National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Unmanned Aircraft System Pilot

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UASP Incident Position Description

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Pilot (UASP) provides data to tactical and strategic decision makers and is responsible for flying, managing, and coordinating Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) missions on wildland fire incidents. The UASP reports to the Air Operations Branch Director (AOBD) or other assigned supervisor. The UASP works in the Air Operations functional area.
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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.
  • Obtain and assemble information and materials needed for kit.
  • Gather critical information and materials needed for assignment and make appropriate notifications.
  • Travel to and check in at the assigned base of operations and with the supervisor.

Build the Team

  • Establish and communicate chain of command, reporting procedures, risk management processes, radio frequency management, and aviation operational strategy.
  • Establish a common operating picture with supervisor and subordinates.
  • Establish team cohesiveness and accountability utilizing effective Crew Resource Management (CRM).
  • Attend incident briefings, coordinate with other aviation units, obtain Incident Action Plan (IAP) or relevant plans and incident maps for the duration of incident.

Lead, Supervise, Direct

  • Model leadership values and principles. Provide positive influence. Emphasize teamwork.
  • Establish and communicate objectives, priorities, work assignments, and performance expectations. Identify, analyze, and use relevant situational information to make more decisions that are informed and take appropriate actions.
  • Adjust actions based on changing information and evolving situational awareness. Develop and implement contingency plans. Communicate changing conditions to assigned resources and supervisor.

Perform Unmanned Aircraft Systems Pilot-Specific Duties

  • Ensure the UAS Aircraft and Payload are mission appropriate and the UASP is qualified, current, and proficient for the system and mission.
  • Coordinate travel to and from fireline (e.g., travel routes, check in with Division Supervisor, communication procedures, accountability).
  • Survey the area of responsibility to assess feasibility of assigned objectives, locate potential landing and recovery zones (LRZ), and identify flight hazards.
  • Ensure UAS flight crew mission, preflight, and pre-takeoff responsibilities are completed as outlined by policy, system checklists, and any mission specific directives. Adhere to guidelines in NWCG Standards for Fire Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations, PMS 515.
  • Plan for data collection and processing according to the mission requirements and agency data management policies.
  • Perform post mission duties and plan for the needs of the next operational period.
  • Identify and anticipate operational and logistical needs and request additional resources and/or replacements as needed.
  • Execute UAS Operations based on incident objectives, leader’s intent, and fire behavior in observance of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Interagency, and Agency policy. Adhere to guidelines in NWCG Standards for Fire Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations, PMS 515.
  • Follow UAS emergency procedures per agency policy and guidelines in NWCG Standards for Fire Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations, PMS 515.

Communicate and Coordinate

  • Ensure clear understanding of expectations and timely communication within and across Incident Command System (ICS) functional areas and chain of command.
  • Communicate effectively using multichannel radios. Prepare and program radios for assignment. Ensure effective radio communications when assigned resources are using multiple frequencies during incident operations. Use plain language and ICS terminology.
  • Utilize common terminology and brevity with dispatch, ground resources, and other aircraft.
  • Establish communication and exchange necessary briefings/information with appropriate personnel based on incident complexity.
  • Ensure remote pilot, visual observer (VO), and mission pertinent personnel are briefed on the mission.
  • Establish positive contact with on-scene aircraft and/or aerial supervision prior to takeoff, ensure operational and airspace clearance for UAS mission, and comply with all instructions to safely operate UAS in an incident environment.
  • Conduct and/or participate in After Action Reviews.

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 firefighters before they are needed. Refer to guidelines stated in the IRPG.
  • Use Look Up, Down, and Around in the IRPG to help maintain situational awareness. Adjust actions accordingly. Develop and communicate contingency plans and trigger points.
  • 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 IAP, the IRPG, Medical Incident Report (ICS 206 WF), or other relevant guidelines.
  • Account for location, health, safety, and welfare of assigned personnel.
  • Identify and appropriately act on hazardous situations.


  • Complete, authorize, ensure timeliness of, and route as required:
  • General Message (ICS 213)
  • Activity Log (ICS 214)
    • Agency-specific forms
  • Provide UAS specific information to appropriate planning section personnel. Include input into Assignment List (ICS 204) and Air Operations Summary (ICS 220).
  • Submit accident/incident reports through established chain of command.


  • 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 the 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 schedules, and communicate with the 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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