Consortiq’s Lee Barfoot joins ARPAS-UK Committee

Heathrow, London, UK: The Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems – UK (ARPAS-UK), through its annual general meeting (AGM), recently appointed Lee Barfoot, EMEA Sales & Marketing for Consortiq, as one of its committee members. 

With the support of Consortiq, ARPAS-UK members attended the meeting, chaired by ARPAS-UK CEO, Graham Brown. Brown announced this year’s priorities, and reflected on how 2020 affected the industry.

Brown also announced that ‘collaboration’ is a key focus for 2021. In particular, it’s important to find ways to support and engage other associations.

One manner of support is to help find the Kickstart Scheme, which provides funding to employers to create job placements for 16 to 24 year olds on Universal Credit. ARPAS-UK members will provide additional skills to these individuals whilst in placement; for example, a drone qualification (A2CofC & GVC).

ARPAS also committed that they plan to continue focusing on key engagements with the likes of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and other industry action groups, whilst continuing to strengthen previously formed relationships.

ARPAS-UK are also focused on looking at general standards within the industry, and hope to influence none aviation standards through the BSI committee.

Consortiq have always supported ARPAS-UK throughout the years, and have had active members in executive and non-executive positions. With the change in drone regulation and the UK leaving the EU, it only seemed right that Consortiq offered once again.

Lee Barfoot has been with Consortiq for four years, and has helped multiple organisations utilise drone technology through training, proof of concepts and consultancy.

He has also been instrumental in identifying strategic relationships, including the recent partnership announcement with SOARIZON by Thales.

Barfoot will offer his input on lead projects that ARPAS-UK wish to pursue throughout 2021.

“Being involved with this Association is key and relevant, especially within the year of so much change.,” Barfoot said. “It was also incredible to see the amount of people who put their names forward to assist and become active committee members. I hope with the support and guidance of Graham and his team, we can help answer any concerns and tackle some of the key challenges that this industry faces. It’s been an interesting past year for everyone and I look forward to the next 12 months. ” 

Both Consortiq and ARPAS-UK will continue to work together to promote safe and compliant UAS operations, whilst helping organisations improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their drone programmes.

About ARPAS-UK

ARPAS-UK is the Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.  It is a not-for-profit trade association and professional body which supports and acts on behalf of the remotely piloted aircraft (RPAS) community, from start-up businesses to larger established operations.  ARPAS-UK members continue to break new ground in markets where RPAS (sometimes referred to as UAVs or drones) are delivering significant benefits.

The Association takes progressive stances on national issues to embed the RPAS profession in all end-user industries, to enable it to continue to grow in reputation and influence.

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

The FAA’s New Rules for Drone Flights Over People

On Dec. 28, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the release of “final rules” for unmanned aircraft systems – also known as UAS or drones.

There are two “final rules” to be exact: 

We previously wrote about how the remote ID rule essentially states that, if you are flying a UAS in United States airspace, you will need to broadcast your drone’s location and identification either within 18 or 30 months of Feb. 26 of this year, depending on whether you’re using a drone with a built-in transmitter or one that requires an add-on remote ID device.

In this article, we’re going to focus on how the Operations Over People and at Night Rule impacts your ability to fly over people, and what it means for the drone industry as a whole. 

What do the current rules say about drones flying over people?

The current rules for the commercial use of drones weighing less than 55 pounds, often referred to as “Part 107,” date back to 2016 and prohibit flights over unprotected people on the ground unless:

  1. The people are directly participating in the UAS operation
  2. The people are under a covered structure
  3. The people are inside a stationary vehicle
  4. The operator(s) have obtained a waiver from the FAA

At Consortiq, our drone consultant team helps clients obtain waivers for special use cases, such as operations that involve flying over people, BVLOS operations, and night operations, and we’re excited that these use cases are about to be normalized with the operations rule.

drone flying over people
Drone Image Taken Over Uninvolved People

What’s the rationale for changing this?

The FAA believes that, as drone technology improves and the value of use cases increases, there will be increased demand for UAS operations that involve flying over people, flying at night, and other advanced use cases.

By changing its regulations to accommodate for drone flight over people, the FAA hopes to allow for growth of the industry sector and advancement of drone technology, while maintaining its safety standards.

So can I fly my drone over people now?

It depends on what type of drone you have.

In the Final Rule on Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Over People, the FAA has designated 4 categories of drone operations and corresponding permissions requirements.

OK, what are the categories?

