FAA Issues Final Ruling on Remote ID For Drones

On Dec. 28, the FAA released its much anticipated Final Rule on Remote Identification of Unmanned Aircraft (Part 89).

The ruling will affect just about everyone flying a drone within United States airspace, especially commercial drone pilots.

If you are not familiar with the Remote ID issue, the FAA believes it is the next step in bringing drones further into the National Airspace System.

The administration is always concerned with safety and security. Since drones started to become popular a few years ago, regulators have struggled to monitor their use.

What Does a Remote ID Accomplish?

You may recall incidents in the last few years where drones forced the temporary shutdown of airports.

For example, in January 2019, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey had to hold all flights for about 90 minutes when pilots noticed a small drone near the runway.

Rogue drones, as they are sometimes called, are of great concern to the FAA. Rogue drones and their pilots are difficult to monitor and prevent.

In theory, Remote ID will solve that problem. The new rule will essentially require a remote ID transmitter to broadcast both the drone’s and pilot’s locations, as well as identification information.

Broadcasting the locations will allow law enforcement, along with other public and private agencies, to know who is flying, and where, at all times.

About the FAA's Final Ruling

The final ruling has been a year in the making. In December 2019, the FAA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the remote identification of UAVs.

Over 53,000 comments were received regarding the NPRM in the first two months that followed its publication. The FAA reviewed each of these prior to publishing the final ruling.

The rule gives drone operators three ways to meet the identification requirements.

  • The first option is to fly a drone with the built-in capability to broadcast identification and location information for both the drone and the remote control (control station). For most pilots, that isn’t an option, but will be soon.

    Eventually, the FAA will require manufacturers to include this feature in their drones. For now, there will be an 18-month grace period for manufactures to begin producing remote ID capable UAVs.

    Drones with this feature will have a better chance at operating Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) and at night without a waiver.

  • The next option to remain in compliance with remote ID is to fly a drone that uses an add-on remote ID transmitting device.

    For most pilots and organizations with an existing fleet of drones, this will be the primary option. We are likely to see in the next few months, several manufacturers developing these transmitters.

    An operator using this method will need to maintain visual sight of the drone at all times.

  • Option three will apply only to community-based organizations and educational institutions.

    If approved by the FAA, these groups can establish FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIAs) where drones can fly without broadcasting remote ID information and location.

 
FAA Remote ID Rule

So, When Do Drone Operators Need to Comply with the New Ruling?

The deadline for compliance depends on which of the three options for remote ID you plan to use.

If you intend to follow the remote ID rule by flying a drone with a built-in transmitter, after Feb. 26, you have 18 months to comply. If you are using an add-on remote ID device, after Feb. 26, you have 30 months to be compliant.

Entities looking to establish FRIAs can begin doing so immediately.

What's Next?

There was initially some discussion that remote ID would require a monthly subscription, but that will not be the case, at least from the FAA.

Other concerns have centered around privacy issues. Some of the most prominent players in the space, such as Google’s Wing, have reservations about location broadcasting, as opposed to self-identification. For now, we will need to wait and see how things roll out.

Enforcing the new rule will be a responsibility of the FAA. This will be a significant undertaking, and it is not yet clear if the resources will be available to handle this, especially when considering rogue drone activities.

The bottom line is that, whether you have an in-house built drone or an off-the-shelf UAV, if you are flying in United States airspace, you will eventually need to broadcast your location and identification.

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Everything You Need to Know About The Part 107 Night Waiver

Commercial drone pilots with an sUAS Part 107 license find work in a variety of fields.

Industries around the world are adopting UAV technology for a wide range of use cases. You and your organization might already be taking advantage of drones.

If so, you may also have faced some of the frustrations inherent in the limitations of the Part 107.

While the Part 107 allows drone pilots to fly for commercial purposes, there are several rules they must follow. Pilots are not allowed to fly over people, fly at night, operate above 400 feet above ground level, and more. The limitations can be annoying at best and reduce the beneficial impact of UAV technology.

One of the more common limitations pilots face is flying at night. Several UAV applications such as search & rescue operations and some thermal inspections may need to occur after the sun has set.

Thankfully, the FAA offers the 107.29 Daylight Operations waiver – otherwise known as the drone night waiver.

What is Different at Night?

The FAA implemented the daylight operation rule for good reason.

The human eye performs differently at night than it does during the day. Cones, the part of the eye responsible for detecting color, perform poorly in low light.

Additionally, the eye sees halos around light, blind spots occur near the center point of your vision, and objects can appear blurry.

All of these factors can become dangerous when flying a drone.

Getting a 107.29 Waiver

While it is great that the FAA has a waiver process in place, the path to obtaining a waiver is not well defined.

The FAA offers a guide to completing waivers; however, it leaves much of the details for the individual to figure out. Then, you need to wait approximately 90 days to see if you are approved or not.

Given the lack of a well-defined path to waivers, the average commercial drone pilot or organization will benefit significantly from expert assistance. Seek the professional opinion of people who have already received the waiver you are applying for.

Drone consultancy firms are excellent resources for anyone looking for help in developing a solid waiver application.

When developing a waiver application for flying at night, your primary goal is to show the FAA you and your organization can fly safely after the sun has gone down.

This is especially true when you consider the difficulties our eyes have at seeing in the dark.

What Your Night Waiver Application Should Include

Your application should include your operation’s safety specifics, explain how you will conduct flying UAVs at night, and how you plan to manage and mitigate safety risks.

