There are multiple Challenges a Professional drone pilot is going to face over the next several years. Some are cultural challenges that have to be addressed over time. Some are legal challenges, but the most critical challenges very widely based on how they professionally apply the technology namely technical and proficiency challenges. This will be the first in a series of how professional pilots addresses these problems systematically. It starts with a look at a general overview of the problems.
Professional Application of “Drones” or unmanned vehicles.
This is the first challenge for the professional drone pilot or company. How you apply drone technology. Odds are your geographic location will dictate your choice or choices, but your background, market demands, and additional requirements will also dictate those requirements. However, ultimately weather you are a business adding a drone to your operation or an Entrepreneur crazy enough to start a business dedicated to drones, you must decide how you apply the drone technology.
Generally there are three ways they can be applied: as a single drone dedicated business like Righteous Flight, as a component of one of your business model moving forward, or you can out source the drone work. Each has their advantages and disadvantages and in the post for this section, you will get a chance to look at these options.
However, it is also important to when you begin to consider applying UAV or Drone tech to a business model much deeper harder questions. These get complex and some apply to only one type of application or the other. But as a business considers the options that business can get better define the answer of application. The point of asking will mainly boil down to your final vision or inspiration for your business and this still really new technology.
Biggest challenge here is how you define the Aircraft. “drone” and “unmanned aerial vehicle” are both misnomers. A drone is always manned so while the legal and technical terms are close they are not accurate due to the law. CFR 14 Part 107 clearly states you must have a trained Remote Pilot at the controls at all times to insure safe flight. If a drone was truly unmanned, you could set it and forget it, just let the thing fly. A Drone means it operates as some sort of hive mind; this is only true in very limited applications. So the first thing that needs to be solved is what is this technology.
We will cover in depth how Righteous Flight came up with the term Enhanced Remote Controlled Aircraft Systems over the next series of post. Ultimately ERCAS systems reflect a closer definition to pilot culture and terms that are more accurate due to the law. Ask any pilot or aviation technician if you remove the controls and interfaces from an aircraft, without removing any of the actual systems, you do not have an aircraft you have a really expensive piece of modern art. ERCAS encompasses the flight controls, a transmitter or ground station, the Unmanned Vehicle, the thingy in the air, in the water, or on the ground, and the professional behind the controls.
Now you will run into a series of cultural walls, and you will find your self-creating or using them on a regular basis. The general over view of the cultural challenges are; UAS pilots are not real or professional pilots, UAS Pilots Kill Jobs, a UAV is a toy I can use as a tool, Operating them are cheep, and then the most dangerous, The technology is relatively safe and benign. If you are deploying drones in your business, these are challenges as any type of flight according to the FAA has one overriding rule, keep it safe, and your business has another overriding rule, keep it affordable and profitable. Most of these challenges you will end up addressing as you address them when you read the challenges article on Cultural Challenges.
This is the one thing that will bog your organization down. This is because the FAA did not write any form of endorsement or training rules into Part 107 instead they chose to use waivers. Nine chances out of ten you will need at least one waiver on top of getting what is called the part 107 Certificate of Authorization.
Now you can do all this your self and it not cost much but chances are you will spend well over a year constantly retaking the Part 107 exam you need before you look into the waivers you need on top of that, so every 14 days add $160 to your operational expenses, or add around $100- $200 up front and $160 three months latter. Insurance of the drone falls into this. The FAA does not require insurance on a drone. And waivers you can get them for free if you invest the time. But if your smart it can take a few years to get them on your own or you can hire an attorney to do them that specializes in aviation law to do the waivers and they cost around $3000.
Insurance will cost at least an extra $20000 a year to get fully covered. Or you can chose to go through a series of memberships that is less expensive but questionable on how it covers them. Finally, at some point you will need the attorney. We will cover why that is true when we get to legal challenges in depth and what to look for when you do in the post on Legal challenges.