To operate in Category 1, drones can have a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 0.55 pounds (including everything that is attached to the aircraft) and must have no exposed rotating parts that could cause lacerations. 

It’s worth noting that there are currently no unmodified DJI drones that will fall into Category 1. DJI’s smallest platforms,  DJI Mavic Mini and DJI Mavic Mini 2, both weigh less than 0.55 lbs without propeller guards, but when propeller guards are added, they supersede the MTOW limit for Category and thus would be eligible for Category 2 operations instead of Category 1.

To operate in Category 2, drones can weigh more than 0.55 pounds, but they can’t be capable of causing injury to a human being that is greater than or equal to the severity of an injury caused by transferring 11 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. They also can’t contain any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin. 

To operate in Category 3, drones can’t be capable of causing injury to a human being that is greater than or equal to the severity of an injury caused by transferring 25 foot-pounds of kinetic energy and also can’t have any exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin. 

To operate in Category 4, drones must have an airworthiness certificate issued under 14 CFR Part 21 and must be operated in accordance with the operating limitations specified in the approved flight manual or as otherwise specified by the administrator. 

How does category impact my permission to fly over people?

Category 1 operations are seen to have the lowest levels of risk relative to the other categories, so if you’re operating a drone that weighs less than 0.55 lbs at takeoff without exposed rotating parts, you can operate over people without applying for any additional permission, with the exception that you can’t operate over open-air assemblies unless the operation is compliant with the FAA’s Remote ID requirements. 

Meanwhile, if your drone is greater than 0.55 pounds at takeoff, in order to fly over people, you’ll need to qualify for Category 2 or 3 operations, which requires a Means of Compliance (MOC) and Declaration of Compliance (DOC).

What’s the difference between the MOC and DOC?

The means of compliance and declaration of compliance are confusingly similar sounding. The FAA’s operations over people and at-night rule states that the means of compliance is how you show that your sUAS:

  1. Doesn’t exceed the applicable injury severity limit on impact with a human being and
  2. Doesn’t contain any exposed rotating parts that could cause lacerations

Meanwhile, the declaration of compliance is basically a statement you submit that says that you’ve met the applicable injury severity limitations, the exposed rotating parts prohibition, or a combination of these requirements through an FAA-accepted means of compliance. 

In other words, you need the MOC to get the DOC, and the FAA must accept your MOC before you can use it to declare compliance with the requirements of this rule. 

Furthermore, if your MOC and DOC are approved, you’ll need to ensure your drone has an FAA-approved label indicating the category of operation for which it’s been approved.

What about Category 4 operations?

As alluded to above, if your drone isn’t eligible for Category 1,2, or 3 operations, but you want to fly over people, you’ll need to get an airworthiness certificate under 14 CFR Part 21.

This will enable you to operate over people in accordance with Part 107, so long as the operating limitations specified in the approved Flight Manual or as otherwise specified by the Administrator, do not prohibit operations over human beings.

What about flying over moving vehicles?

The final rules permit sustained flight over moving vehicles for Categories 1, 2, and 3, only when the operations are within a closed- or restricted-access site, and people located within the vehicles have advance notice of the operation.

If the operations are not in a closed- or restricted-access site, the operator can “transit” the airspace above moving vehicles but cannot maintain sustained flight over them.

Meanwhile, category 4 UAS can operate over moving vehicles as long as the UAS are “operated in accordance with the operating limitations specific in the approved Flight Manual or as otherwise specified by the Administrator.”

When will this “final rule” come into effect?

The rules will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

While it’s not clear exactly when that will happen, it is expected to be sometime this month (January 2021).

Why does this matter?

Influential UAS industry stakeholders, such as Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) CEO Brian Wynne, have noted that this is a huge step towards the integration of drones into the national airspace, as many types of complex operations can require flights over people. 

In particular, the operations rule could accelerate the development of drone delivery solutions. As we’ve written previously, companies such as Google, Amazon, Uber, UPS, DHL, FedEx, and even Domino’s have tested various types of drone delivery solutions.

However, despite some companies receiving waivers to test the technology, there is still no widespread drone delivery. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson has stated that the new rule is getting the US “closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.”

Need support with your drone operation?

At Consortiq, we offer comprehensive drone services, training, and consultation for drone operation all around the world.

If you want to get your program off the ground and need support, just complete the form below for your risk-free consultation

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 Get Your Drone Program off the Ground? Complete this form to get started!

