IFPD officer helping set up drone safety council

David Barker, of the Idaho Falls Police Department, shown in this May photo, operates a drone during a training exercise. Barker will help facilitate a statewide Idaho Public Safety UAS (unmanned aircraft system) Council. Monte LaOrange / Post Register file

An Idaho Falls Police Department officer was chosen last week to help facilitate a statewide Idaho Public Safety UAS (unmanned aircraft system) Council. 

Officer David Barker said the council would be focused on creating a directory of law enforcement agencies who have drone programs while also setting safety standards for the state.

“What they want to do is start with a statewide roster or a directory of the agencies that are using unmanned aircraft systems,” Barker said. “Basically, if somebody needs a contact in some part of the state, there’s a directory of who to contact within the department.”

The effort is part of a larger effort by the National Council on Public Safety UAS to create a national roster. According to a Bard College study cited by the national council, the number of drone programs run by public safety offices in the United States has increased by 82 percent in the last year.

Idaho has 12 public safety departments with drone programs registered with the FAA, including the Idaho Falls Police Department. Barker said he’s been reaching out to those departments, but he is still waiting to hear back from them.

Barker hopes the council can help public safety offices that are considering drone programs through the process. Some departments will register a drone to a specific officer or employee, or buy drones before understanding the red tape involved in starting a program.

“Until that authorization and approval is done, essentially they’re operating illegally or outside the rules,” Barker said. “Sometimes it’s the cart before the horse. They’ve gone out and bought something, now they’ve got some funding invested in this and they find out they can’t do it because they don’t have the authorization for it.”

The council will also set safety standards for operating drones. Barker said these rules will be based on the standards set by the national council, but state and local laws would require some standards specific to Idaho.

Reporter Johnathan Hogan can be reached at 208-542-6746.