Travis County commissioners approved Jan. 22 the implementation of an unmanned aerial system. The program—which will be managed by county parks staff—includes two drones as well as Federal Aviation Administration-mandated training and licensing for four staff members. Drone uses related to law enforcement are not part of the program as approved Tuesday.
Commissioners approved the $10,000 program on consent without discussion. A general parks donation fund will cover the costs, according to county documents.
County park land management and park forestry staff requested the drones in order to capture aerial footage of inaccessible locations. From calculating flood damage to monitoring wildfires or prescribed burns, the goal of the program, as stated in county documents, is to more thoroughly manage hundreds of acres of green space, flood-prone parks and flood buyout properties.
Recent flooding events in Travis County highlight the need for better information and quicker access to flooded and remote park areas.
Staff have reported delays in flood-damage assessments or hiking for hours to remote areas to monitor prescribed burns.
Drone use is expected to be safer and more efficient in these instances—reducing staff time, increasing asset protection and protecting personal safety.