Can You Fly a Drone in Sedona?

Situated near Flagstaff, Sedona is a desert region in Arizona with forests, canyons, and buttes. It’s beloved as much for its natural beauty as for its arts.

If you’ve always wanted to visit Sedona and you’re finally making it happen, naturally, you may wonder – can you bring your drone with you?

Can you fly a drone in Sedona?

You can fly a drone throughout much of Sedona but not in Wilderness Areas or Sedona Airport and Flagstaff Pulliam Airport. You’re also required to follow FAA guidelines when in the skies.

If you have a trip to Sedona in the cards, this is the article for you.

In it, we’ll discuss in-depth whether you can use a drone in this part of Arizona, highlight all the off-limits areas, and go over Arizona’s flight rules.

Don’t miss it!

Can you fly a drone in Sedona?

Under Public Law 112-95, Section 336 and the FAA, commercial and recreational pilots can operate a drone in Sedona.

However, the desert town has a lot of off-limits places, so let’s review.


Sedona is only 18.31 square miles, yet still contains several airports. One is the aptly-named Sedona Airport, and the other is Flagstaff Pulliam Airport.

As a drone pilot, you’re prohibited from flying within five nautical miles of an airport. Given the tiny size of Sedona, this will make planning flight routes difficult but not impossible.

Military bases

Across Sedona’s borders, you’ll find a couple of military bases. These too can complicate your flight plans, as you’re not allowed within five nautical miles of a military base either.

Wilderness Areas

Drones are strictly prohibited in Wilderness Areas throughout the United States. That’s been the case since 1964, when the Wilderness Act went into effect.

The goal of that act is to prohibit industrialization that prevents designated areas from existing that solely protect wildlife and nature.

Sedona has two Wilderness Areas, Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness and Munds Mountain Wilderness.

Neither area is small. The Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness is 47,195 acres, while Munds Mountain Wilderness is 18,150 acres.

Designated Primitive Areas

Further, Sedona law restricts drone access in designated Primitive Areas.

The United States Forest Service once used these lands, which have since mostly converted to Wilderness Areas.

Other restricted airspace

Always use a drone map when operating your UAV in Sedona. The above areas all constitute restricted airspace, but other restrictions could exist throughout the town.

Also, stay vigilant for temporary flight restrictions, which only affect your drone plans for a limited time but are still enforceable.

4 fantastic places to fly a drone in Sedona

Although Sedona restricts drone access to many places throughout the town, if you know where to look, you’ll find an exceptional selection of spots where you can take breathtaking footage.

Here are some of our favorites.

West Fork Oak Creek Trail

About 9.5 miles from Sedona is the West Fork Oak Creek Trail. As you stroll along the trailhead, you’ll spot canyons, a stream, and cliffs.

The buttes here are a trademark red, and when autumn arrives in Arizona, the fall foliage will take your breath away.

Charge up your drone battery, as you’ll surely want to stay here for a while!

Devil’s Bridge Trail

Venture out to Yavapai County to hike the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead.

Only moderately difficult, the entire hike (round trip) is 1.8 miles, so you won’t have to sweat it out too much if you’re trying to look professional for a drone project.

The route takes you across sandstone arches, so you’ll have lots to film or photograph here.

Schnebly Hill Vista

Along Schnebly Hill, you’ll find a vista with a clearance area to witness the beauty of Sedona.

While the Schnebly Hill Vista isn’t all that far from the Munds Mountain Wilderness, it’s well outside of the wilderness boundary line.

Many drone pilots have flown here before, so you shouldn’t have to stress about restrictions. If anything, keep in mind that the crowds here can be rather plentiful.

Since it’s often such a populated area, consider scheduling your drone flight either earlier or later in the day to avoid the crowds.

Courthouse Butte

We also recommend exploring Courthouse Butte while you’re staying in Sedona. The butte near Oak Creek in Yavapai County is just a bit southward of Sedona. The peak of the butte is 5,454 feet.

You don’t have to ascend that high up, of course. That’s what you have your drone for!

