National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Unmanned Aircraft System, Manager

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UASM Incident Position Description

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Manager is the conduit between an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) vendor (under federal contract/agreement) and an Incident Management Team (IMT). The UASM coordinates UAS vendor missions with operations, air operations, and planning personnel and is the designated government representative for the UAS contract/agreement. The UASM works with the CO/Contracting Officer Representative (COR) to maintain contractual compliance. The UASM supervises the UAS vendor flight crew and Unmanned Aircraft System, Data Specialist, (UASD). The UASM is supervised by the Air Operations Branch Director (AOBD) or designee and 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 2, New Leader (Convey Intent)

  • For additional information review Level 2 description, expected behaviors and knowledge, suggested development goals, and self-study opportunities.

Prepare and Mobilize

  • Ensure individual readiness.
  • Verify UAS vendor and sensor capabilities are appropriate for the assignment.
  • Assemble team and conduct the crew planning call and assign tasks. Adhere to the call guidelines on the Interagency Fire UAS Website.
    •  UASM.
    •  Vendor flight crew and site lead.
    •  UASD.
  • Validate Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) dimensions and request adjustment as required via IMT AOBD or designee.
  • Request Special Government Interest Waiver (SGI) via UAS Coordinator and ensure applicable airspace authorizations are in place.
  • Obtain and assemble information and materials needed for kit.
    • UAS contract and invoicing forms.
    • Land Use Agreements.
    • Crew/Pilot/UAS credentials (pilot/aircraft cards, Red Card, etc.).
    • Communications equipment (AM/FM radios)/cellular/satellite phones.
    • UAS support equipment.
  • Gather critical information pertinent to the assignment.
    • Resource Order.
    • Special needs (UAS/hardware/software).
    • Transportation/lodging arrangements.
    • Frequencies, contacts, assigned aerial resources.
    • Airspace designation (Class, TFR, Special Use, etc.).

Arrival at Incident

  • Check in.
  • Establish chain of command.
  • Brief with supervisor, Operations, AOBD, Situation Unit Leader (SITL), and aviation resources (e.g., helibase personnel, Air Tactical Group Supervisor [ATGS]).
    • Determine data objectives (deliverable and timeline).
    • Required meeting/briefing attendance.
    • Establish hours of operation.
  • Perform site survey and determine an area to establish a base of operations.
  • Establish Launch and Recovery Zone (LRZ).
  • Ensure LRZ location is depicted on incident aviation maps.
  • Confirm communication protocols/procedures.
  • Confirm assignment with supervisor.
  • Establish accurate logistical needs for UAS team and use established ordering procedures.

Perform UAS Missions

  • The UASM is responsible for UAS mission planning, execution, and safety.
  • Provide real-time situational awareness to ground crews.
  • Utilize the NWCG Standards for Fire Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations, PMS 515, to ensure fire UAS mission standards are met.
  • Develop and implement mission (flight) plan in conjunction with operational and data objectives.
  • Conduct a mission safety briefing for the UAS vendor flight crew.
    • General scope of the mission (data requirement).
    • Incident location: Descriptive location, latitude and longitude, bearing, and distance.
    • Aerial resources assigned including other aerial supervision.
    • Radio frequencies (tactical and flight following).
    • Special information (hazards, military operations, TFRs).
    • Radio contacts (operations, aerial supervision, air and ground resources).
    • Expected duration of mission.
    • Vertical and horizontal separation of aircraft.
    • Emergency procedures.
  • Coordinate with operations personnel to provide situational awareness information.
    • Live video feed.
    • Direct communication from UAS crew to ground personnel.
    • Priority sensor tasking as required.
  • Ensure safety of flight by adhering to fire traffic area (FTA) protocol and maintaining communication with appropriate air and ground resources.
  • Ensure quality and delivery of collected data.

