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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Short History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Drones were previously known to be a unreliable and an expensive toys, but in the 1980s that attitude began to change.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have been around for centuries and were solely used for military purposes. The earliest recorded use of a UAV dates back to 1849 when the Austrians attacked the Italian city of Venice using unmanned balloons that were loaded with explosives. 

Although balloons would not be considered a UAV today, this was a technology the Austrians had been developing for months before, which led to further advancements. In 1915, British military used aerial photography to their advantage in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. They were able to capture more than 1,500 sky view maps of the German trench fortifications in the region. 

The United States began developing UAV technology during the First World War in 1916 and created the first pilotless aircraft. Shortly after, the U.S Army built the Kettering Bug. While continuing to develop UAV technology, in 1930 the U.S Navy began experimenting with radio-controlled aircraft resulting in the creation of the Curtiss N2C-2 drone in 1937. During WWII, Reginald Denny created the first remote-controlled aircraft called the Radioplane OQ-2. This was the first massed produced UAV product in the U.S and was a breakthrough in manufacturing and supply drones for the military.

Drones were previously known to be an unreliable and an expensive toy, but in the 1980’s this attitude began to change. The Israeli Air Force’s victory over the Syrian Air Force in 1982 contributed to this change. Israel used both UAVs and manned aircraft to destroy a dozen of Syrian aircraft with minimal losses. 

Further, in the 1980’s, The U.S created the Pioneer UAV Program to fulfil the need for inexpensive and unmanned aircraft for fleet operations. In 1986 a new drone was created from a joint project between the U.S and Israel. The drone was known as RQ2 Pioneer, which was a medium sized reconnaissance aircraft. 

More recently, in 1990 miniature and micro UAVs were introduced and in 2000 the U.S deployed the Predator drone in Afghanistan while searching for Osama Bin Laden. Although many of the most notable drone flights have been for military purposes, technology is continuing to advance and receive more attention. 

In 2014, Amazon proposed using UAVs to deliver packages to customers and some real-estate companies are using drones to shoot promotional videos. The uses of drones will continue to grow in many industries worldwide. 

Check out our short history of unmanned aerial vehicles infographic below (UAVs). 

History of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - Consortiq 

If you’re looking to bring drones into your organization, we can help you with training, understanding requirements, and we can even do the flying for you!

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Shea O'Donnell - Contributing Author

Shea O'Donnell - Contributing Author

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