You can take some aerial shots of the tall, tree-lined butte that will make a fantastic addition to your portfolio.

Drone operation rules to know before visiting Sedona

With your plane tickets and hotels booked, it’s time to jet off to stunning, warm Sedona.

Before your plane touches down, make sure you’re privy to the following drone rules, which apply to Arizona as a whole.

Do not launch your drone closer than 328 feet to wildlife

Sedona drone law prohibits drone pilots from vertically approaching birds or animals with their UAVs.

Further, you cannot launch your drone any closer than 328 feet or 100 meters from local wildlife.

It’s no secret that drone exposure can cause unfortunate behavior in wildlife, including aggression and sometimes even abandoning their young.

Do your part to preserve Sedona’s great wildlife!

Have your drone license and registration ready

As a safe drone pilot, you must have a current drone license and an active registration (as required), both issued by the FAA or another body with authority.

Let’s start by discussing your registration. Commercial pilots must register their drones, but it’s optional for recreational pilots, depending on the weight of their UAVs.

If your drone weighs 0.55 pounds or under, you don’t have to register it. For all other drones that require registration, you can register for up to three years.

Next, let’s go over licenses. Hobbyists must carry a TRUST certificate issued by the FAA after passing The Recreational UAS Safety Test.

That license doesn’t expire but don’t lose it on your trip to Sedona, or you’ll have to take the exam again.

Commercial pilots need the Part 107 license, aka the Remote Pilot Certificate. You can only obtain this license by passing the Part 107 exam administered by the FAA.

Your certificate is good for only two years, but you can recertify online for free.

Avoid critical facilities

Arizona drone law mandates that pilots fly no closer to critical facilities than 250 vertical feet and 500 horizontal feet.

Examples of these facilities include hospitals, courthouses, power plants, and water treatment facilities.

Do not interfere with emergency response efforts

When firefighters, police departments, and other emergency responders arrive on the scene, do not get in their way with your drone.

You could prevent people from receiving the life-saving services they need!

Do not fly higher than 400 feet

You cannot operate your drone more than 400 feet from the ground throughout Arizona. It’s your responsibility to gauge the allowable height and fly your drone within that range.

Maintain a visual line of sight on your drone

You must also keep eyes on your drone the entire time you fly. If you operate your drone so far out of range that you can’t see it with the naked eye or when wearing contacts or glasses, you’re beyond VLOS range.

You must bring your drone back or operate it with a spotter who can watch it beyond your visual line of sight.

Do not fly your drone in inclement weather

Arizona is known for its hot and humid weather, but the sun can’t shine every day.

On those less-than-perfect days with strong winds and rain, refrain from operating your drone. The weather makes flying a UAV too dangerous.

You could also end up with a damaged, broken drone!

Sedona is a desert town in Arizona known for its towering buttes and appealing arts scene.

You can fly your drone here but must avoid designated Wilderness Areas, Primitive Areas, military bases, and airports.

Follow FAA drone rules when you take to the sky, and remember to avoid wildlife with your drone especially. Stay safe and have fun out there!

Can You Fly a Drone in Big Bend National Park?

Big Bend National Park in Brewster County, Texas encompasses part of the Chihuahuan Desert and all of the Chisos mountain range. It’s within proximity to the Sam Nail Ranch, Langford Hot Springs, and Santa Elena Canyon.

You wish to fly your drone among these beloved Texas landmarks, but are you legally allowed in the park?

As of 2014, drones are prohibited from being used at Big Bend National Park on any of its waters or lands. The ban extends to the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River and is enforced by the National Park Service.

Ahead, we’ll unpack the drone usage rules at Big Bend National Park to dispel any confusion.

If you’re soon visiting this Texas national park or it’s always been on your bucket list, this article is a can’t-miss!

Can you legally fly a drone in Big Bend National Park?

Texas is very strict on drone usage in its parks, which is why you’re barred entry into Big Bend National Park with a UAV.

Sign welcoming visitors to the Highway 385 North Entrance of Big Bend National Park in Texas.

