Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Planning

PAS QuickNotes 79

By Richard Stephens


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The term unmanned/uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) refers to an unmanned/uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV or “drone”), its remote controller, and (unless fully autonomous) its remote pilot. Because these systems can provide real-time visual or spatial information at a fraction of the cost of crewed aircraft, a growing number of communities are exploring opportunities to integrate drones into their planning activities.

This edition of PAS QuickNotes provides a brief overview of drone technology and regulations and highlights three specific ways communities can use unmanned aircraft to improve planning processes.

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Page Count
Date Published
April 1, 2019
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Richard Stephens
My professional experience spans 42 years in planning and design, creating meaningful and memorable projects in 40 countries*. My focus is to help communities become innovative and vibrant with experiential environments that have strong sense of place. PLANNING Aviation Planning - airport facility planning and design including master plans, layout plans, system plans, environmental assessment, regulatory compliance. Community Planning - project management, master planning, land use and development, resort and tourism planning, international planning. Emergency Management - urban resiliency, post-disaster planning, urban regeneration. DESIGN Experiential Design - perceptual and psychological design with multi-media. Regenerative Design - sustainable development, eco-cities, smart cities. Urban Design - design guidelines, site plans, public art, graphic design. INFORMATION & COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY Geospatial Analysis & Cartography - geocoding, interactive mapping, 3D modeling. Multimedia - website design, photography/videography, presentation media. Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Urban Air Mobility - applications, emergency services, environmental design. TEACHING & TRAINING University - urban planning, international affairs, business administration, emergency management. Technical - aviation/aeronautics, graphics, photography/videography. Presentations - commissioner/council training, public forums, conferences/congresses. COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT Planning Events - design charrettes, workshops, open houses... Social Media - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube... Publication - hypertext documentation, infographics, photosimulation... *Australia, Austria, Azores, Belgium, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, England. Estonia, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, United States, Wales Ric Stephens is a Senior Aviation Planner for NV5 responsible for airport, heliport, eco-district, eco-industrial development, and master planning. Ric is the immediate past president for the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) which represents over 600 professional planners in more than 80 countries. He is currently adjunct faculty for several universities in the Pacific Northwest as well as overseas, and an international planning consultant/advisor. Ric is an FAA-certified remote pilot and instructor currently authoring the PAS Report “Drone Applications for Planners”.