Introducing Drones into the Government Toolkit

DroneFrom military missions to public safety applications to infrastructure inspections, drones have many applications across government. While the technology is ready for all of these applications (and more), there are complex regulatory and legal issues that are holding up their widespread use. These issues include airspace regulations (for the safety of manned and unmanned flights), privacy concerns (related to on-board cameras), and cybersecurity concerns.

While these issues are being discussed in the courts and across regulatory bodies, state and federal level agencies are taking steps to integrate drone usage into their processes. For federal agencies, drones are available on the GSA Schedule. State and local organizations are piloting a drone-as-a-service model that allows groups to use drones for specific-use cases without having to invest in the purchase and maintenance of the hardware.

There are a number of upcoming events that address both the technology and the policies that impact current and future drone usage. Continue reading

Mapping out Geospatial Uses

Geospatial, as a strict term, means data that is related to a location. In the government space, Geospatial has been used interchangeably with GIS - or Geographic Information Systems - which refers to technology that uses geospatial data. GIS has long been a key technology for the military and intelligence communities to help map out and gain visibility into areas for combat or missions. But as the availability of geographic data grows through the use of GPS applications, drones, and IoT technologies, the use of GIS is expanding across government.

GIS is a key tool in disaster response helping overlay available resources and assets onto maps of areas impacted by floods or fires. It can also be used to map in real time the location of hazards such as downed power lines.

GIS is also being used by law enforcement. In one case, a boy had gone missing, suspected to be abducted. The boy posted a photo to Instagram and the image, taken from what seemed to be an apartment window, included a sign on a bank across the street. An analyst looked up branch locations and cross-referenced the addresses with online maps, but could not get a location that seemed to be a possible match. When they took that data and loaded it into a GIS system that took a top-down look at locations they were able to pinpoint the location of the child.

Urban sprawl and growth is also being managed with GIS. The city of Durham, NC uses aerial imagery to get a better look at changes being done to properties that impact land use, water runoff, and drainage.

There are several upcoming events focused on GIS as well as others that include discussion of the application of geospatial technology. Continue reading

Navigating the World With Drones

Five years ago, drones patrolling the air and delivering packages seemed like something that lived only in reruns of the Jetsons. But in a short time, drones have become a reality in our modern world with commercial models retailing for as little as $44. With this technology's fast rise, the government is working hard to determine the best way to maintain public safety while preserving the rights of people to operate drones safely.[Tweet "5 years ago, drones patrolling the air/delivering packages seemed like something from the Jetsons. #GovEventsBlog"]

Issue one is the infringement on airspace. In 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)áreportedáthat the number of annual drone sightings by commercial pilots had quadrupled to 650, just by August of that year. The FAA has been looking for ways to integrate drones into the tracking of our national airspace to ensure the safety of everyone in the sky.[Tweet "The FAA has been looking for ways to integrate drones safely into our national airspace. #GovEventsBlog"] Continue reading