That’s been the rule since August 2014, when the National Park Service posted its new regulations on drone flight in the park.

According to the law, drones are forbidden from launching, flying, or landing “from or on the lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River.”

Interestingly, a writeup from StateImpact Texas, which does environmental and energy reporting for the state, said of the ban the year it was implemented that the NPS’s prohibition was supposed to be an “interim” rule.

We saw the use of the word interim on several other resources mentioning the ban. This suggests this was supposed to be only a temporary change, yet as of this writing, the NPS has not lifted the ban.

We have to talk about the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River too, as it’s included in the NPS’s rules about the prohibition of drone use in Big Bend National Park.

The Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River is a protected river that’s 260 miles long. It’s classified as a U.S. National Wild and Scenic River and spans the Rio Grande in Texas and New Mexico.

Up to 69 miles of the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River are within the boundary of Big Bend National Park, as are the canyons Mariscal Canyon and Boquillas Canyon.

Santa Elena Canyon, which is a hotspot in Big Bend, is not classified as a U.S. National Wild and Scenic River in the same way that the other two canyons are, but you’re still forbidden from using your drone here because of the NPS’s rules.

The NPS says that it enforced these rules “for the maintenance of public safety and the protection of environmental and scenic values as well as the avoidance of conflict among visitor use activities and visitor experience.”

The statement also mentions that “The prohibition is completed through the use of 36 CFR 1.5 which provides the park superintendent the authority to close all or a portion of the park or otherwise limit an activity to maintain public health and safety, protect environmental or scenic values, protect natural or cultural resources, implement management responsibilities, equitably allocate and use facilities, or avoid conflict among visitor use activities.”

Can you fly a drone just outside of Big Bend National Park?

It’s disappointing but not altogether surprising to learn that you cannot fly your drone within the spacious confines of Big Bend National Park.

What about outside of the park? The NPS, per the link above, states that “This new prohibition applies only to lands administered by the National Park Service and does not apply to unmanned aircraft that is launched, landed or operated outside the park boundary.”

Therefore, way outside the 801,163 acres that make up Big Bend National Park, you can fly your drone legally.

So what exactly is beyond the park, anyway?

Well, you can’t go any further south from Big Bend, or you’ll officially be in Mexico.

At that point, the drone laws are totally different since you’re no longer in the United States and the Federal Aviation Administration (and the NPS, for that matter) does not make the rules.

To the north of Big Bend National Park is Big Bend Ranch State Park (which we’ll talk more about in just a moment) and parts of Texas such as Terlingua, Shafter, Marathon, Sanderson, and Dryden.

If you read our post on Texas drone laws, then you should recall that only Harris County and nearby Metropolitan Houston have local laws in place prohibiting drone usage.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Texas

However, that does not mean that your drone would be allowed in the cities and towns listed above, per se.

You’d have to find a park that either allows drones or has a designated drone flight area. If you wanted to fly in a Texas neighborhood, you should get permission from the landowner if your drone will be on their property.

Further, you have to follow all FAA regulations when flying a drone in Texas, such as:

  • Commercial pilots must have a Remote Pilot Certificate on their person.
  • Recreational pilots must have a TRUST certificate on their person.
  • You cannot fly above 400 feet.
  • You must keep your drone within your visual line of sight without the aid of binoculars.
  • You should only fly your drone during daylight hours.
  • You cannot use your drone to harass or bother people.
  • You shouldn’t fly a drone over people’s heads or in large crowds.

Can you legally fly a drone in Big Bend Ranch State Park?

As we said we would, let’s talk a bit more about Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Big Bend Ranch State Park is between Presidio and Brewster counties and is Texas’ biggest state park. It’s a whopping 311,000 acres.

The biggest attraction at the state park is Colorado Canyon, which stands out from the limestone canyons in the park, as it’s made of volcanic rock.

All state parks throughout Texas save for San Angelo and Lake Whitney State Parks prohibit drones unless you have a permit.

You’d have to reach out to Big Bend Ranch State Park management and request a commercial filming and photography permit.