Energy Drone + Robotics Virtual Summit 2020 with Consortiq

Bryan McKernan, Consortiq’s chief revenue officer, and Bryce Allcorn, Consortiq’s head of global operations, discuss the Consortiq business model, drone uses and services, and how to achieve industry success with drone data at the 2020 Energy Drone + Robotics Virtual Summer Summit

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How to Improve Education Programs With Drones

At the start of the new millennium, academic research identified a potential problem for students in the United States.

Compared to their counterparts around the world, American students were becoming less prepared for the modern global workforce. Studies identified a particular shortfall in understanding science and math-related concepts.

In response to the problem, in 2001, the U.S. National Science Foundation coined the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics). The acronym became the foundation for a new approach to education.  

The U.S. Dept. of Education states that:

  • only 16% of high school students are interested in a STEM career and have proven a proficiency in mathematics
  • 57% of high school freshmen who declare an interest in a STEM-related field lose interest before they graduate high school
  • There is an estimated need for at least 8.65 million workers in STEM-related jobs
  • The skills gap in the manufacturing sector is significant. It faces a big shortage of skilled employees – nearly 600,000.

STEM-focused curriculum exposes students to a deeper understanding of technical concepts and careers in the industries related to STEM disciplines. Students who become excited about working in STEM industries at an early age are more likely to attend college and receive a bachelor’s degree.  

Since the development of STEM almost 20 years ago, numerous countries have adopted programs similar to the one developed in the United States. STEM centered education now exists in the United Kingdom, France, China, Australia, South Korean, and Taiwan.

In recent years, drones have begun to play a significant role in STEM curriculum and education in general. Drones can help teach a wide range of concepts and life lessons that otherwise might be difficult for students to understand. Most UAVs are easy to learn to fly, and many are inexpensive, making them accessible to everyone.

How Drones Benefit Education

Drones — ground based, submersible and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — offer many benefits to educators and students.  

Drones, and UAVs in particular, are excellent complementary tools for STEM education. Students benefit from exposure to technology, show signs of increased information retention rates, and can experience learning on an individual or group level. Educators benefit from high-quality resources, such as coding software with professionally built lesson plans.

As a form of technology, drones are simple and sophisticated at the same time. Studies have shown that the use of technology aids in the retention of information. As students use technology, they are often participating in groups or, at the very least, actively engage in the learning process.

When students are exposed to UAVs in the classroom, they can learn complex concepts, such as aeronautics, in an easily digestible format. Understanding the physics behind what makes an aircraft fly might be challenging to teach, at some grade levels, using traditional methods.  

If instead of reviewing the mathematics behind lift vs. drag, the student learns while flying a drone and the concept is often much clearer.

Additionally, drones are excellent tools for teaching the fundamentals of design. For a drone to submerge, drive, or fly, it must operate within specific parameters. The unmanned aircraft’s design must perform in a manner that adheres to principles such as lift vs. drag.

With a 3D printer, students learn why individual components, such as propellers, are designed a certain way, and can experiment independently with deviations on the design and how it affects performance.

Exposure to programming is another benefit. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer programmers had a median pay in 2019 of $41.61 per hour.

Drones bring programming into the classroom. Several high-quality software programs and applications help teach coding with UAS.

Some programs allow educators and students to complete a series of tasks with their drones through coding instructions. Others allow for the drone itself to “learn” how to fly.

In the ideal situation, students can design their drone and program as part of a project-based learning unit. Young children can even grasp programming through the use of drag-and-drop “blocks” of code which when plugged together can make the drone actually perform tasks in front of their eyes.

From an artistic perspective, drones can expose students to photography and videography. Much of our learning process deals with changing perspectives and challenging what is known about the world around us. Drones may be the first time a student sees the world from another viewpoint.  

Some educators are finding success in using aerial photography to aid in teaching map-making, as tools to learning new languages, graphing mathematical concepts, and much more.

Drones work well as tools for both individuals and groups. Students can learn responsibility from flying on their own and, in the process, gain confidence.

In a group, teamwork can showcase how, as a unit, students who know next to nothing about drones can start from scratch and design, build, program, and fly their team’s creation.

Educators are tireless professionals always searching for new methods to make the educational process stronger. With the right guidance, drones are easily integrated into the classroom. The benefits of UAV technology, particularly as a part of a STEM-curriculum, are well worth the investment.

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!

FAA Remote ID System Still a Priority for 2020

During the FAA Drone Advisory Committee’s meeting on June 19, FAA Deputy Administrator Dan Elwell said that the agency expects to issue a final rule on its proposed Remote ID system by December 2020.