When discussing safety specifics, the FAA is looking for the general information that describes your operations. You should identify where you plan to operate at night, how high you plan to fly, the size of your drone, and what type of high visibility lights you are using on the drone.

Lights should be bright white or red, and be visible from at least three miles away.

 

Related: Here’s What You Need to Know About the BVLOS Waiver

 

It should be noted that you will also need to discuss the number of people involved in your UAV night operations. If all you have is a remote pilot in command, your application will probably be denied. Assume you will need at least one pilot and one visual observer for every night flight.

Your concept of operations should discuss the general flow of an actual night flight. Your application needs to cover everything from pre-flight to post-flight procedures.

Here, you will also want to identify the training your pilots and observers have had. Training should include both normal drone operations and specific training on flying drones at night.

The section on safety risk management should include identifying hazards and how you plan to mitigate them. Think of everything that could go wrong, from issues with the drone to human error.

Once the risks are called out, how do you plan to make them less of a risk? Will you have additional observers, more training, or only use drones with safety features like “return to home” functions?

Developing all three of these sections can be challenging. If you do not have an expert on your team, look to consultancy firms to help.

Ready to Apply For Your Night Waiver?

With an average of 90 days for the FAA to determine if your application is acceptable, make the most of your application and seek an expert’s assistance for all your Part 107 waiver needs.

You’ll need to carefully construct a thorough application, which takes time, resources, and extensive knowledge of your use-case. Want to improve your chances? We’re here to help!

At Consortiq, our drone consultant team specializes in creating the right plan for your specific situation. Whether you need to fly at night, over people, or beyond your line of sight, we’ve helped companies around the world obtain specialized waivers in order to achieve their specific goals. We’re ready to help you get your drone safely into the sky.

And, we’ll train your team of pilots to ensure that you’re always within airspace & safety guidelines.

Would you rather just hire a team to go out and do the work for you? We do that, too!

Just complete the form below to get started with your risk-free consultation today!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

What You Need to Know About Flying Your Drone Over People

Whether you’re a drone pilot in the United States or the United Kingdom, you’ll have your fair share of regulatory limitations from either the FAA or CAA.

You may already know that you’re not able to fly out of your visual line of sight without a waiver. But, did you also know that flying over people requires similar approval?

Unless people are directly involved with the drone operation, located under a covered structure, or protected inside a stationary vehicle, you cannot fly over them.

Let’s start with the “why.”

Why Can't You Fly a Drone Over People?

Quick answer: It’s dangerous.

As with most any other regulation, it’s about safety.

The main concern posed by airspace regulatory agencies is that the drone will fall and cause injury. Many of the most popular drone models, such as DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro, weigh about three pounds.

If an error occurred while the drone was flying at 400 feet (i.e. losing GPS signal), the impact would produce 16,259 Newtons of force. That’s more than enough to kill a person fairly easily.

Additionally, drone rotors spin between 5,000 and 7,000 rpm. At that speed, the propellers become incredibly dangerous to bystanders. A gust of wind at the wrong time could lead to major lacerations.

Now, you might think it’s easy not to lose control of your drone, but that’s not always true. In the video below, you’ll see that an emergency landing was necessary after the device lost GPS signal. Had people been under the drone, the results could have been disastrous.

U.S. FAA Regulation

FAA § 107.39 states that, if you’re flying over any part of a person, even just an extended arm, it’s considered as “Operations Over Human Beings.”


The only exception to the rule is when people are directly participating with drone operation. Examples of that might include the remote pilot, the visual observer, and anyone who might maintain the perimeter to keep others out of the area of operation during flight.


Thankfully, the FAA offer a waiver to that rule. Like all waivers, it helps if an expert is there to assist you in the application process is quite thorough. It also takes about 90 days to get that waiver reviewed and approved/disapproved.

It’s also not easy to obtain. As of Oct. 15, 2020, the FAA has granted only 153 flight over people waivers. The good news is that 64 of those have been approved in 2020.

The increase in approvals this year suggests that with a professional and well-developed application, the FAA is comfortable with trusting qualified operators to fly over people.

Perhaps the most important part of the FAA’s mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. As flying a drone over people can certainly raise safety concerns, the FAA made sure this was specifically called out as one of the limitations of the Part 107 sUAS license.

How to Get the “Flying Over People” Waiver

The FAA wants you to address two issues when applying for the waiver.

First, they would like to understand the likelihood of an accident occurring as you are flying your drone over people. Second, they would like to know the severity of potential injuries caused by your drone hitting someone should there be a malfunction or operator error.

 

Related Article: BVLOS Waiver – What You Need to Know

 

Likelihood is primarily a review of how safe your operation of UAVs is. As an organization that uses drones for commercial purposes, you have probably established standard operating procedures and training manuals.

In addition to these materials, the FAA would like to see detailed records of any incidents that happen, which shouldn’t normally occur. Examples might include drone malfunctions or pilots crashing drones into people or property.

For incidents such as those mentioned, you should identify any hazards or trends that have been recurring. More importantly, it would be best to show you have developed fixes for aircraft issues and have mitigations in place to prevent human errors.

Severity assumes a situation where a drone does fail will occur. If this situation were to happen, how bad could the potential damage be?

To mitigate the potential damage, the FAA looks for drones to fall into one of three categories.

Category 1 drones are very small, typically less than 0.55 pounds. A UAV of this weight is not likely to cause any damage.

Category 2 drones are considered to cause a minimal amount of injury or damage. The drone’s kinetic impact should not be capable of exceeding 11 ft. pounds of energy transfer.