It would likely be several weeks before your permit request is approved or denied, so make sure you send that application in early to avoid delays.

Pilots who are permitted to fly must follow FAA guidelines when taking to the skies.

What happens if you get caught using a drone in Big Bend National Park?

With both Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park off-limits to drone pilots (the latter unless you have a permit, just to make clear), that’s a huge swath of land that you shouldn’t ever be on with your drone.

You can fly outside of the boundaries of Big Bend National Park just fine, but the NPS does not want you in the park.

So what will happen if you get caught operating your drone there?

We couldn’t find specifics on the NPS’s website, but the standard punishment for violating rules in a national park would likely apply.

That is, you could be fined $5,000 (or less) and possibly sentenced to jail for six months or longer.

The NPS has enforced these rules because drones are becoming ever more popular.

Unfortunately, with the influx in the use of drones, more national parks across the country have faced destruction to precious natural landmarks (often accidentally, but still!) and complaints from park visitors about the nuisances that drones can cause.

By staying out of national parks like Big Bend, you’re preserving these beautiful places for everyone to enjoy. You’re also avoiding adding a needless crime to your permanent record, so it’s worth it, we’d say!


Big Bend National Park in Texas is a huge, sprawling park that also includes the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River.

The NPS prohibits drone pilots from operating a UAV in both the park and the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River.

You are allowed to use a drone outside of the park if you can find a suitable place to do so, as that land is outside of the NPS’s jurisdiction.

When flying your drone in Texas, always follow FAA guidelines and be a smart, safe, conscientious pilot!

Big Bend National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (link)
Big Bend National Park Bans Drones | StateImpact Texas (link)

Can You Fly a Drone in Death Valley?

Along the northern portion of the Mojave Desert in Eastern California is Death Valley. There’s no place hotter on the entire planet in the summer than here, which is a claim to fame big enough that interests you in flying a drone.

Is your drone allowed in and around Death Valley?

According to the National Park Service, you are not allowed to launch, fly, or land a drone in or on Death Valley’s waters and lands unless you have written permission from a superintendent.

Ahead, we’ll take a deeper look at the rules of flying a drone around Death Valley, including when Special Use Permits are issued and how you might apply for one, so make sure you keep reading!

The rules on flying a drone around Death Valley

The United States National Park Service or NPS is a federal agency as part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. It’s their sole purpose to oversee recreational properties including many national monuments and every national park.

As you probably guessed, that does include Death Valley, which is known as Death Valley National Park in full.

On the National Park Service’s page on Death Valley, the organization makes the rules abundantly clear.

Here is the drone policy for flying in Death Valley:

“Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park is prohibited except as approved in writing by the superintendent.

The term ‘unmanned aircraft’ means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links).

This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g., model airplanes, quadcopters, and drones) that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce.”

Death Valley National Park – U.S. National Park Service

While the law seems to exclude agency drone use such as by a fire department or law enforcement agency, for the average pilot, flying around Death Valley with a UAV is a no-go.

Death Valley National Park is 3.373 million acres, so there’s quite a lot of land that you’re prohibited from flying on.

Well, of course, unless you have a permit.

Am I eligible for a Special Use Permit?

The National Park Service issues what are known as Special Use Permits or SUPs for “activities that provide a benefit to an individual, group, or organization, rather than the public at large, and that require some degree of management from the National Park Service in order to protect park resources and the public interest,” according to the National Park Service website.

What kinds of activities are those? Let’s take a look:

  • Special events
  • Vehicle testing
  • Ash scattering
  • Running and bicycle events
  • First Amendment activities
  • Weddings and other ceremonies
  • Photography and filming

We know what you’re thinking, right? You can just apply for a photography or filming Special Use Permit, and you’ll be good as gold.

Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

You see, when applying for a Special Use Permit, you have to provide information about why you need the permit, and a series of activities are prohibited.

For instance, you can’t cause loud noises with a decibel level over 60 decibels at 50 feet, nor can you do stunts around Death Valley. You also can’t use any unmanned aircraft, including drones.

