Mission Planning and Mobilization
Incident UAS missions may be conducted by agency owned and operated UAS or contractor/cooperator owned and operated UAS. There is an on-call UAS Coordinator available to answer questions regarding ordering procedures, UAS capabilities as well as overhead needed – UASP, Unmanned Aircraft System, Data Specialist (UASD), Unmanned Aircraft System, Manager (UASM), or Unmanned Aircraft System, Module Leader (UASL). The ordering unit can contact the UAS Fire Coordinator at 208-387-5335. For specifics on how to order UAS, please see NIFC UAS ordering.
- Objective: What is the data objective for the mission: e.g., photos, video, SA, mapping, thermal, or infrared (IR)?
- Size: What is the mission area?
- Endurance: Consider length of mission, distance from launch area, and area of availability.
- Aircraft performance: Consider operating environment, payload, density altitude, and terrain in which operations are conducted.
- Maneuverability: It is essential that the UAS can be positioned to meet mission observation requirements. Multi-rotors are excellent for SA on the fireline.
- UAS Launch and Recovery Zone (LRZ): Mission requirements may necessitate the need for a designated launch and recover zone (Type 1 or Type 2 operations).
- Terrain: Can the UAS maintain link with the Ground Control Station (GCS)?
- Communications: Consider the capability to effectively monitor and transmit on AM and FM frequencies. Do not fly a mission if you can’t communicate with air and ground resources.
- Data sharing: How will data be delivered to decision makers? Internet connectivity is key.
- Incident operational tempo/complexity: Check before requesting clearance to fly. The UAS mission may not be a priority.
- Obtain a resource order prior to mobilization.
- Ensure vendor crews are ordered as required/requested.
- Initiate contact with ordering unit (IC, Operations Section Chief [OSC], Air Operations Branch Director [AOBD], etc.).
- Determine the data objective (final data product) for the incident.
- Identify the UAS Module (vendor or agency activation):
- Coordinate mobilization of personnel. Schedule planning calls as needed.
- Obtain the Incident Action Plan (IAP).
- Obtain/confirm airspace authorization (SGI, TFR, etc.).
- Acquire Geographic Information System (GIS) data/maps for the area.
- Identify possible LRZ locations for vendor aircraft.
Determine mission complexity.
- Land status (ownership).
- Size of area.
- Vegetation type.
- Expected weather.
- Data collection timeframe (window).
Start a paper trail or build an assignment folder with:
- Crew Qualification Cards.
- Aircraft Data Cards.
- Airspace Authorizations.
- Project location.
- Incident perimeter.
- Flight hazards.
- Financial codes.
- Cooperator agreements/letters (aircraft, pilots, etc.).
- Land use permits/authorizations.
- Invoice forms (AMD 23, etc.).
- Determine aircraft to be used.
- Determine sensor payloads to be used.
- Data storage.
Determine computer hardware and software requirements.
- Laptop and GIS: Make sure the computer has appropriate permissions to add/update software.
- GCS: Ensure base maps are built for the mission area.
- Data processing (GIS, mapping, Digital Elevation Model (DEM), orthomosaic, etc.).
- Ensure crew is within work/rest policy for flight and duty limitations.
- Follow established incident check in procedures.
- Verify chain of command.
- Confirm hours of operation, mission location(s), data objective(s), final product, and data delivery.
- Discuss meeting/briefing attendance with assigned supervisor.
Perform site survey and consider:
- Access and egress.
- Proximity to fire activity.
- Communications (AM and FM).
- Takeoff and landing area.
- GCS link to aircraft (terrain/vegetation).
- GCS video/data link to remote display at Incident Command Post (ICP) or designated location.
- Cell/Wi-Fi coverage.
Establish an LRZ when applicable (vendor aircraft/Type 1 or 2 UAS).
- Coordinate with incident personnel to identify potential LRZs.
- Plot potential LRZ locations.
- Perform a viewshed analysis to confirm GCS link can be maintained.
- Ensure LRZ location is documented, communicated to incident Geographic Information System Specialist (GISS), and depicted on appropriate incident maps.
- Build GCS maps and download applicable base map data.
- Perform UAS/sensor preflight inspection.
- Verify weight, balance, and attachment of payloads.
- Ensure proper fuel load/batteries fully charged.
- Obtain a weather briefing.