The proliferation of small, relatively inexpensive remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) has created a challenge for the FAA, which is why the agency has asked the law enforcement community to help identify people who don’t follow the rules of the air or who endanger the nation’s airspace.
On Jan. 8, the FAA released some guidance to the law enforcement community explaining the legal framework for the agency’s oversight of aviation safety in the U.S., including RPA operations. The guidance describes how RPA and model aircraft can be operated legally, and the options for legal enforcement actions against unauthorized or unsafe operators. The document also discusses the law enforcement community’s role in deterring, detecting and investigating unsafe operations, according to FAA officials.
The document explains how first responders and others can provide “invaluable assistance” to the FAA by:
- Identifying potential witnesses and conducting initial interviews;
- Contacting the suspected operators of the RPA or model aircraft;
- Viewing and recording the location of the event;
- Collecting evidence;
- Identifying if the operation was in a sensitive location, event or activity;
- Notifying one of the FAA’s Regional Operation Centers about the operation as soon as possible.
The FAA’s goal is to promote voluntary compliance by educating individual operators about how they can operate safely under current regulations and laws, but the guidance makes clear the agency’s authority to pursue legal enforcement action against persons who endanger the safety of the National Airspace System, FAA officials added.
The guidance stresses that “while the FAA exercises caution not to mix criminal law enforcement with agency administrative safety enforcements, the public is best served by coordinating and fostering mutual understanding and cooperation between governmental entities with law enforcement responsibilities.”