Remind me... what's the FAA Remote ID again?

Sure. 

Last December, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that outlined their intent to require that all but the tiniest drones incorporate tracking technology. The proposed system is designed to enable regulators, law enforcement, and other interested parties to track drone movements and in some cases obtain identifying information for any drone operating in the national airspace.

That sounds burdensome.

Consortiq has made the case that the proposed system, in its current state, is far from optimal for many reasons, and numerous industry stakeholders have denounced the system as overly complex, infeasible, and intrusive.

But, proponents argue that not having a comprehensive drone identification and tracking system has been a long-standing barrier to drone innovation. For instance, Wing, Zipline, Amazon, UPS, and a host of other companies, have sought permission to develop drone delivery solutions. But, regulations haven’t allowed it, in part due to law enforcement agency concerns about unidentified drones being used for terrorism, drug smuggling, or other crimes.

As a result, most drone delivery solutions have been limited to proof-of-concept projects in specific areas, such as testing corridors or university campuses. In other words, implementing a way to identify and track any drone at any time could help assuage those concerns and open the door for more advanced UAS solutions.

So, by giving authorities better visibility, UAS operators might get permission to do more?

That’s the idea.

The optimist’s view is that the remote system ID is an important step in creating an Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management System (UTM) that is scalable to the national airspace. Critics argue that the system’s rollout is going to be slow, painful, and ultimately not successful, which means it will delay, not catalyze, the development of a UTM.

How will it work?

The proposed regulation divides drones into two categories: standard remote identification and limited remote identification. 

Standard remote identification drones will broadcast Remote ID signals using the radio frequency spectrum and transmit them over an internet connection. These drones will be permitted to fly anywhere a small UAS is allowed to under other applicable regulations, such as Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. 

Meanwhile, limited remote identification drones will only transmit the required elements over the internet, but cannot broadcast over the air. These drones will be limited to VLOS operations, and the FAA will require the manufacturer to limit such drones to fly within 400 feet of the operator.

In other words, both have to ping information about their aircraft and whereabouts to Identification UAS Service Suppliers, companies chosen by the FAA to gather and manage the tracking information.

Goodbye, privacy...

That is a valid concern.

Note that operators will have the option to randomly-generated alphanumeric code assigned by a Remote ID USS on a per-flight basis, if they want additional privacy. And, remember that drones themselves are widely seen as a threat to privacy.

Unfortunately, drone operators don’t have a lot of bargaining power on this one.

OK, but what about operations where there’s limited connectivity? 

According to page 94 of the NPRM, a standard remote identification UAS that loses connection to the internet, or that can no longer transmit to a Remote ID USS after takeoff, would be able to continue its flight, as long as it continues broadcasting the message elements.

It is true, however, that limited remote identification drones cannot take off without an internet connection.

Unfortunately, drone operators don’t have a lot of bargaining power on this one.

Will this require an expensive upgrade? 

The NPRM (page 89) states that “the FAA reviewed UAS registered to part 107 operators and found 93% of the existing part 107 UAS fleet may have technical capabilities to be retrofit based on information received by industry (i.e., could support software updates through the internet).” 

That’s because most drones have internet and WiFi connectivity, ability to transmit data, receive software uploads, and have radio frequency transceivers, among other technology such as advanced microprocessors.

However, the new system will likely create barriers for recreational operators, STEM programs at universities, and other drone operators that tend to use older or less advanced equipment.

So, when will this get implemented?

The proposal envisions that within three years of the effective date of approval, all UAS operating in the airspace of the United States will be compliant with the remote identification requirements. 

There have been numerous predictions that the FAA’s timeline would be disrupted due to issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but if Elwell’s statements prove true, and the FAA does approve the system by the end of 2021, their proposal outlines the following implementation schedule.

  • In 2021, the focus would be on creating a system to connect standard remote identification UAS and limited remote identification UAS to a Remote ID USS.
  • In 2022, manufacturers would begin to produce inventory with remote identification for availability to operators by year 3.
  • In 2023, operators would finally have to start buying the necessary equipment to be compliant with the new system by the end of the year.

In short, even if the schedule is adhered to, nothing is going to change in the short term, and as long as you stay up to date on things as they evolve, you shouldn’t be sidelined by anything major.

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!

Thermal Imaging: A Colorful Introduction

Lessons Learned – Part 1 of 4

A series of insights brought to you by the Consortiq team

To understand thermal imaging and its applicability in our world, we need to start with the key question:  What is a thermal sensor?  

