- Do I have to register my drone?
- Do I have to be a licensed drone pilot to fly my drone?
- How high and far can I fly my drone?
- Can I fly my drone at a York County School or over a school sporting event?
- Can I fly my drone on York County property?
- Can I fly my drone at the Yorktown Beach?
- Can I fly my drone from National Park Service Property?
- Can I fly my drone over people?
In the spring of 2016, the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office, along with the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety, founded a specialized team that utilizes small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS). This team, known as the Remotely Operated Vehicles for Emergency Response Team (ROVER Team), provides situational awareness and other tactical missions during public safety incidents, such as missing persons, hazmat incidents, bomb/explosive incidents, hostile/hostage situations, storm damage assessment, etc.
The ROVER Team operates under a Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration. This COA allows the team to fly in all classes of Airspace on the Virginia Peninsula, with coordination of the various public and military airports Air Traffic Control Facilities. Additionally, the ROVER Team can fly in Class G airspace anywhere in the National Airspace System, and in all classes of airspace with an emergency waiver that can be quickly obtained when responding to locations outside of the Virginia Peninsula.
All personnel assigned to the ROVER Team are FAA certified Remote Pilots. This is currently the highest level of FAA certification for piloting unmanned aircraft, and is the same certification required for commercial sUAS pilots. The team and its policies meet, and in most cases, exceed the laws, rules, regulations, and recognized standards and practices for sUAS operations and administration.
The team operates multiple aircraft for different mission needs. The aircraft capabilities include a high powered zoom camera, Forward Looking InfraRed (FLIR) sensor, payload drop, onboard spot light, and night flight capabilities. The aircraft also features remote video recording and live streaming of video to a field command post, local and state emergency operating center(s), and other places as needed. This information allows command staff and other key individuals to be better informed and thereby more capable of making decisions to protect life, property and the environment.
The team has responded to multiple missions locally, regionally, and throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia for incidents involving:
- Large commercial fires
- Tornado/severe weather damage assessment
- Situational awareness for large protests, gatherings, and special events such as the protests in Charlottesville and the Something In The Water festival in Virginia Beach
- SWAT, active shooter situations and warrant services
- Missing persons (suicidal, Alzheimer’s, elderly, runaway juveniles, etc.)
- Escaped convicts, wanted persons search in remote areas
- Crime scene documentation
- Hazmat incidents
- Various training exercises with local, regional, state, and federal agencies
The ROVER Team and its personnel are highly trained and motivated. They are considered by the FAA and peer agencies/teams to be on the cutting edge of UAS operations. The team has served as a role model and consultant for many teams throughout the United States and has been recognized on the state and national level for its commitment to excellence.