Flying Drones in the Forest
The Director of the WV Division of Forestry recognizes that unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technology can be beneficial in support of the agency’s primary missions to protect and manage the natural resources of West Virginia. The potential uses of UAS for collection of aerial imagery in support of forest protection, forest management, and logging sediment control inspections are numerous; to explore these uses and perform research and development, the Director has authorized the initiation of an employee working group and a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) program, structured to provide support to all the Division’s programs statewide.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program
The UAS Program is administered under direct supervision of the Director of the Division of Forestry, or their designated representative when necessary. The Program has operational authority statewide, in support of all WVDOF programs and functions.
The authorized missions for the UAS include, but are not limited to, aerial video & photography in support of agency investigations, inspection of logging operations, wildfire detection, reconnaissance and other tactical support, atmospheric monitoring for prescribed burning, forest management planning, urban forestry, as well as any other application that may benefit from increased situational awareness by having an aerial perspective.
Division of Forestry’s Fleet
The Division of Forestry currently has a fleet of 9 small unmanned aircraft, and 8 employees that have received their certification from the Federal Aviation Administration, as fully qualified Remote Pilots. This certification allows the WVDOF to legally operate a public safety UAS program and fly drones in the national airspace as limitations and restrictions permit.