Author(s): Jesse Roman. Published on September 14, 2021.

Drone Smarts

A new NFPA training program helps fire departments set up compliant drone programs


For the modern fire service, aerial drones have proven to be a valuable tool across a range of incidents, including search and rescue, wildfire, inspection, emergency mapping, and more.

And yet, there’s a big problem: Surveys indicate that a lack of training and knowledge about how to set up a compliant drone program is preventing many departments from fully embracing the technology. Some departments are forging ahead anyway, opening themselves up to lawsuits and inviting potential safety hazards, according to experts.

Addressing this training-and-knowledge gap is the intent behind NFPA’s comprehensive new drone training course. Developed with input from public safety drone experts, the four-hour course is free to the US fire service at

RELATED: Read an article from NFPA Journal about the creation of NFPA 2400

The new training is built around NFPA 2400, Standard for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Used for Public Safety Operations, and uses videos, interactivity, and gaming mechanics to teach trainees how to build and maintain a public safety drone program that takes into account accredited standards as well as Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

The project is part of a nearly $1 million grant NFPA received at the end of 2019 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In addition to creating the course, NFPA will also maintain a database to track fire service drone programs and usage and to connect agencies across the country.

“As we’ve seen with NFPA training for alternative fuel vehicles and energy storage systems, the fire service is eager to learn about emerging technologies that may present new hazards, or in this case help mitigate and monitor safety challenges,” Christian Dubay, NFPA vice president and chief engineer, said shortly after the FEMA grant was announced. “The new educational resources and portal will help fire departments across the country confidently establish and maintain public safety drone programs.”

As part of the effort to build the training portal, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) and researchers at Oklahoma State University undertook an exhaustive review of the best practices at safety agencies across the country. That included surveying more than 80 departments, hosting a workshop attended by public safety drone experts, and conducting an academic literature review to assess the current level of safety-department drone usage and understanding, as well as the policies and standards they follow. The result of that effort is a report titled “Public Safety Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) Compliance Training: Literature Review & Case Study,” which will be out soon.

Visit to register for the new drone training program.

JESSE ROMAN is senior editor at NFPA Journal. Top photograph: Getty Images