Lessons Learned While Establishing an Unmanned Aircraft Program at a State Natural Resource Management Agency

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) conducted 56 h of unmanned aircraft operations between February 2017 and April 2018. Operations involved video and still photography for both scientific and public outreach purposes, mapping, and live surveillance. Some operations were conducted under the small unmanned aircraft rule (Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations §107) established by the Federal Aviation Administra- tion (FAA), while some were conducted under the terms of a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA. The initial training program consisted of a 32-h in-person class. After gaining operational experience, subsequent training expanded to a 112-h class with greater emphasis on hands-on flight experience. We also provide brief reports of four accidents involving small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS), most of which occurred during training. Inexperienced pilots should be limited to low-risk projects until they gain operational experience.

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