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Remote Piloted Aircraft System Program (RPAS)

Pierce County, WA
Program Year: 2021

Pierce County’s Remote Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) program is an excellent example of saving money by streamlining policies and procedures for drone operations. Counties often purchase and operate drones in support of individual use cases without considering the needs of the whole organization. Pierce County created a centralized Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) program to save costs and establish safety standards across all departments. These efforts include standardizing drone purchasing, pilot training, data collection and use cases. The program allows the County to better respond to a diverse group of business requirements and people.RPAS has also played a key role in responding to major natural disasters. During flood events in early 2020, pilots from multiple departments were able to assist with collecting remote flood data. In September, Washington state government relied upon Pierce County’s drones to provide data and analysis during a historic wildfire season. And in February of 2021, drone operators captured imagery of a landslide and the toe of the wooded slope to support geotechnical analysis. The centralized program has revolutionized data collection, helped manage risk, and standardized processes and software to improve cost effectiveness. RPAS also increases transparency since information about drone missions is available to the public. Furthermore, Pierce County is seen as a regional leader in helping other jurisdictions manage their own drone programs.

Mr. John DeWeese
Technical Writer