Category 3 drones can cause more damage, not to exceed 25 ft. pounds of energy transfer.

Likelihood and severity combined help to determine whether or not a waiver is granted. To have the best chance of getting approval to fly over people, most organizations should consult the help of experts in the field.

By some estimates the rejection rate for these waivers is in the high 90% range. A reputable drone consulting firm will be able to access your organization’s needs and prepare you for the application process.

A 107.39 waiver can open a whole new world of opportunities for your UAV operations. Take the time to understand the balance between likelihood and severity for your organization. Develop appropriate mitigation techniques to make your operations safe and submit a waiver application with procedures and data to back up your claims of being a safe and responsible utilizer of UAV technology.

U.K. Regulation

Within the UK, Article 95(2)(d) states that you should never fly your drone or model aircraft closer than the defined legal distances. These are defined within the article as a distance of no less than 50 metres

However, with the introduction of the Drone and Model Aircraft Education and Registration Service (DMARES) last November (2019), and ‘several UAS incidents,’ the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had to issue a safety notice (Number: SN–2020/002) this past January.

The safety notice was to provide additional guidance to remote pilots in the form of suggested best practice when considering flight over people, in accordance with articles 95(2)(d) or 95(3) of the Air Navigation Order (ANO).

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Upcoming European UAS Regulations

It also served as a reminder to ensure operators were “reasonably satisfied that a flight can be safely made” (Air Navigation Order article 94(2)), as the law states.

When the 50m rule was introduced within the ANO, some ambiguity surrounded it.

Examples such as ‘string attached to the drone,’ or it being referred to as the ‘50m bubble’ rule, have been discussed at length. Where flights that need to be conducted within congested areas, and where careful planning is essential, we’ve seen operators use the Pythagorean theorem to work out the minimum viable distance and heights to stay legal.

Either way, the rules are clear and simple:

  • Never fly closer than 50m to people.
  • Distance can be reduced for take-off and landing to 30m. 

Even though hovering your drone at ‘51m’ directly above an uninvolved person may be legal and, as per Article 95, it’s safer to avoid flying or hovering directly over them, you’re responsible for flying safely whenever you fly (Article 94(2)).

Crowds of more than 1,000 people

If you want to fly near crowds greater than 1000 uninvolved persons, the 50m rule extends to 150m.

The standard states that you can fly above uninvolved persons, but that’s not the case for gatherings of this size. As an operator, you are never to fly above crowds at any height. 

A crowd is defined as any organised, open-air gathering of more than 1,000 people.

This includes:

  • Sporting events
  • Music festivals or concerts
  • Marches or rallies
  • Carnivals

Within the UK, if you want to operate within these restrictions, you will need to apply to the UK’s CAA for an Operating Safety Case (OSC) to reduce these distances. You’ll also need to have deep pockets, and your organisation must have operating experience that clearly demonstrates safe, compliant and competent operations.

Bringing It All Together

No matter where you’re flying, you’ll need some type of clearance to fly over people … or to avoid doing it altogether.

If your job requires drone flights over people to limit shutdowns and disruption, or to capture more compelling footage, then we’re here to help you achieve those goals. The best way to get started is to speak with our team of UAS experts as part of a risk-free drone consultation.

Whether you want the know-how to do it yourself and the waivers to go along with it, or you’d rather us do the work for you, we’ve got you covered.

There’s no reason to put a limit on your innovation. With Consortiq, there’s always a better way. Complete the form below to schedule your consultation, drone training, or drone service today!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Operation? Complete This Form to Get Started!

BVLOS Waiver: Here’s What You Need to Know

How to Use Your Drone Beyond Visual Line of Sight

Many technological advances within the drone industry are limited in real-world applications, due solely to unfavorable regulations.

For example, in the United States, commercial drone pilots must always maintain a visual line of sight with any drone they are operating. While technology allows for flight well beyond this limit, such operation would be illegal without changing regulations.

A classic example of the negative impact of this regulation can be found in oil pipeline inspections. Pipelines extend for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles across vast landscapes.

Drones can cover these distances much more efficiently than humans can. However, under current regulations, operators are required to move every two-to-three miles in order to keep the drone within sight. Thus, the benefit of using the drone is not maximized.

Thankfully, if you’re willing to do the work, you can get a waiver from the FAA, or other airspace authorization body, to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS).

While getting that waiver is possible, you’re more likely to be approved with expert help. Here’s what to know about the BVLOS waiver.

What is a BVLOS Waiver?

Each country has its own rules and regulations regarding a BVLOS waiver.

As an example, we will use the United States. Once a commercial drone pilot has a Part 107 license from the FAA, that pilot can begin flying … within the license’s limits.

 

Related: The Benefits of Part 107 Test Preparation Courses

 

Every remote pilot in command must operate the drone in a manner that allows them to see the drone and its orientation at all times. With a Part 107.31 Visual Line of Sight Aircraft Operation waiver, though, you can fly without having a visual fix on the drone.

For example, let’s assume that you’re flying your drone around a large, cylindrical storage tank at an oil refinery inspecting for signs of corrosion. If you only have a Part 107 license, you will need to walk around the tank as your drone inspects it, always keeping an eye on its location.

With a Part 107.31, you can let the drone fly behind the tank — out of your line of sight — and complete the task more quickly.

How to Get the BVLOS Waiver

The FAA has issued very few Part 107.31 waivers.

In fact, as of October 2020, only 61 have been approved. By comparison, the FAA has issued well over 4,000 waivers for flying at night.