To understand this, we need to look at some basic – but quantum – physics. 

In essence, we can see because light reflects off an object. That light then enters the eye where rods and cones (receptors) on the back of the eye collect the inputs, and send them to the brain to be processed via the visual pathway. 

Therefore, we can ‘see’ this light, as it becomes visible.

However, “visible” light makes up a small part of the much broader electromagnetic spectrum illustrated here: 

Thermal Imaging Spectrum - Consortiq

Thermal imaging image courtesy of wikipedia on a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

All of these differing wavelengths — from very long waves, such as radio, to very short waves, such as gamma radiation (the shorter the wavelength the more frequently they arrive, hence low to high frequency) — make up the entire spectrum range.   

The key fact in all of this is that, of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, only 0.0035% is the light we actually see – “visible” light.

Thermal Sensors

So, back to thermal sensors. 

They’re capable of ‘seeing’ electromagnetic radiation in the infrared band of the spectrum. Infrared radiation is closely linked to the temperature of the object, so there is a correlation between the object’s temperature and the electromagnetic radiation it emits. 

As that object’s heat increases, it emits higher frequencies on the spectrum until it enters the visible light band and glows red hot.

To get technical, everything has a natural ‘emissivity’ level. In other words, objects have varying levels of effectiveness as it pertains to emitting thermal energy as thermal radiation. 

A thermal sensor uses those levels of emissivity to create a picture. By assigning colors or shades to different thermal radiation values, you get the familiar thermal image.

Drone inspection thermal imaging

Photo By Passivhaus Institute | Image used with permission under the GFDL.

It’s not true to say that a thermal camera can measure the temperature of an object, per se. It’s possible, but only if the camera is set up and calibrated correctly. Additionally, the emissivity values for the substance being measured must be known. 

Simply put, if you know that steel has an emissivity value of “X” at a given temperature, then you can calibrate your system so that, when it ‘sees’ that emissivity value on a steel object, it displays that temperature value. However, if you use the sensor on something other than steel without recalibrating it, the system will display an incorrect temperature reading.

Now, thermal sensors are very good at displaying temperature differentials… not necessarily by amount, but they do show that there is a difference. 

By adjusting the scale — or gain — you can make these differences even more evident, which is particularly useful for certain types of surveys. 

Recent: Drones in Oil and Gas: Safe, Fast, Effective

For example, electrical components that are heating differently to the same component under the same load elsewhere may be indicative of a fault. Moisture leakage may give an artificially cooler result than would be expected.

The proper use of thermal sensors can provide greater insight into a survey area than just a visual inspection, but interpreting the resulting data is crucial. Unlike a visual inspection, there is much analysis that can be done with thermal imagery if captured in a radiometric format.

In effect, this is capturing the thermal data in what a photographer may refer to as “raw footage.”  The ‘picture’ is therefore not just an image, but an accumulation of data. That data can then be manipulated and analyzed to produce a detailed analysis of the properties of the area, item or, indeed, building which has been surveyed.  

Andy Huggett - EMEA Training Manager - Consortiq

Andy Huggett - EMEA Training Manager - Consortiq

Andy served in the British Army prior to becoming a law enforcement officer with Sussex Police for 30 years. Always on the operations side of policing (traffic, firearms, dogs, helicopter unit, etc.), he was also part of a General Aviation Team countering terrorism.

As an emergency response drone pilot for Sussex and Surrey Police, he undertook many differing roles piloting the police drones. He founded his own drone services company prior to leaving the police and, upon retirement, worked full time in this role.

Consortiq contracted Andy to deliver the UK-based Unmanned Aircraft Qualification as a freelance instructor. Subsequently, he moved into a full-time role at Consortiq as the Training Manager with responsibility for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Andy holds both CAA and FAA qualifications for fixed wing and multi-rotor aircraft.

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

Drones in Oil and Gas: Safe, Fast, Effective

The oil and gas industry is one of the largest branches of the global economy.

About the Oil and Gas Industry

According to IBISWorld, annual revenue for the sector in 2019 clocked in at $3.3 trillion, almost 4% of the global GDP. It includes many of the world’s largest companies, including Royal Dutch Shell & Exxon Mobil.

In fact, in 2019, six of the top ten companies appearing on the Fortune Global 500 list came from the oil and gas industry.

While its profits are among the highest in the world, turning natural resources into usable products is expensive. Operating margins for the sector vary, but they often exceed 30%. Beyond the operating budget, significant capital investments, such as oil refineries, can cost billions of dollars.

