Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning

UAS

A recording of the May 27, 2020 webinar, “Drones for Planning: A Higher Standard”, can be viewed here.

Program Overview

UASDRP is responsible for regulating land use throughout the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. Common land uses that DRP planners inspect include large landfills, surface mines, solar farms, tall wireless communications facilities (WCFs), hazardous industrial use properties, remote desert and mountainous areas, and other challenging sites. To improve existing operations, DRP will implement a program to use UAS, also known as “drones”, for inspections of sites that are large, remote, difficult-to-access, or have safety concerns. By providing airborne support to land use planning operations in a safe, responsible, and transparent manner, DRP’s UAS Program will improve quality of life through innovative and resourceful physical and environmental planning, balancing individual rights and community needs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What is a UAS?
    UAS stands for unmanned aircraft systems and are commonly known as “drones”. A UAS is an aerial device with an onboard computer that is operated remotely, generally by a pilot on the ground using a handheld controller. Small drones, such as the ones DRP will be using, are battery operated, weigh between .55 and 55 pounds, have several rotors, and are equipped with a camera.

  2. What will DRP be using UAS for?
    Currently, DRP will be using the UAS for entitlement processing and land use regulation purposes, including compliance monitoring and permit compliance inspections. Such inspection sites must meet certain criteria to determine the suitability of a UAS inspection. The use of a UAS will be intended for inspections where sites are large, remote, difficult-to-access, or have safety concerns. In the future, the UAS program may be expanded to support more advanced functions, such as surveying and mapping.

  3. Who will be operating the UAS?
    DRP planners, who have obtained their Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 license and completed flight training, will be operating the UAS. There are currently four planners who have obtained the necessary training and licensure, and they are the only personnel authorized to operate the UAS. Each UAS mission will be operated by at least two planners who will serve as the pilot-in-command (PIC) and visual observer (VO). The visual observer assists the pilot-in-command by keeping an eye on the UAS and advising the PIC about other air traffic or objects aloft or on the ground.

  4. What rules and regulations must DRP UAS pilots follow?
    DRP UAS pilots are subject to FAA regulations related to airspace use. UAS Pilots are also subject to DRP’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program Policy.

  5. Will you be using a drone to spy my property?
    Respecting your privacy is a top priority for the UAS program. A UAS will not be deployed where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as private backyards or inside private buildings, except where authorized by a court order. In addition, the program policy specifies that the UAS can be deployed at sites where consent has been granted or for permit compliance inspections.

  6. Am I going to be charged more for permit inspection conducted by a UAS?
    Any permit inspection fees are prescribed in the permit conditions and are not affected by UAS usage.

  7. What type of drone(s) does DRP operate?
    DRP owns and operates a Skydio 2, which is a cost-effective, entry level UAS with 360° obstacle avoidance features.

Contact Information

If you have any comments, suggestions, or concerns, we would love to hear from you! Please email us at UASprogram@planning.lacounty.gov or call us at 213-974-6483.

Resources

  • For questions related to UAS regulations, please see FAA’s website here.

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Department of Regional Planning
320 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
T: (213) 974-6411 . F: (213) 626-0434
TDD: (213) 617-2292
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