Your hopes of getting a waiver will depend on the strength of your BVLOS waiver application. Given the low number of approved applications to date, you’ll want to consult an expert.

 

Related: UAS Night Operations – Are You Still in the Dark?

 

While there’s no template for a successful BVLOS waiver published by the FAA, successful applications have had a few common elements which you should include to increase your chances of approval.

Let’s break those elements down a bit.

 

Standard Operating Procedures

 

Standard operating procedures highlight the professionalism and experience inherent within your organization.

These should be well organized, and cover everything from onboarding and training to all aspects of drone operations in which you or your pilots participate. To increase your chances of success, make sure that your procedures include the type of work you are looking to accomplish with a BVLOS waiver.

 

C2 Equipment

 

Next, you’ll want to include a detailed explanation of your command & control (C2) equipment.

C2 is an essential part of the application. The FAA will want to know what transmitters you are using to control the drone, in great detail.

You’ll also need to identify the maximum range of your transmitter ,and how you plan to maintain control of the drone at all times. To do that, make sure to include information about the equipment’s FCC ID number, both on the ground control station and on the drone.

 

Flight Safety

 

Flight safety is perhaps the most critical section.

After all, you are requesting a waiver based on your assurance that operations will remain safe at all times. It’s best practice to have a well-developed mitigation plan for every reasonable situation which could arise.

That plan should include a synopsis on how you will detect and avoid collisions, or other dangers. This will be a significant focus of the approval process.

Ready to Apply?

Getting you BVLOS waiver is possible, but you’ve got some work ahead of you.

You’ll need to carefully construct a thorough application, which takes time, resources, and extensive knowledge of your use-case. Want to improve your chances? We’re here to help!

At Consortiq, our drone consultant team specializes in creating the right plan for your specific situation. Whether you need to fly at night, over people, or beyond your line of sight, we’ve helped companies around the world obtain specialized waivers in order to achieve their specific goals. We’re ready to help you get your drone safely into the sky.

And, we’ll train your team of pilots to ensure that you’re always within airspace & safety guidelines.

Would you rather just hire a team to go out and do the work for you? We do that, too!

Just complete the form below to get started with your risk-free consultation today!

 

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

The Benefits of Part 107 Test Preparation Courses

Passing the FAA’s Part 107 test is the first step in becoming a commercial drone pilot.

If your business is looking to develop an in-house drone program, all pilots will need to pass the exam. As with most exams, preparation is key to success.

While there are many methods for learning the material, few are as beneficial as Part 107 test preparation courses offered by experienced drone consulting firms.

The Part 107 test covers a range of topics, including airspace classification, weather, UAV loading, airport operations, and more. For anyone without an aviation background, the material can be a bit overwhelming at first.

With expert assistance, the seemingly complicated will become easy to understand.

Many Part 107 test preparation courses have FAA exam pass rates in the high 90% range.

The Exam Itself

Before we discuss the merits of test preparation courses, a quick breakdown of the exam will explain why learning from experts is helpful.

The test is 60 multiple choice questions, each with three answers (A, B, and C) to choose from. The two-hour exam requires a score of 70% or above is passing.

There are five major categories covered, which test a person’s understanding of general aeronautical knowledge. The categories, and the percent of exam questions each represents, are 15-25% related to regulations, 15-25% cover airspace & requirements, 11-16% deal with an understanding of weather, 7-11% for loading and performance, and finally, 35-45% focus on operations.

One of the areas many people learning the material for the first time have difficulty understanding is how to read sectional aeronautical charts (sectionals) and their many symbols.

If you have never seen these charts, they are 1:500,000 scale maps with information on airspace classification and restrictions every pilot needs to understand.

Questions will test the examinee’s ability to plot locations using latitude and longitude coordinates and identify features at plotted grids. Sectionals are one of the best topics to have an expert teach you.

The benefits of Part 107 test preparation extend well beyond questions related to sections.

Part 107 Test Preparation

Except for a few people (primarily individuals who already have a pilot’s license), just about everyone will benefit from a Part 107 test preparation course.

If you or your team are still considering whether test preparation is necessary, consider these benefits before deciding to learn the material on your own.

Test preparation courses are designed and taught by experts in the field. It is one thing to read the information from a slide or study guide, and another to understand the material through first-hand experiences.

Well-established programs for Part 107 test preparation are built by people who have years of experience in general aviation and, specifically, UAVs. Having taken and passed the test, these individuals understand the types of questions present on the examination. They also know how to teach others the material and address any problem topics for students during the course.

In addition to learning from experts in the field, test preparation courses make the test-taking process easier.

Studies have shown that students who participate in test preparation courses have higher confidence levels in the material and exhibit lower anxiety levels during the exam.

Part of the expert instruction received during Part 107 test preparation courses is advice on efficiently answering questions. Instructors discuss the amount of time each question should take and when it is time to skip a question and return to it later.

This builds confidence that keeps a study calmer during the examination.

Another valuable part of Part 107 test preparation courses relates to additional study materials.

Flashcards, study guides, slide presentations, and practice exams all help students master the material. A deeper understanding is developed in students through supplemental materials. Studies have also shown these learning aids lead to higher test scores.

The Part 107 exam covers a lot of material that most people will have never seen before. Test preparation services are a great way for the average person to learn the material and pass the exam. 

Take advantage of the experts who design and teach preparation courses. The time and money you invest will increase your chance of passing the exam and make the entire experience more enjoyable.

Ready to book your FAA Part 107 Essentials Plus course? Get started here, or complete the form below to connect with our team!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

How drones could prevent utility equipment from starting forest fires

The 2018 Camp Fire forest fires resulted in over $16 billion in damage, claimed 85 lives, and was recorded as the 13th deadliest wildfire in California’s state history.