The United States Central Intelligence Agency estimates that there are over 3.5 million kilometers of pipelines around the world. Pipeline systems include a wide range of supporting and processing facilities, such as pumping stations, refineries, regulator stations, and final delivery locations. 

The infrastructure required by the industry constantly requires inspection and maintenance. Given the dangerous nature of some facilities, and the remote locations of pipelines, that level of upkeep creates a significant challenge.

That’s where using drones helps most.

The Benefits of Drones

Drones offer the oil and gas industry several powerful benefits. The majority of which fall into three categories: Cost savings, improved inspection capabilities, and increased safety.

In some cases, the benefits of using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) fall into multiple categories, making drones even more attractive to oil and gas firms.

Let’s break it down.

Cost Savings

Bringing oil and natural gas to market occurs in three phases: Predrilling, drilling, and production. Drones are capable of lowering costs throughout the entire process.

In predrilling, a drone’s aerial feed aids in the exploration of new drill sights.

Traditionally, manned aircraft perform this task. However, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operate at a fraction of the price. Given the lower cost, it’s much more economical to use several drones, as opposed to a single helicopter or plane.

During the drilling and production phases, perhaps the most considerable cost savings come with decreased downtime. When humans  conduct manual inspections, facilities often require temporarily shut down for safety reasons. Drones perform many of the needed inspections without stopping production, and with minimal disruption.

Less downtime translates into higher profits.

Improved Inspections

Drones are revolutionizing the way the world conducts inspections. One of the most promising areas for UAVs in the oil and gas sector is in pipeline inspections.

With millions of kilometers of pipelines across the world, it takes a small army to inspect and maintain these structures. Inspections conducted with human eyes are slow, and provide far less detailed information than UAS. Drones can quickly fly over a section of the pipeline and, in real-time, present the operator with a clear picture of the structure’s condition.

Furthermore, improvements in UAV sensors are bringing pipeline inspections to new levels. Specialized payloads can inspect in thermal and multispectral imaging. Some sensors are even capable of detecting gas leaks.

A single drone flight can provide much more information than a human alone ever could.

Increased Safety

The oil and gas industry can be a dangerous.

Flammable chemicals, toxic fumes, pressurized gases, and a wide array of industrial equipment make for hazardous conditions. Additionally, oil is found in many regions of the world where political instability increases the risk for all parties involved.

Recent: Debunking the Myth About Drones

Drones ably operate in areas where humans could sustain injuries. High structures and confined spaces are common in oil and gas processing facilities. Drones can maneuver into tight spaces without risking injury to team members, which might also lower insurance costs.

Some UAS, such as Flyability’s Elios drone, provide several safe, cost-effective solutions in this sector. This small drone operates in a spherical cage, allowing it to run into objects without interrupting flight. Drones like the Elios remove the need to have people place themselves in harm’s way while still gathering the needed information for analysis.

UAS footage of oil and gas pipeline inspection

Creating a Safe, Effective UAS Program

When implemented properly, UAS technology brings together the key benefits of common inspection methods, such as low-level helicopter flights and first-hand human data collection, while shedding most of the associated risk, cost, and time demands.

UAS technology is more widely available now than it’s ever been, but proper commercial use requires you to go far beyond just buying, unboxing, and taking flight. 

Before anything, it’s vital to understand exactly how UAS can benefit your organization. What data can this equipment help you collect, and what kind of value does that information have for your business?

You may already have access to this data through methods with higher costs, longer lead times and more corporate risk – so where can a UAS deliver a better return on your investment?

Answering questions like these will help you to define an achievable objective, and that’s the first big step in successful UAS implementation.

You’ll then need the skills, capabilities and supporting processes to proceed safely, efficiently, and legally.

These are daunting ideas, but they’re well worth navigating properly – and that’s why Consortiq exists.

We are market leaders in providing custom UAS training and consultancy services for businesses in the Oil & Gas, Energy and Utilities sectors. With our help, the incredible transformational effect of drones on your business is easily achievable.

Consortiq represents the highest standard in UAS training, having been at the forefront of the industry since regulations began taking shape around 2014.

Our goal as training providers is to equip your business and its employees with the skills and knowledge necessary to use these technologies safely, effectively, and legally.

We also realize that not all users are the same.

Our training services explore applications and skills relevant to the needs of your business. So, whether you’re focused on inspections, research or something else entirely, we can make sure you’re ready, confident, and fully compliant.