Perform Post Mission Duties

  • Ensure coordination with Planning Section personnel to provide requested data.
    • Aircraft telemetry files.
    • Point, line, or polygon data (GPX/KML files).
    • Still images (electro-optical/infrared).
    • Video (electro-optical/infrared).
    • Additional data as applicable.
  • Conduct After Action Review (AAR) with the UAS team and applicable incident personnel.
  • Complete flight invoices.
  • Deliver daily cost summary to AOBD or designee.
  • Complete Contract Daily Diary.
  • Monitor vendor crew flight time to determine future duty limitations.
  • Ensure scheduled UAS maintenance does not conflict with planned missions.
  • Submit mishap reports as required.
  • Debrief with applicable air/ground resources.

Supervise and Direct Work Assignments

  • Utilize Crew Resource Management (CRM) principles to maximize the collective skill set of the team. 
  • Establish and communicate objectives, priorities, work assignments, and performance expectations.
  • Adjust actions based on changing information and evolving situation awareness. Develop and implement contingency plans. Communicate changing conditions to assigned resources and supervisor.
  • Ensure incident data requests are met.
  • Monitor performance and provide immediate and regular feedback to the UAS vendor or assigned UAS personnel.
  • Function as Onsite Government Representative (Contracting). 
    • Ensure contract provisions are followed.
    • Utilize the contract chain of command.
      • COR
      • Contracting Officer Technical Representative (COTR)

Communicate and Coordinate

  • Coordinate with the following personnel and attend briefings prior to UAS vendor operations:
    • Air Operations: AOBD/Air Support Group Supervisor (ASGS)
      • Chain of Command
    • Planning: SITL / Resources Unit Leader (RESL)
      • Requested data
      • Requested data format
      • UAS information for the Air Operations Summary form (ICS-220)
    • Operations: Division Group Supervisor (DIVS)
      • Sensor tasking (situational awareness)
      • Sensor type
    • Helibase Manager
      • LRZ
      • Launch and recovery times
    • Aerial Supervisor
      • Mission altitude
      • Mission location
      • Sensor tasking
      • Fuel cycles
      • Call signs
      • Radio frequencies
    • Geographic Area Airspace Coordinator (if one is assigned)
      • TFR design
      •  Appropriate designated active hours
    • Local Unit Aviation Manager
    • Local Dispatch Center as needed
      • Airspace deconfliction
    • Attend daily aviation, operations, and planning meetings/briefings.

Manage Risk

  • Apply the Risk Management Process as stated in the NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461:
    • Identify Hazards
    • Assess Hazards
    • Develop Controls and Make Risk Decisions
    • Implement Controls
    • Supervise and Evaluate
  • Ensure Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, and Safety Zones (LCES) are established and known to all personnel before they are needed. Refer to guidelines stated in the IRPG.
  • Account for location, health, safety, and welfare of assigned personnel.
  • Use Look Up, Down and Around in IRPG to help maintain situational awareness. Adjust actions accordingly.
  • Apply the Standard Firefighting Orders and Watch Out Situations to your assignment, as stated in the IRPG.
  • Monitor personnel for signs and symptoms of fatigue, illness, or injury. Mitigate appropriately.
  • Plan for medical emergencies. Ensure that assigned resources are prepared to execute the Medical Plan (ICS 206 WF). Ensure familiarity with medical responders, communication procedures, and transportation plan. Manage the medical emergency based on procedures stated in the Incident Action Plan (IAP), the Medical Incident Report, or other relevant guidelines.



  • Ensure documentation is complete for the incident.
  • Transfer data package to Planning Section Chief (PSC) or designee.
  • Obtain performance evaluation.
  • Coordinate with incident personnel to ensure applicable Land Use Agreements have been modified or terminated.
  • Complete LRZ clean up and back haul.
  • Plan for demobilization. Brief assigned resources on demobilization procedures and responsibilities. Ensure incident and agency demobilization procedures and work/rest driving standards are followed.
  • 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 estimated time of arrival (ETA) to home unit.
  • Anticipate demobilization, identify excess resources, coordinate and prepare demobilization schedule, and communicate with supervisor.
  • During transfer of command:
    • Ensure continuity of operations.
    • Exchange critical safety information.
    • Communicate transfer of authority through established chain of command.




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