • Establish communications and data exchange protocol with incident Geographic Information System Specialist (GISS) and Situation Unit Leader (SITL).
  • Communicate imagery and data requirements with flight crew.
  • Conduct and/or participate in After Action Reviews (AAR).


  • Deliver requested geospatial data to GISS and SITL per established data dissemination protocol and timeframe, to include proper geometry, attribution, and metadata.
  • Manage and deliver intelligence products for incident documentation history.
  • Crew Time Report (CTR), SF-261 (Watch: How to correctly fill out a CTR).
  • Submit personnel time daily.
  • Document lessons learned as necessary.


  • Plan for demobilization. Ensure incident and agency demobilization procedures and work/rest driving standards are followed.
  • Coordinate with GISS, SITL, and/or Planning Section Chief to ensure data package is complete.
  • Return equipment and supplies to appropriate unit.
  • Complete demobilization checkout process before being released from the incident.
  • Upon demobilization, report status to home unit including reassignment or estimate time of arrival (ETA) to home unit.  
  • If required, facilitate orderly handoff to incoming UASD to ensure continuity of operations and exchange critical safety information.


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