According to state investigators, the fire started when a hook on a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) electrical transmission tower (Tower 27/222) broke during heavy winds, dropping a wire which threw sparks into the dry brush below.

PG&E has received a lot of flak for failing to take basic precautions which would have likely prevented this catastrophe.

What do you mean?

For starters, the Caribou-Palermo transmission line – of which Tower 27/222 was a part – was originally built in 1921, meaning it was around 97 years old in 2018.

Despite owning the line since 1930, PG&E had not replaced much of the original hardware. State regulators claim that PG&E’s inspection and maintenance plan for the transmission line prior to the fire was “ineffective,” and a report by the Butte County District Attorney called PG&E’s reliance on outdated and under-inspected equipment “negligent and reckless.”

An obvious way for PG&E to protect its credibility, moving forward, would be to make a notable improvement in its inspection protocol.

I’m guessing this snapshot is going to have something to do with drone inspections.

That’s right.

But, let’s do an overview of what’s being inspected first.

PG&E operates over 5,000 miles of high-voltage wires in Califirnia’s drought-prone forests. To make matters worse, the Wall Street Journal analyzed PG&E’s 20 “worst performing lines,” and found that 16 of them are in high-risk fire areas.

The combination of failure-prone transmission lines in fire-prone areas is thought to be a significant and unacceptable hazard, and a recipe for a repeat of 2018.

Part of the solution is more frequent inspections, but many lines and towers are hard to reach, making those inspections and resulting repairs difficult. That’s where drones come in.

PG&E is upgrading its system inspections program by using drones, computer vision, and machine learning, to better detect problems before another fire is started. 

How do drone inspection solutions work?

In a nutshell, drones are deployed to gather data such as thermal imaging, LiDAR, and sometimes multispectral imaging, for critical infrastructure, such as distribution poles and transmission towers.

This generates terabytes and terabytes of data.

Computer vision and machine learning are then trained to classify this data and identify subtle deviations from the norm, such as the beginnings of corrosion or other damage to components.

This helps utility companies prioritize which components to replace or keep a close eye on before things get out of hand, as they did in the case of the Camp Fire.

How far along is PG&E’s program?

PG&E’s program — which has been in development since at least 2016 — is currently being used to predict how transmission equipment will handle high-wind events, to help operations staff prioritize maintenance work, and to help PG&E leadership decide whether to shut off power to a high-risk area during severe weather conditions.

Although high fire-risk areas are a top priority, the plan is to expand to lower risk areas and inspect over 15,000 miles of electrical lines in 2020.

What are the main benefits of a drone inspection program like this?

There are many.

First, these types of programs can relieve inspectors and electrical workers of routine tasks. For instance, during the inspection process, a program like the one described can alleviate the need to scan hundreds of images of each structure in a high-fire-risk area to find a right-of-way or access path for maintenance and repair workers.

This allows for more focus to be put on identifying and mitigating fire risks. 

Second, once the computer vision and machine learning are adequately trained, these programs can reduce human error and speed up response time when issues are found. 

Finally, by reducing the need for manned inspections, drone inspection programs can reduce safety hazards for the inspection crews of utilities companies like PG&E. (For more information on how drones improve infrastructure inspections, see our article, “Three Reasons Drones Improve Infrastructure Inspections.”)

Will this program prevent future forest fires?

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) estimates that about 10 percent of the state’s wildfires are triggered by power lines.

A 10% reduction in wildfires would be a notable accomplishment for California, especially given the large scale of recent incidents, such as the Camp Fire.

(It’s also worth noting that federal investigators are looking into whether the more recent Bobcat Fire could have been caused by another utility company’s faulty equipment.)

The good news is that PG&E’s case seems to be inspiring other utility companies to develop similar drone programs. At the end of 2019, San Diego Gas & Electric started using drones and computer vision to inspect its distribution equipment in high-risk areas.

And similarly, in March of 2020, Southern California Edison announced that it was piloting a program that uses drones to inspect distribution and transmission lines in high-risk fire areas.

But unfortunately, better inspections by themselves will not eliminate the risk of utility-driven forest fires.

California has 25,526 miles of higher voltage transmission lines, and 239,557 miles of distribution lines, two-thirds of which are overhead, according to the CPUC. 

Since it’s so hard to maintain and inspect overhead lines – especially old ones –  many have suggested that the only truly effective way to prevent future forest fires is to move the lines underground, where harsh weather conditions are less likely to cause sparks.

But, according to PG&E’s website — Facts about Undergrounding Power Lines — it costs about $3 million per mile to convert underground electric distribution lines from overhead lines, and it costs $800,000 to build a mile of new overhead line.

So, until residents of California are willing to experience a massive hike in electricity costs, it’s likely that drones will be critical to minimizing the risks brought about by California’s aging electrical infrastructure.

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn is an experienced management professional who is currently pursuing her master’s in Data, Economics, and Development Policy at MIT while serving as principal consultant at Consult92.

Miriam developed a love for UAS technology when she served as operations manager at Consortiq. Today, having completed over 30 successful projects in 10 countries, she loves solving a wide variety of logistical, technical, and cultural challenges for her clients so that they can focus on what care about most.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

How to Pitch Drone Solutions to Leadership

The coronavirus pandemic placed a strain on many businesses. 

With a projected 5.2% reduction of global GDP in 2020, most everyone has felt the economic impact of the virus.

