FAA license for Henry County EMA drone expands office’s range for help

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NEW CASTLE, Ind.  — Henry County’s Office of Emergency Management is counting on their newly-licensed drone to speed up emergency response times and hopefully save lives.

When the office first bought a drone in 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration had no set rules on drones. Still, director Ron Huffman says he went through the process of notifying the agency and getting a certificate to fly the aircraft for training purposes.

Some months later, Huffman was told to stop flying because the FAA had determined new rules.

He spent months trying to get through the red tape around the rules governing where unmanned aircrafts can be and who can fly them.

“I sent a letter to the FAA and said, ‘Listen, we need to find out what’s going on, what the holdup is,” Huffman said.

Huffman applied for a 200-mile COA license, so that we could go out and assist other agencies in Indiana.

To Huffman’s surprise, the license granted by the FAA allows them, with some exceptions, to fly the unmanned aircraft vehicle in any “Class G” airspace in the nation. All other agencies have to do in an emergency, is call.

Not all first responders have the money or manpower for a drone. Loaning out the emergency management drone will help others outside the county make life-and-death situations go the way they want.

“It’s going to speed up the process tremendously,” Huffman said. “We’re able to get up in the air, get over a field, over a hazmat incident, some type of incident and have a look pretty quick.”

A quick look, that could make a big difference.

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