Now the second post after this general over view is where we start looking at where the grindstone meets the material. Technical challenges will have to constant ly be met. Unfortunately, there will never be a way to professionally figure out how to meet those exact challenges. What will be talked about in this post is mainly how to identify those challenges using Righteous flight as the example and how answering those challenges have been done for Righteous Flight.
Ultimately these challenges are met after asking a series of questions. First How to do the ERCAS Flight safely, How to make the set up for a ERCAS flight more efficient and less time consuming. What type or types of aviation environments you will be working in during the ERCAS flights. As you ask those, you will begin looking at equipment to be used and aircraft systems to be used. You will also answer the type of control systems to be used.
By far this is the shortest if not most important series of questions and will be the next post in the series for that very reason. The United States has the safest National Air Space in the World. While the FAA mainly guards that reputation, it is not their responsibility to create it just to enforce it. If you are adding a UAV/UAS/Drone/or as we call them ERCAS to your operation or starting a business that specializes in Piloting these systems. You ultimately are the only person who can create a safe environment.
To do so you will need to look at your organization. It does not matter if you are The Disney Company, Federal Express, or if your Caudill Seed and Warehouse or one of the several Agronomy companies in your area. You could be Ron Howard, JJ Abrams, Michael Bay, or James Cameron while in the film and video production circles you are extremely well respected or you can be in any number of industries and never fully realize the technology’s potential for your industry. Righteous Flight as an example primarily focuses on the use of the technology in film and video and we are setting up to see the technology used to it’s fullest potential that means the technology as it is better developed will yield more creative freedom, while in the FAA Rules, while doing things previous technology could not do. In the process it is most likely we will see challenges across the basic ones mentioned in this post. An example is the Teamsters work heavily in the use of cameras and on film sets. It can cost jobs if not responsibly used while not creating a better film. IT becomes a catch twenty two scenario as safe video production with the technology will require organizations like the teamsters to help move the technology properly and safely out of the theoretical and infancy phase it is in now to a solid tool for filmmakers so Righteous flight has reached out to them as a source.
Now your organization after finding the personal professional challenges needs to take the hardest look. Proficiency! Can your organization afford to have a dedicated UAS Pilot? Are you proficient enough? If you have flown or used a “drone” or model aircraft fewer than two years or more you need to see if anyone in your company has. If no one in your company has, your only option until that happens is to out source the drone technology needs until someone has flown that long or has been formally trained. There is no way around this. It does not matter how good of an eye they have for visuals they have in films or how well they know your industry specifically. Proficiency is now defined by the FAA not you or your industry and that means flight time. If your not willing to sacrifice one of your people to do nothing but fly the drone, or create a position specifically for the UAS Pilot, You have one option outsource. A person who has 15 years experience and as it grows the Remote Pilots will have at least 1 year of formal training and two years of mentorship flies righteous Flight’s flights. But once you decide to integrate drones in your operation you have to measure the cost closely and not just benefits.
Most Blogs on “Drones” and UAV’s say it is cheep. They will not tell you the additional cost. In this series, even though, Righteous Flight makes its money off organizations outsourcing Drone technology, A completely informed client or potential client is easier to work with than a client who knows nothing about the technology. Also as a pilot first, other job second, company it is the FAA rule that we insure a safe informed public when it come to the deployment of this new technology. So if a company reads our blog and decide to do the operation they hopefully, by reading this series on Challenges will be more informed and able to set up a safer operation. At the End of the day when it comes to flight safety is everyone’s business!
By MD Bucey
What is the hardest of all challenges we covered in our first challenges post? Unbelievably, it is the personal challenges. Mainly as they will raise more and more questions as the process goes along to make things worst, there is no set rule of what those personal challenges will be. Some go to your business and some go to you the business owner. So in this blog we will not answer all of them but we will answer how to frame each challenge as we progress and we will use Righteous Flight as the frame work.