Ready to get started? Complete the form below for a risk free consultation!

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!

A Not-So-Short History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

It is easy to see how Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, can be seen as a modern invention.

If we could travel back in time to just ten years ago, the idea of ordering a reliable flying camera online would seem more science fiction than science fact. This is especially true for easily accessible drones with payloads capable of producing thermal, multispectral, and LIDAR-based imagery.

You might be surprised to learn the first UAV dates back to 1783.

Modern technology moves at a somewhat rapid pace. It is easy to forget the building blocks that brought the UAV industry to where it is today. An appreciation for the past achievements that helped to give birth to the modern drone era is essential.

In this piece, we’ll review some of the most significant historical events related to the history of drones. In some cases, historical firsts were not specific to the UAV industry; however, they are relevant technological advancements.

Historical Timeline of UAV Technology

1783 – The First UAV 

When we think of UAVs, hot-air balloons are typically not part of the discussion.

From a technical standpoint, these crafts were the first aircraft to not require a human pilot. Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier hosted the first public demonstration of an unmanned aircraft, a hot-air balloon in Annonay, France.

1849 – The First Military Use of UAVs

Austrian artillery lieutenant Franz von Uchatius invents the balloon bomb. Field Marshall von Radetsky used the balloons to attack Venice, but they were mostly ineffective.

1858 – First Aerial Photograph

 Gasper Felix Tournachon takes the first aerial photograph from a hot-air balloon in Paris, France. Unfortunately, the photograph has been lost in history.

1896 – First Camera on a UAV

Alfred Nobel, famous for the invention of dynamite, launches a rocket with a camera on it. Nobel’s experiment marks the first time cameras were placed on an unmanned system.

1898 – The First Radio-Controlled Craft

Nikola Tesla displays his radio-controlled boat for a crowd in Madison Square Garden.

The craft could respond to directional signals sent to it by Tesla and could also flash its lights. Some of the audience members thought Tesla was a magician or had the power of telekinesis. Others believed a trained monkey was inside the small boat.

It was a compelling demonstration of what would evolve into radio-controlled aircraft.

1915 – British Use of Aerial Reconnaissance Photos

During the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, British forces used aerial photography to build a map of the German front. The photographs were layout on top of one another and are one of the earliest examples of an orthomosaic.

1917 – First UAV Torpedo the Kettering Bug

Charles Kettering invented the unmanned Kettering Aerial Torpedo, nicknamed the “Bug” in Ohio.

The Bug used a system of pre-set internal pneumatic and electrical controls to stabilize the aircraft. When the Bug reached a pre-determined distance, the engine would stop, wings would detach, and the Bug would fall from the sky.

It carried 180 pounds of explosives.

1935 – The First Modern Drone is Developed

When the Royal Air Force’s commenced in 1918, the UK needed effective methods for training pilots.

Target practice was typically accomplished by towing gliders behind crewed aircraft. However, that method failed to provide a realistic simulation for engaging enemy fighters in live combat.

In response, the De Havilland DH.82B Queen Bee aircraft was used a low-cost radio-controlled drone developed for aerial target practice. It is considered by many to be the first modern drone.

1936 – US Drone Program Begins 

U.S. Admiral William Harrison Standley witnessed a test flight of the Queen Bee in 1936.

After returning to the U.S., he placed Lieutenant Commander Delmar Fahrney in charge of developing a program similar to the UK’s. It is believed that Fahrney first used the term “drone” for the U.S. platform as a tip of the hat to the UK’s Queen Bee.

1937 – U.S. Navy Develops a Radio-Controlled UAV Torpedo

The first radio-controlled UAV was the Curtiss N2C-2.

The N2C-2 received its commands from an operator located in a crewed aircraft that flew alongside the Curtiss. While this limited the UAV’s effectiveness, it was a significant step in the development of radio-controlled UAV technology.

1941 – Actor Reginald Denny invents the Radio Plane

The Radio Plane was a radio-controlled target plane.

After forming his company, Denny produced target drones for the military and was responsible for numerous drone technology innovations. By the time the Northrop Corporation bought the company in 1952, Denny’s company had produced almost 70,000 target drones for the US Army.

1943 – The Beginnings of First-Person View (FPV) Flight 

Boeing and the U.S. Airforce developed the BQ-7, which operated on a crude FPV system.