If you apply for a Special Use Permit with the National Park Service to fly around Death Valley with a drone, then the National Park Service is almost assuredly going to turn down your application.

Okay, so then what does it take to get a superintendent’s written permission to fly?

We can’t say for certain, as the National Park Service does not specify further on its website.

The circumstances would have to be extremely particular though, and, as the National Park Service itself says, commercial and recreational pilots would likely never be allowed.

The exceptions would exist for agency drone pilots only or perhaps those doing academic research with drones.

Why can’t you fly a drone in Death Valley?

Keep in mind that it’s not solely Death Valley in which your drone is prohibited, but all National Park Service – managed national parks across the US.

We’ve mentioned this before, but if you added up the acreage of all the national parks throughout the country, it’d comprise over 85 million acres, which is just crazy!

In this article on the National Park Service website, the organization mentions some reasons why you can’t fly a drone in national parks, so let’s talk about those reasons.

Nuisance and noise complaints

According to the National Park Service, park visitors who are used to a pristine experience have found that the engines of small aircraft such as drones take away from that tranquility and solitude.

Even if your drone is whisper-quiet, that doesn’t guarantee that everyone else’s is.

Besides, the sheer multitude of drones flying at once can create noise issues that the National Park Service doesn’t want its visitors to have to deal with. It could stop them from coming back.

More so than just noise though, visitors to the national parks throughout the US have perceived the drones as nuisances and have complained in kind.

Wildlife harassment

Many drone laws throughout the US prohibit the use of UAVs to harass, intimidate, injure, or take in any way local wildlife. That doesn’t mean laws are always abided by, unfortunately.

For instance, in the aforementioned link, the National Park Service states that there was “one documented incident in which park wildlife were harassed.”

We don’t have further details than that, but we don’t really need them, either.

This is one of those cases where one rotten apple spoils the whole bunch, and surely influenced the National Park Service’s decision to blockade drones in public parks.

Safety concerns

Visitors are also concerned for their safety when visiting a national park when drones are allowed.

National parks carry with them many risks, from the dangers of falling to even being attacked or killed by a wild animal, but those are risks that the average park visitor is well aware of. They can adequately prepare.

The presence of drones though can come as a surprise to a national park visitor, who might worry that the drone will get too close and hurt them, someone in their party, or their personal property.

Park damage

Although no egregious instances of park damage seem to have happened yet at national parks across the US, there have been enough near misses that the National Park Service decided to pull the plug.

For example, per the article linked to above, the National Park Service says:

“Small drones have crashed in geysers in Yellowstone National Park, attempted to land on the features of Mount Rushmore National Memorial, been lost over the edge of the Grand Canyon, and been stopped from flying in Prohibited Airspace over the Mall in Washington DC.”

National Park Service

In all these instances, the losses were greater to the pilots themselves than to the national parks, but still, these incidents are a little too close for comfort in the eyes of the National Park Service.

What happens if you get caught flying a drone in Death Valley?

Were you unaware of the rules and you flew your drone in Death Valley? Perhaps you knew the rules but figured you could get around them since Death Valley is a large enough national park.

Well, either way, there are consequences, and they’re pretty severe.

You’re going to be fined $5,000. You could also be jailed for upwards of six months, and your drone will likely be confiscated as well.

In some cases, especially if you have a prior record of flying drones on National Park Service property, you could even be barred from all national parks.

The crime also counts as a misdemeanor.

It’s up to you if the reward outweighs the risk, but it’s quite clear that it doesn’t.

What about outside the confines of Death Valley? Can you fly a drone there?

You have one more question. What if you flew your drone right outside of Death Valley State Park but technically weren’t within the boundaries of the park?

The National Park Service, in the link from the earlier section, says that they have “no authority outside park boundaries.”

That doesn’t mean you can fly scot-free, though. Now you’re flying off National Park Service property and on someone’s private property, so you’d need to contact the landowner and ask for permission.

If you get it granted, then this is an optimal way to capture footage of Death Valley (from a distance, of course) without breaking National Park Service rules.