Some industries, such as tourism, will lose trillions of dollars in revenue, and millions of jobs worldwide. Other sectors might feel less of an impact, but they’re still taking the time to decrease spending as a precautionary measure.

Regardless of how severe the pandemic’s impact has been on your business, you have likely seen a decrease in expenditures. It’s human nature to be averse to change in times of uncertainty.

That response is, at times, unfortunate, particularly in the business world. That’s because, during times like these, exploring new technology may be most advantageous for the future.

Perhaps, before the pandemic, you read about drone solutions for commercial applications, and the many potential benefits the technology could offer your business or organization.

Maybe you’d like to explore adding drones solutions to your company, but you’re sure how to sell the idea to your leadership team. Decreased company spending may even have you concerned about discussing adoption of UAVs into the organization.

Of course, that’s perfectly normal. And, with proper preparation, you can overcome it.

Let’s discuss a few considerations on how to take advantage of the current economic conditions to successfully pitch bringing drones into your organization.

Drone Solutions Implementation: Making it Pitch Perfect

Investing in new technology can be a tough sell in any economic environment.

When looking to convince your supervisor to consider UAV technology, it is essential to present your findings in a manner that shows your understanding of the topic.

Remember, drone consultancy firms are a fantastic resource when researching drone applications and putting your case together for UAV integration.

Organize Your Presentation

First, make sure to properly organize your presentation.

Drones are proven, useful tools in a wide range of industries, so there’s plenty of available information. Make sure you understand the different types of drone hardware, payloads, and training needed to operate each platform. And, make sure you’re comfortable with explaining which ones are best suited for your specific use cases.

To ensure that you have an expert perspective, it’s best practice to speak with a drone consultancy firm, as consultants add in-depth knowledge based on experience designed to make your presentation a success.

Get the facts together on drone capabilities, as well as their limitations. Design your presentation so that the facts speak for themselves.

A well-organized brief will hold your audience’s attention and make it much easier for you to present your case.

Create a Unique Business Case

Next, show you understand how UAV technology applies to your specific business.

For example, drones are excellent tools in precision agriculture, discussing multispectral imagery may not be helpful if your primary business is in construction. Identify and present use cases from within your sector.

Also, you’ll need to identify specific benefits relevant to your company’s needs. Consider which of the many advantages drones provide will be most important to your supervisor, then break it down in a way he/she will understand.

Start Small and Build as Needed

While you may envision a fleet of UAVs and teams of pilots joining your organization, your supervisor perspective may see that as too much too soon.

Often, a trial program is the best way to generate buy-in from leadership.

Look to propose drone solutions designed to capture low-hanging fruit, such as improving safety by keeping people out of harm’s way. Small gains during a trial period are easy to transfer into more comprehensive programs at a later time.

And, of Course, ROI

Perhaps to best selling point from a supervisor’s perspective is the return on investment (ROI).

In most cases, ROI calculates what the company needs to invest in drone technology and how long it will take to see a return. This financial calculation is pretty straightforward, but it should not be the only way you discuss ROI.

Investing in new UAV technology can, of course, produce a financial return. But, other returns are worth discussing with upper management as well.

UAVs have given many industries improved safety ratings, eliminated redundancies, enhanced security, and provided customers with better products or services than realized through traditional methods.

Bringing It All Together

Drones solutions have been successfully proven across a wide range of use cases.

With a little research, and even some assistance from UAV consulting firms, you can successfully pitch exploring drone usage in your organization.

Creating an organized, factually supported brief with a focus on ROI is the best approach for briefing supervisors on the benefits of UAVs.

Ready to make your presentation? We’re here to help!

From operational support and drone training solutions, to online consultation and drones-as-a-service, our team of UAS experts is here to help you present your case and accomplish your goals!

Complete the form below to schedule a consultation today!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Here’s How Drones Improve Workplace Safety

There is often an understandable hesitation in moving from established methods towards adopting new technologies.

A Pew Research Center study found that only 28% of Americans liked to be early adopters of new innovations. Many organizations tend to wait for technology to prove itself before moving away from their current methods of addressing a problem or need.

One of the more recent technological advancements some people are hesitant to adopt are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones. Common reasons for the hesitation are privacy concerns, a lack of confidence in the technology, and perceived costs.

Additionally, there are concerns over regulatory conditions and legal variations from country to country.

Unlike other newer technologies, drones have already proven themselves. The list of successful use cases across many industries continues to grow every day. It is a fact that drones are a sustainable and economical solution for many applications.

For those looking for an additional reason to consider implementing drones into their operations, one of the most convincing arguments is related to safety.

Dangerous Conditions

Collectively, mankind has made incredible advancements.

From landing on the moon to harnessing the atom’s power, humans have accomplished much in the last 100 years alone. And yet, although we continue to discover and innovate, some of the most well-developed nations in the world still suffer from workplace fatalities.

Between 2018 and 2019, the United Kingdom reported workplace 147 fatalities. The number one cause of death in these cases was listed as falls from a height.

During the same period in the United States, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration reported a staggering 5,250 fatalities occurring in the workplace. Falls were again the largest cause of death (highway collisions were excluded from this count).

Many of these fatalities involved dangerous work tasks, such as utility inspections, that could have been accomplished by drones.

Part 107 Drone Pilot Training - Drone solutions - Consortiq
Improving Safety with Drones - Man flying a drone over a job site.

Drones, A Safer Solution

With so many fatalities, leaders and decision-makers must do everything they can to keep their employees out of harm’s way.

