Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), commonly known as drones, are increasingly popular in our community, even though restricted from flying in much of Northern Virginia’s airspace due to the proximity of major airports and military airfields. Drones may not be flown legally anywhere in Mason District because of the federal 15-mile no-fly zone proscription. Beyond the entertainment value, however, UAVs may have very beneficial uses for public safety procedures, such as search and rescue, large-scale natural or manmade disasters, and life safety operations. UAVs could give incident commanders a better opportunity to oversee and manage a critical incident or event, determine how widespread the event might be, and livestream that information to first responders during the incident. UAVs could be a force multiplier for existing operational resources, but would not be intended to replace helicopters.
During a demonstration last year at a Public Safety Committee meeting, the drone on display fit into a container slightly larger than a standard briefcase. Drones could be flown into tight quarters and closer to the ground than a police helicopter could fly, without the noise and crew needed for the chopper. As explained to the board committee members, a drone has a designated “pilot” trained to maneuver the drone and interpret what is being seen. The Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) program and policy, under consideration for public safety use, does not include covert police surveillance operations.
Privacy issues were front and center during the committee discussion last year, and the board deferred action on drone policy development and privacy protection until more input from the community could be obtained and analyzed. The first of a series of meetings about using UAVs for public safety operations in Fairfax County will be this Monday, Jan. 14, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale. The formal presentation will begin at 7 p.m. You can view the proposed program and additional information about UAVs/drones at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/uas. Comments about the program may be submitted online at the same address through Close of Business on Feb. 8, 2019.
The movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” memorialized the legend that every time a bell rings, another angel earns its wings. Well, every time a new business opens in Mason District, it means more jobs and revenue for Fairfax County residents. On Saturday, I was pleased to participate in the Grand Opening of the Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet, an attractive new restaurant at 5900 Leesburg Pike, in the Glen Forest Shopping Center. Diners were welcomed by a couple of energetic Lion Dance performers, accompanied by the rhythmic beats of a traditional, and loud, Asian drum. The new restaurant features Chinese, Japanese, and American cuisine in a bright and colorful setting, with row upon row of buffet selections, and two large party rooms for private events. To add to the experience, professional Hibachi chefs will cook your selected meats and vegetables right in front of you. Yum! Hibachi Grill is open seven days a week, for lunch and dinner. Senior citizens and active military personnel get a 10 percent discount. .
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.