The National Park Service or National Park Service bans drones from flying in Death Valley National Park (launching and landing are also outlawed) just as it does its other state parks.

This is for the protection of the park visitors, the wildlife that call the parks home, and the parks themselves.

If a park superintendent grants you permission, an event ever allows for drone flight, or a designated area of the park is ever set up, then you can fly a drone in Death Valley. Don’t expect any of these circumstances, though.

Your best bet is to get a landowner’s approval to fly right outside of the park, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Please always follow FAA rules when you do fly!

All new MIRA 12X Ground Control Station generation release - sUAS News - The Business of Drones
All new MIRA 12X Ground Control Station generation release – sUAS News – The Business of Drones

The all-new generation of Desert Rotor Unmanned Ground Control Systems (GCS) is now available. The revolutionary MIRA 12X takes our previous generation, time-tested 12PCX HOTAS and improves on it. We took years of feedback from the industry, clients, and prospects to make the ultimate GCS for your unmanned operations.

Featuring a fully redesigned switch array, the I/O panels now allow you to fully customize to your exact design needs. Desert Rotor GCS SmartViewTM has been vastly improved as well. The all-new touch screen HUD allows for deeper interfacing and visual GCS states.

Now available with the powerful OnLogic HX500 Embedded PC, choose between an i3 up to an i9 for greater processing and PC performance. MIRA 12X was redesigned internally for optimal space for radio and auxiliary needs. With an upgraded full-size keyboard and all new large multi-gesture trackpad, MIRA 12X makes navigating the PC easier than ever before. MIRA 12X is available now and compatible with your preferred radios, autopilots, and designs.

r/drones - Could someone help me figure out what format these coordinates are in?
Sonoran Desert Institute on Dawn of Drones This Week

Don’t miss John Minor of the Sonoran Desert Institute on Dawn of Drones, Wednesday June 1 at 11:00 AM EST.  Stream below:

Sonoran Desert Institute on Dawn of Drones!  Join Dawn and special guest John Minor, Managing Director/Dean of the School of Unmanned Technology, Sonoran Desert Institute, our sponsor-of-the-month, as we kick off June and our “Emerging Industry Leaders” 4-week series on the podcast.

Sonoran Desert Institute was founded in 2000 and originally offered Gunsmithing as a program. In January 2022, SDI introduced the School of Unmanned Technology and began to offer the Certificate in Unmanned Technology – Aerial Systems program. This Certificate provides students with a solid foundation of historical, technical, and operational knowledge about UAS, including how commercial businesses make their operations more efficient, cost effective, and safe. Learn how SDI is developing the workforce of tomorrow and emerging as an industry leader in its own right!

Don’t miss this one!

Join our Dawn of Drones community on Discord and connect with the speakers:

Never miss a stream and bookmark us on your favorite networks:

Missed a recent episode? Catch up here!

The Last Drone Standing: First responder UAS endurance challenge – sUAS News – The Business of Drones

Picture this: A person is lost in the desert. Local first responders initiate a search and rescue operation. As they conduct the search, they’re faced with a problem: loss of broadband signal.

This isn’t a made-up scenario. First responders often work in conditions where communication networks are weak or not available. One possible solution is to use drones to deploy broadband networks, making signals available anywhere. But today’s drones often can’t provide adequate support to first responders. The equipment is too heavy for drones to carry for very long.

To help solve the largest challenges facing the first responder community, NIST often turns to private companies, academic researchers, hobbyists, and others via open innovation prize challenges. This time, the First Responder Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Endurance Challenge addressed the obstacle of extending the flight time for drones that carry heavy payloads. The objective for challenge participants was to design, build and fly a UAS that could carry a 10-pound (4.5-kilogram) communications device to deploy broadband coverage for as long as possible to transfer critical data files to the first responders. And as part of the challenge, participants were tasked with overcoming difficult technical requirements including weight restrictions, vertical takeoff and landing, an ignition kill system, and an appropriate fuel system, all while ensuring cost-effectiveness.