Safety discussions and personal protective equipment help mitigate situations like falls from a height. However, they cannot prevent them.

The only way to ensure some of these fatalities will not occur is to completely remove people from dangerous environments.

Drones are ideally suited to complete many of the tasks that place humans at dangerous heights.

Visual inspections of wind turbines, for example, put people hundreds of feet in the air. Inspection personnel are suspended with ropes as they methodically search for defects in the rotor, nacelle, tower, foundation, and electrical system of each wind turbine.

During the entire process, people are in danger of falling. Drones, on the other hand, can complete much of the inspection process without ever placing people in danger. Additionally, the versatility of payload options can allow for much more detailed data collection during the process.

Heights are not the only situations where drones can keep people out of harm’s way. UAVs can operate in smoke, high temperatures, toxic gas, confined spaces, dust, and radiation.

Another example of drones keeping people safe can be found in how we combat fires. Firefighters are often placed in burning buildings where flames, toxic smoke, and falling debris can quickly cause injury or death. Fire departments around the world are finding UAVs as a solution to keeping their teams safe.

Drones can assess the hot spots of a building and provide firefighters with situational awareness before they even approach a burning structure. They can then monitor the situation and keep track of individual firefighter locations, avoiding potential disaster if a team member is in danger. Drones provide an extra layer of safety between firefighters and flames.

Drones, A Safer Solution

With the ability to operate in the austere conditions, drones can easily help to lower workplace injuries and fatalities. In many cases, the technology eliminates the need to place people in dangerous environments all together.

Any loss of life or injury to people in the workplace is a tragedy. It is especially challenging to understand and process the loss when other options could have prevented the fatality. 

If your organization has yet to investigate how drones can improve your operations, ask if they can make your operation safer. You may find the return on invest in UAV technology is in keeping your people safe.

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Get More Accurate Data in Less Time With Aerial Surveys

There already exists an impressive list of use cases for drones across a diverse set of industries.

Some UAV applications are seeing positive but limited use, such as drones designed for planting trees. Other UAV solutions are becoming more widespread and commonplace. One of the most prevalent UAV solutions is aerial surveying.

Surveying is essential to many of the largest sectors of the global economy. Construction, mining, oil and gas, real estate, and several other industries rely on accurate survey data for building, project management, and other onsite operations.

Traditionally, these industries have used ground survey methods to collect the data needed to create outputs, such as 3D models, topographic maps, volumetric estimates, orthomosaics, and other photogrammetry products.

Drones are more cost-effective for the task than land-survey crews. And, for many businesses, they’re the best option available.

The benefits of aerial surveying are fueling greater adoption of UAV technology. If you’re looking for a faster, safer way to conduct surveys, then drone-use might just be the solution.

How Aerial Surveys Work

Drone aerial surveying is a form of photogrammetry, or measuring distance using pictures.

There are several programs on the market that make planning and executing aerial survey flights almost automatic. 

When conducting an aerial survey, remote pilots fly the drone  over the subject area, with the camera pointing downward. As the drone flies on a predetermined course, pictures are taken at different angles and in an overlapping fashion.

Additionally, the drone’s GPS receiver records coordinates for the center point of each photograph.

After photos are uploaded to photogrammetry software, the data is converted into any number of products, such as topographic maps or 3D models.

How Accurate Are Drone Aerial Surveys?

So, how accurate are they?

The short answer is that, with the right drone and additional equipment, they’re just as accurate as ground-based surveys. And, they cover more areas, such as dangerous terrain.

Aerial surveys include both relative and absolute accuracy. Relative accuracy is the accuracy between two images or points the drone collects. Absolute accuracy is how accurate the aerial survey is to the Earth’s surface.

Drones use GPS receivers to record the coordinates assigned to a given image they collect. GPS receivers. on most drones, have high relative accuracy but are not as accurate in absolute terms.

That means the data they collect can quickly be processed into 3D maps and other products, but some calibration is necessary to align with the Earth’s surface and yield survey-level absolute accuracy.

To achieve this, tools called Ground Control Points (GCPs) are added to the aerial surveyor’s kit. GCPs are markers on the ground whose location is recorded using handheld or built-in GPS receivers with a very high absolute accuracy level.

When the coordinates for these points are compared to the drone’s data, the relative data points are calibrated, and highly accurate survey data is produced.

The Benefits of Aerial Surveys

There are several significant benefits to using aerial survey platforms, as opposed to land-based survey teams.

If your business uses land-based teams, switching to aerial surveys can produce a noticeable difference in your bottom line.

Additionally, It saves you a substantial amount of time. UAVs cover a large amount of ground in a short time frame. Some drones are capable of completing surveys 80% faster than traditional methods.

Also, many environments that require surveys are dangerous. Construction sites, open-pit mines, or even areas affected by natural disasters pose severe threats to humans looking to survey the area.

Drones offer standoff from the immediate danger while still allowing for accurate surveys to be completed. Additionally, drones typically do not require an active site to be shut down for your survey team’s safety.

Land-based survey teams often require advanced scheduling and several days or even weeks to complete a project.

And, the low cost of capable UAV platforms allows for most operations to have in-house drone capabilities. This convenience means surveys can be conducted whenever needed, without the hassle of scheduling surveyors or using outside resources.

Aerial surveys with drones are quickly becoming the standard. As technology continues to improve, UAVs will likely command a larger share of the survey market. If you are currently using traditional survey methods, invest the time to investigate aerial survey options further with a qualified consultant.

Bringing It All Together

Aerial surveys with drones are quickly becoming the standard.

