FAA approves UAS for forensic inspections

By Emily Aasand | May 21, 2015

Rimkus Consulting Group Inc., a forensic engineering consulting services, has received approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to utilize small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for aerial inspections of structures and facilities to conduct forensic inspections.

Rimkus says implementing UAS would offer numerous benefits for forensic evaluations, including greater speed, safety, practicality and efficiency. The technology is beneficial for difficult and dangerous inspections—those including steep-sloped roofs, exterior facades and walls, towers and bridges, and damage due to fire and explosions, vehicle accidents and catastrophic events.

“To say this technology is changing the face of our industry and bringing added value to our clients is an understatement. We can now obtain better, timelier evidence in challenging locations with less risk and expense,” said Curtis Brown, president and CEO of Rimkus Consulting Group.

The exemption allows the company to use the DJI Phantom 2 Vision +, which weighs three pounds and has a flight time of roughly 25 minutes. The unmanned aircraft is outfitted with a gimbal-stabilized, 14-megapixel camera for high-performance aerial photography.

“The drones that make up our fleet are ideally suited for the documentation of evidence during forensic investigations,” said Wes Jordan, Rimkus vice president and national property division manager. “With high-resolution cameras and Wi-Fi/GPS-enabled control systems, these hover-style drones can be maneuvered close to structures at great heights or flown high above large areas, returning detailed imagery in each case. Our inspections can now reach locations that were previously inaccessible due to safety concerns or manlift equipment and manned aircraft operating constraints.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx found that the UAS in the proposed operations didn’t need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness because it doesn’t pose a threat to national airspace users or national security. Those findings are permitted under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

“Unmanned aircraft offer a tremendous opportunity to spur innovation and economic activity by enabling many businesses to develop better products and services for their customers and the American public,” Foxx said. “We want to foster commercial uses of this exciting technology while taking a responsible approach to the safety of America’s airspace.”

Rimkus Consulting Group joins the rapidly increasing number of FAA approved companies to implement UAS into their line of work. As of today, more than 400 exemptions have been granted.


For more on the UAS Industry, follow us on Twitter @UASMagazine