National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Mission Flight Procedures

The following procedures shall be followed by all UAS flight crews:

Before Takeoff:

  1. Confirm authorizations (agency, incident, airspace).
  2. Confirm/test communications (AM/FM/cell/satellite).
  3. Coordinate with dispatch, helibase, aircraft, and ground personnel in the area.
  4. Record launch coordinates (latitude and longitude).
  5. Calibrate altimeter (inHg).
  6. Determine mission altitude – feet, Mean Sea Level (MSL).
  7. Confirm sensor payload is attached and functioning.
  8. Complete the aircraft preflight inspections and checklists.
  9. Obtain takeoff clearance from aerial supervisor or coordinate flight as required. ​

After Takeoff:

  1. Record takeoff time.
  2. Monitor assigned AM/FM frequencies.
  3. Complete the aircraft checklists.
  4. Establish flight following as required.
  5. Coordinate/communicate with aircraft and ground personnel.
  6. Monitor performance of sensors to ensure proper data collection. ​

After Landing:

  1. Notify aerial supervision, aircraft in the area, or ground personnel.
  2. Closeout flight following as required.
  3. Record landing time.
  4. Verify data quality and transfer to appropriate storage device. ​

Post Mission:

  1. Confirm need for UAS for next operational period.
  2. Debrief with available air resources and appropriate incident management or dispatch personnel.
  3. Attend or provide input to incident planning meeting for next day’s operations.
  4. Complete required documentation – invoices, agency flight reports, Aviation Safety Communiqué (SAFECOM), etc.
  5. Process and deliver desired data products.

UAS Emergency Procedures

Approved UAS have built in failsafe systems. The aircraft will return to home (LRZ) in the event of low battery voltage or loss of link with the GCS. Emergency situations are dynamic events, and not all conditions or procedures can be anticipated or applied during the event. No procedure is a substitute for a thorough understanding of aircraft systems and sound pilot judgment. If an emergency occurs, three basic actions can be applied to most situations:

  1. Maintain aircraft control: Small emergencies can quickly escalate if the pilot is distracted by attempting to troubleshoot the problem. Perform immediate action items. Always maintain visual contact with the aircraft during an emergency, if possible, to reduce the likelihood of losing orientation.
  2. Analyze the situation: Once the aircraft is stabilized, begin to assess the cause of the emergency if practical.
  3. Take appropriate action: In many cases, the appropriate action will be to land the aircraft as soon as possible.

Always consider the safety of yourself and others before attempting to save the aircraft in an emergency. In the event of loss of control, communication, or visual contact with UAS:

  1. Notify aerial supervision, aircraft in the area, and ground personnel.
  2. Clear the affected airspace and suspend air operations in the area.
  3. Notify flight following contact and/or dispatch as required.
  4. Wait for the duration of the fuel/battery load to ensure the UAS is on the ground.
  5. Resume air operations.
  6. Search for the missing UAS.
  7. Follow established mishap reporting procedures:
    1. Agency guidance and notification process.
    2. 1-800-MISHAP.
    3. SAFECOM.
    4. Local mishap response plan.
    5. Incident within Incident (IWI) plan.
    6. FAA Part 107 and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) requirements for qualifying accidents or incidents.





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