Old bombers were effectively stripped of non-essential equipment and loaded with explosives. A human pilot would fly the aircraft towards the designated target. Once the target was in view, the autopilot was engaged, and the pilot bailed out of the plane. The BQ-7 would then fly to the target on its own.

The BQ-7 was virtually ineffective in war, and the pilots that bailed out had a high rate of death or capture.

1973 – Israel Develops UAVs for Surveillance and Scouting 

The Mastiff and the IAA Scout series of UAVs represented a leap in the capabilities of drones.

Military commanders were able to increase their situational awareness with these platforms significantly.

1982 – Battlefield UAVs 

The Battle of Jezzine represented the first battle where drones made a considerable difference in the engagement’s outcome.

Israel employed their drones to outmaneuver the Syrian Airforce and win the battle with minimal casualties. The legitimacy of UAVs in warfare was established.

1985 – US Significantly Scales Up Drone Production 

By the conclusion of the Vietnam War, the U.S. was ready to scale up its drone program.

The successes of Israel’s UAV program in the early 1980s made it clear that drones would have a growing role on the battlefields of the future.

1986 – The RQ2 Pioneer Drone is Developed 

The U.S. and Israel jointly develop what will become one of the most successful UAV platforms to date.

The system was an upgraded IAI Scout drone and featured significant payload improvements. During the Gulf War, some Iraqi forces even surrendered to a Pioneer UAV.

1991 – UAVs Fly 24/7 During the Gulf War 

For the first time in a major conflict, at least one drone was airborne from the conflict’s start until its conclusion.

1996 – The Predator Drone is Developed

With the help of UAV giants like Abraham Karem, the U.S. develops the Predator drone. This platform brought weaponized drones to the battlefield like never before. Probably more than any other UAV, the Predator created the public image of drones striking targets around the world.

2006 – UAVs Permitted in US Civilian Airspace for the First Time 

Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the FAA allowed UAVs to fly in civilian airspace for search & rescue and disaster relief operations.

Predator drones with thermal cameras were able to detect the heat signatures of humans from up to 10,000 feet away. Around this time, the consumer drone industry began to really take shape.

While DJI had yet to become the marketplace giant it is today, companies like Parrot, DJI, 3DR, and many others were looking to take military UAV technology and repurpose it. The potential for industrial and consumer UAV markets was more than enough for many businesses to invest in the technology.

2010 – Parrot Controls a Drone with a Smartphone

At CES, French drone manufacturer Parrot unveiled its AR Drone.

The UAV was a small quadcopter fit for consumer use. An app on a smartphone was all the pilot needed to operate the drone safely.

2013 – DJI Produces the First Phantom Drone

While the company was founded in 2006, the iconic Phantom series was not released until 2013.

This drone began the modern camera-equipped drone craze. Within just a few years, DJI would hold a commanding position in the consumer drone market, with almost 80% of consumer drones in operation manufactured by DJI or one of their subsidiaries.

2013 – Major Companies Look to Start Drone Delivery

FedEx, UPS, Amazon, Google, Uber, and countless other delivery companies recognize drone benefits as a delivery platform. Testing of various UAV concepts and work with regulatory agencies around the world begins.

2014 – Use of Drones Rapidly Grows in Industry and with Consumers 

Since 2014, UAVs have continued to expand in capabilities and use cases.

As more industries explore how drones can make their work safer and more cost effective, growth is expected to rapidly surge in the coming years. By 2030, the entire UAV market is set to be worth $92 billion.

2020 – Pandemic Alleviation

From quarantine & social distancing enforcement to mass disinfection and medical supply delivery assistance, drones have been a staple during the coronavirus outbreak.

Now, more than ever before, regulations are being adjusted to provide fast-track authorizations for promising use-cases. It’s impossible to predict the long-term impact of these developments, but one thing is certain: the pandemic has helped countries around the world imagine the potential that drones hold for society.

What's Next?

If you are looking to explore what UAV technology can do for your organization speak with the experts at Consortiq. The historical achievements of the UAV industry can help shape your future successes.

This year alone, drones have become a been used to monitor penguins in Antarctica, assist farmers with crop output, take surveys of infrastructure, and even perform critical search-and-rescue missions for scores of emergency responders.

Sure, the technology seems new, but it’s certainly not unproven. And, as you’ve seen in this article, it’s been around for a very, very long time.

Many businesses are using drones to improve operations – with drones, there’s always a better way to do things. One that takes less time, doesn’t involve shutdowns, and improves safety.

Are you ready to see what drones can do for you and your organization? Just complete the form below and we’ll help you get started!

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.

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