DoD Guidance for the Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in U.S. National Airspace

The following memorandum on the domestic use of military unmanned aircraft systems was released by the Department of Defense in November 2018.

Guidance for the Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in U.S. National Airspace

Page Count: 11 pages
Date: August 18, 2018
Restriction: None
Originating Organization: Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense
File Type: pdf
File Size: 1,747,029 bytes
File Hash (SHA-256): F31684D48AFDFA1C99725F65AF079FAF57D0BA0132C39D677F32309BEAA913A7

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This policy memorandum provides guidance for the domestic1 use of Department of Defense (DoD) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in U.S. National Airspace to ensure that such use is in accordance with U.S. law and DoD policy. Policy Memorandum 15-002, “Guidance for the Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” February 17, 2015 is hereby rescinded. This guidance implements measures identified in DoD’s efficiency and effectiveness review of domestic use of DoD UAS. The revisions in this memorandum streamline the approval process for domestic use. Changes are as follows:

(1) Delegating authority to approve the domestic employment of smaller UAS to the Secretaries of the Military Departments;
(2) Authorizing the Geographic Combatant Commanders to approve the domestic use of smaller UAS in support of Force Protection and Defense Support of Civil Authorities Incident Awareness and Assessment, and;
(3) Authorizing State Governors to approve State National Guard use of smaller UAS for domestic operations in support of State and local civil authorities for Search and Rescue and Incident Awareness and Assessment.

This guidance also makes additional changes intended to enhance the effectiveness of the domestic use of DoD UAS including, for example, authorizing Unit Commanders, in accordance with Service-specific directives, the authority to approve domestic training, exercises, and repositioning operations for all DoD UAS.

All domestic use of DoD UAS will be conducted in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) policies, regulations, and memorand of agreement (MOA) concerning UAS operations in U.S. National Airspace, unless otherwise permitted by law or agreement.

UAS may be used in lieu of manned aircraft for domestic missions under appropriate circumstances, including, for example, where: (1) sustained endurance is required; (2) unmanned aircraft would provide superior capabilities; (3) unmanned aircraft would be the most cost-effective means to accomplish the mission; and (4) where physical infrastructure limitations prohibit the use of manned rotary-or fixed-wing aircraft.

DoD or contractor personnel operating DoD or DoD-contracted UAS in U.S. National Airspace, whether or not the domestic use is related to an intelligence activity, will comply with all law, regulations, and guidance related to privacy and civil liberties. Further, all DoD UAS conducting counterintelligence (CI), foreign intelligence, or other intelligence-related activities will be in accordance with DoD Component intelligence oversight guidance.

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