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February 14, 2023

An Innovative and Cost-Effective Approach to Surveying; Introducing Genesis 1

Skagit County Public Works is seeking to launch a small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) program in the spring of 2023. The sUAS (“aka” Drone) Program would support an FAA-certified commercial remote pilot using proven hardware and software solutions for safe and efficient data gathering for departmental projects.

This program would provide the following services in a safe, efficient, and cost-effective manner—saving both time and taxpayer dollars:

  • Topographic mapping of existing County infrastructure such as roads, facilities, trails, bridges, parks, and solid-waste projects.
  • Inventory management of newly constructed County infrastructure.
  • Volumetric measurement for management of County pits, quarries, and stockpile material resources.
  • Safety inspections of County infrastructure, including hard-to-reach locations.
  • Situational awareness and damage assessment of storms, floods, earthquakes, and landslides by providing video, still photos, and other electronic data of the disaster area.

“Using sUAS technology will be huge for the County,” said Public Works Director, Grace Kane. “Surveying using the drone will take a third less time than traditional mapping and will cost nearly half as much, allowing us to focus staff time and resources on other critical projects.”

The certified remote pilot would operate under a locally developed and approved set of standards for Skagit County and would follow specific requirements for data management. Public Works' select commercial pilots must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and commercial drones must be registered with the FAA and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). Public Works will be using a Drone Model DJI Matrice 300 RTK—nicknamed “Genesis 1” by county staff.

This aircraft will not be used to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute, ordinance, regulation, or rule, except as authorized by state and federal law. The sUAS Program will not: a) be used to unlawfully harass or intimidate persons; b) be used to conduct personal business of any type; or c) be used for any flight operations prohibited by 14 CFR Part 107 regulations unless FAA waivers or authorizations have been acquired.

A public hearing regarding the proposed draft sUAS policy is scheduled for February 28th, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. in the Commissioners' Hearing Room located at 1800 Continental Place in Mount Vernon. A virtual option is also available for those who would like to participate online. Use the following link to log into the meeting: https://bit.ly/SkagitBoCCMtg.

For information about the Public Works’ Drone Program, visit www.skagitcounty.net/drone. For question, please email pw@co.skagit.wa.us or call (360) 416-1400.