For Immediate Release

September 10, 2014
Contact: Kristie Greco
Phone: 202-267-3883


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday, Sept. 10 approved an Emergency Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for the use of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in the search for a missing woman near Dallas, Texas. The agency approves Emergency COAs for natural disaster relief, search and rescue operations and other urgent circumstances. In this case, the FAA granted the Emergency COA in less than 24 hours.

The Emergency COA was issued to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of Gaithersburg, Md., at the request of the Plano Police Department. Under the Emergency COA, a contractor for NIST will be able to operate an unmanned aircraft from Sept. 11, 2014 until sunset Sept. 15. The contractor, Gene Robinson, is affiliated with Texas EquuSearch, a non-profit organization that assists with locating missing individuals. 

Further background

The FAA issues COAs on an emergency basis when: 1) a situation exists in which there is distress or urgency and there is an extreme possibility of a loss of life; 2) the proponent has determined that manned flight operations cannot be conducted efficiently; and 3) the proposed UAS is operating under a current approved COA for a different purpose or location. The FAA also uses the COA process to authorize operations for civil (non-governmental) aircraft that have an airworthiness certificate.

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