Forty-three teams entered the competition, of which five final competitors spent a total of 14 months designing and building lightweight drones that go beyond today’s technical capabilities by flying continuously for 90 minutes or longer with heavy payloads. The prize challenge competitors built their systems with the intention of providing broadband service to boots-on-the-ground first responders when they lack network or bandwidth. This includes servicing areas with a lack of cellular network coverage or where cellular infrastructure has been compromised due to a natural disaster, or areas with limited backhaul connectivity, which links the main network to remote locations.

Investing in Ingenuity: The Winning Competitors

The competition’s top prize went to Team Advanced Aircraft Company (AAC), which received $100K for its six-rotor drone with propellers on each arm. AAC is a veteran-owned company based in Hampton, Virginia, that specializes in building American-made drones that enable longer flights through their hybrid-electric propulsion system. The company builds UAS devices that are quick to set up and easy to use for its customers, including members of the public safety community. Unlike some other prize challenge competitors, AAC’s drone is not a prototype but a product it currently is selling.

The other top teams in the competition included Team Intelligent Energy (IE), which received second place and $40K for its six-rotor drone with a hydrogen fuel system, long-endurance, and lifting capabilities. Team Autonomous Robotics Competition Club (ARCC), from Pennsylvania State University, took third place and received $20K for its multirotor, gas-electric hybrid drone. Team Endure Air also contributed to the UAS competition with its single-rotor helicopter drone.

In addition to the overall prizes, NIST awarded eight Best in Class awards, worth $5K each:

  • Endurance: Team AAC had a flight time of 112 minutes and 17 seconds in the “Last Drone Standing” technical flight.
  • Innovation: Team AAC received this award for addressing all stage four criteria, taking into account all drone specifications while maintaining a high regard for the public safety mission.
  • Weight: Endure Air’s UAS was 29.93 pounds (13.58 kilograms), the lightest of the competition.
  • Autonomy: Team ARCC received this award for the success of its preprogrammed flight paths, obstacle avoidance and automatic orbits.
  • Ease of Use: Endure Air took only four minutes and 30 seconds to put its UAS into an operational state, from packaging to flight-ready.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Endure Air’s UAS costs less than $5,000 to build.
  • First Responder Award: AAC and ARCC were both awarded for their successes in public-safety-focused areas such as responsiveness, special features, and unique design elements.

The solutions developed by the four winners will increase UAS duration, payload, transmission rate and total transmission distances. With these new capabilities, the public safety community and first responders will have access to the tools they need to help save lives in search and rescue situations. “It’s very challenging to build a drone to the required first responder specifications,” said Dereck Orr, chief of NIST’s Public Safety Communications Research division. “Given the circumstances and restrictions, 112 minutes of flight time is extremely impressive.”

NIST regularly uses prize challenges to solve public safety problems. These competitions result in lasting partnerships with companies and academia to leverage for future innovations. And these partnerships help NIST advance critical research and development efforts that create conditions for economic growth and opportunity in the public safety domain.

More information about the UAS Endurance Challenge winners and their drones can be found on the NIST website.

Three New Drone Competitions

The latest UAS prize challenge, the First Responder UAS Triple Challenge, is open now and accepting submissions through Sept. 30. This challenge, also known as UAS 3.0, comprises three separate competitions:

  • Challenge 1 — FastFind: UAS Search Optimized
  • Challenge 2 — LifeLink: Providing Mobile UAS Data Wherever Lives Are on the Line
  • Challenge 3 — Shields Up! Securing Public Safety UAS Navigation & Control

UAS 3.0 will help first responders’ search and rescue missions by improving search capabilities in areas with dense foliage, increasing broadband connectivity to get critical data to first responders, and protecting systems from potential cyberattacks. To learn more about the competition and to enter, visit the UAS 3.0 website.

UAS 4.0 will also be launching soon, but we need your feedback! Are you a first responder or innovator? What UAS technology do you think needs improvement? What public safety problem needs solving? Let us know by writing to us at [email protected].NIST PSCR UAS Endurance Challenge Final Results & Recap

The final results and a recap of NIST PSCR’s 2020 UAS Endurance Challenge competition.