The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office has applied for a Certificate of Authorization (COA) through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow training flights of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
The COA will only allow limited operation within a restricted unpopulated area for training and evaluation purposes only. The evaluations will take place in conjunction with Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, the Ventura County Fire Department, and other public safety agencies.
The initial training flights will occur in the area of the Ventura River as well as portions of the Ventura County backcountry. Since the application has not yet been approved, actual flights may still be several months away.
The ultimate goal is to use the small UAV for critical life-saving efforts, such as locating missing persons and monitoring incidents where a hazardous condition exists.
The UAV being tested is the Aerovironment Qube, which is a VTOL UAV operating four small rotors that allow it to take off vertically. It is battery powered and remote controlled. It can stay aloft for a maximum of 40 minutes on a single charge. The Qube has a built-in camera system, but is otherwise incapable of carrying any payload.
Currently, the Sheriff’s Office utilizes four Bell Huey helicopters for a variety of public safety purposes. One of the primary missions of our air unit is search and rescue. While the UAV will not replace the Aviation Unit, there are many circumstances that do not require a fully equipped helicopter. It is hoped that a UAV will assist with lifesaving operations at a significantly reduced cost to the taxpayer.
UAVs also have a critical use in the fire service for mapping and aerial observation during wildland and other fires.
In addition to the FAA guidelines, which restrict flights to 400 feet above ground level and below, the Sheriff’s Office has developed its own policy to govern the use of the UAV for search and rescue purposes only. The FAA guidelines and the Sheriff’s Office policy are available to the public.
The request to the FAA is for training purposes only to review if the UAV has a useful and practical application in Ventura County.