The process for participation in the UAS program may vary from agency to agency, or even region to region. However, UAS agency program leads agree the process starts with communication. The downstream goal is for regions to develop a vision and plan for UAS that outlines the number of pilots each region would like to maintain. That information will inform a training plan to meet the demand.
But for the would-be pilot read on below...
If you are interested in becoming qualified to operate UAS for your agency, please start having that conversation with your local unit leadership and/or aviation officer. Besides your interest, you'll discuss how UAS can benefit your unit or zone. You'll also discuss what type of time and financial commitment may be required. Discuss and grow what UAS and a UAS program means on your unit. In the end, make sure you have that initial conversation locally.
Local unit bought in!? Great - now what? Participation in the UAS program is generally managed at the regional aviation manager level. So, once you have the local unit on board it's time to reach out to your regional UAS coordinator (or designee). For some areas and agencies this may be your State Aviation Manager or Regional Aviation Manager. Much like Step 1, it's time to discuss your interest and your local unit's vision for a UAS program. Be thoughtful about how UAS could not only help you, but interdisciplinary colleagues and interagency partners.
If Step 1 and Step 2 go to plan, the national UAS program managers (agency specific) are made aware by regional aviation managers of their respective candidates to enter the program.
The information from the UAS program managers is forwarded to the National Interagency UAS Training Program to inform the number of classes and locations. This process occurs only once a year - usually in the spring and will inform the next full training cycle (September - June). If you were successful following the steps above, you may be on that list and will be contacted by a UAS Training Coordinator to begin your preparation towards enrollment.
Prioritization and selection for enrollment towards becoming a pilot candidate occurs every October. The National Interagency UAS Training Program facilitates the prioritization exercise with national UAS program leaders. Once prioritization is complete, pilot candidates will be notified of their acceptance and enrollment into a planned session at least 60 days prior to scheduled delivery.