As technology continues to improve, UAVs will likely command a larger share of the survey market.

Are you looking to a better way to conduct your surveys? We’re here to help. Whether you want to outsource or create your own in-house program , Consortiq offers Drones-as-a-Service, a full complement of training, and continued operational support.

Ready to get started? Just complete the form below!

Or, click here to learn more about aerial surveys by Consortiq!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Why Enterprise Drone Training Creates Smarter Drone Programs

Drone Training Goes Beyond Certification

So, you’ve decided to add drones to your organization. That’s a great first step!

Like many other companies out there, you’re probably weighing the benefits of an in-house drone program vs. outsourcing.

If you do a quick Google search — which might be how you got here — you’ll find a long list of consultants looking to sell drones and help remote pilots pass the initial drone operator certification test.

Sure, those consultants serve their purpose. But, more often than not, the services they offer are limited in scope. Whether it’s the A2 CofC, Part 107, or other UAV operators’ licenses, remote pilot certification is only the beginning.

Within the UAV industry, several courses exist beyond certification. Some of the most powerful applications undertaken by drone pilots require specialized training to remain both safe and compliant with air traffic laws. Furthermore, additional training will allow you to tap into the full potential offered by adding UAVs to your organization.

Why Additional Drone Training Is Necessary

In most countries, initial drone certification tests are designed to ensure that operators have a basic understanding of aerodynamics, weather, regulations, and safety.

While that certification is essential, it fails to unlock many of the potential uses and benefits of drones.

The most beneficial drone applications — such as aerial surveying, precision agriculture, and utility inspections — require additional training. In order to perform certain tasks, you’ll need well-honed piloting skills, as well as an understanding of sophisticated hardware and software.

Unfortunately, no certification exam will cover all the skills needed to maximize UAS benefits. And, there’s quite a bit of risk involved with trying to develop specialized UAV skills on your own, such as wrecking the drone and/or injuring coworkers.

Types of Training

There are various types of training available to you as a commercial drone operator.

Let’s break them down a bit:

Aerial Mapping

No industry has had a higher adoption rate of UAV technology than construction.

Related: The Benefits of Drones in Construction

In construction, aerial surveying is one of the most used drone applications. Photogrammetry is a fantastic tool, but one that requires focused training and extensive practice.

Additionally, UAS land surveys typically use specialized software and unique hardware, such as AeroPoints, to deliver accurate data collection. Once the data is collected, it then needs to be converted into useful products.

Some of these products might include: Photogrammetric point clouds, triangular surface meshes, textured 3D models, raster digital elevation models for geographic information systems (GIS), orthophotography, and 3D vector data collection.

By taking an aerial surveying course, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills necessary to create a drone program with purpose and direction. You’ll know which drone to buy, what software is best suited for your operation, and how to safely and efficiently gather your data.

Train the Trainer

When you’re invested in a drone program, you might not always consider turnover and changing job roles. Let’s face it, as with any other department, there will be personnel issues.

To start, individuals who operate drones may have other responsibilities within your organization. Perhaps you’re thinking about assigning drone pilot duties to your project manager, who manages several other unrelated tasks. As positions change, you might find yourself with a drone, but without a capable, certified remote pilot to legally operate it.

You’ll want to make sure you have a dedicated person in charge of your drone program at all times … one whose sole mission is to train your team – including new employees. That’s when a train-the-trainer drone course becomes essential.

Train-the-Trainer courses provide you with flexibility. By developing an in-house trainer, you’ll be able to both maintain & grow your program. And, the training can be conducted monthly, quarterly, or even annually. That way, your trainers and pilots will always remain up-to-date with airspace regulations and procedures, and you’ll always have pilots available to keep the program active and thriving.

Build Your Own (Custom Drone Course)

Your company is unique, so your drone program should be unique as well.

You have a specific purpose for drones in mind, and you want to follow a detailed protocol. And, like most of us, you’ve got a budget and time-frame. In this case, you’ll be best suited to design a completely original drone course tailored to your operation.

With a custom UAV course, instructors work with you to explore your business needs and goals. Together, you’ll ably turn them into actionable steps and specific training. Perhaps you want to include initial certification for everyone, then break it out into different applications for varying departments. Make it your own with the support of drone industry experts.

One of the greatest benefits to custom training, as opposed to a one-size-fits-all model, is instruction solely focused on what’s needed. Instead of adding unnecessary steps, your pilots will have direct, easy-to-understand guidelines. As a result, you reduce both cost and downtime.

Bringing It All Together

Learning and growing as your drone program evolves is essential to business success. When it comes to piloting expensive, potentially dangerous equipment, you’ll want to have experts take the controls.

When you get your learner’s permit for driving, you don’t just hop into an 18-wheeler and start hauling freight. You’d need to first learn to drive and earn your license, then you’d have to take specialized courses within that industry to earn another license.

Drone training is sort of like that. You earn your remote pilot certificate, then you train extensively and learn the industry regulations before you fly through a job site filled with millions of dollars of equipment, not to mention a full compliment of employees working on other tasks.

At Consortiq, that’s what we do. We train you and/or your team to fly safely, capture data, and get the most out of your drone program. And, if you decide you’d rather leave it to the experts, we do the work for you. We don’t sell the drones or have any vested interest in specific UAS software. We help you choose and create what’s best for you and your organization.

If you’re ready to take your drone program to new heights, we’re here to help. Need a consultation, or maybe you’re ready to start now? Just complete the form below. We’re global, so no matter where you are in the world, we’re here to help you get to the skies safely.

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

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