Personal/Professional Back Ground:
This is the first set of frames you put the concept of drones through. Think of each frame as a framed mesh or sift. The process of framing the technology to each frame is meant to determine if you need to do drones as a part of your business, have someone else do it, or should you use it limitedly while letting the drone company do the more expensive or dangerous applications of the technology.
The first frame in this process is how well you know what drones are and can you evaluate how they are applied. Drones are robots. All drones are robots. Not all drones fly. And all drones tend to do more harm than good if not properly used. If you can accept that some drones are designed to go over the ground, some to go over the surface of the water, some are designed to go under the water, and some are designed primarily for flight, then you can proceed to using more frames to figure out how to use them, however if you remain stuck with the concept that all drones fly you will be fighting with proper use until you abandon the use of the technology. Also you have to address one other mindset issue, drone technology is not a model of or replacement for xyz. We will get into this in more detail latter but drone technology only does a limited number of things better than traditional equipment. It goes back to being well-designed rocks known as robots. We as humans place a higher weight on intelligence and electronic intelligence is rapidly out pacing human intelligence. However, it is not out pacing wisdom or intuition. Those last two things give humans the ability to draw on the total sum of their experiences, not just, what they have learned, to determine what the right answer not just the logical answer is. That ability means any form of technology will never substitute for the most advanced form of learning, human thought. If you can accept the information and remember drones are extremely customized or customizable tools that can augment your innate abilities. You have now gotten drone technology through the first frame of mindset. You realize it is a tool or tools that will have a specific use to make your business or service either more efficient or effective for your industry.
Next screen, personal background, gets even more refined. Drone technology automates processes. This speeds them up and makes them more efficient, accurate, and safer. What they do not do is answer what can a form of drone technology do. Rovers, surface based drones, have an unlimited number of potential task they can do. UAV’s, while highly regulated, have advantages over rovers. Problem comes from each industry a general UAV company gets expensive unless you focus on sales and services. Also, most companies who specialize in building and sale of drones or their components do so with a broad application in mind. While most industries can use this highly generic approach some that becomes more problematic.
That is why the next frame you need to use is your resume. Now this is not your professional one write your resume based off every job, class, and family activity you ever done. The screen for righteous flight originally filtered UAV and drone technology down to Agriculture, Construction trades, and Video services. So when we first so that looks like a fairly large spectrum. So we moved to the next screen and got our results of agriculture and video. However, we did not get a clean result as to what we would be able to do. Where did we go wrong? Technically, no where do not be surprised if you have to do this process a few times Righteous Flight has had to go through this process a few itself and is still going through it now. Truth is you will take the technology in relation to what you do professionally multiple times over the years.
The last filter is your professional environment. What are the strongest business opportunities or your business’s task that could see the greatest benefit and how do the total long-term cost effect your returns? This means you look at the cost. For righteous flight if we got the three basic UAVS of the shelf, what is referred to as ready to fly, and used their equipment to control it we are looking at $30,000 plus the payload equipment. Agriculture and most other industries you are looking at $24,000. Insurance for any type of drone service that involves flight add $1000 annual cost. A drone is good for 5 years. So cost so far is $7400/ year. Maintenance on an of these drones will run around $500 a year if you go the off the shelf rout. Legal fees, if you need a waiver, ad $3000 per 4 years so add $750 any additional FAA paper work add 4 hours a day to your cost for you to do it. So if you are in most Industries as a manager or owner add $20/hr so $80. So without taking the drones through the next challenges walk through you could depending on how often you fly get the cost to between $5 to $10 per flight. And see a yield around/ on average of a minimum $6/unit usually a great deal more for most industries. So most likely you will break even or make $1 a flight in return. But that varies in most of the country add at least $200 in shipping cost to maintenance and around $30 in shipping cost to equipment cost per unit per year and the cost is now closer to $6 to $11 and in most scenarios unless you can raise your proficiency and handle those challenges that is where it gets exponential as these numbers go up.
The last screen in this process will determine if you get usable material or a bunch of raw unusable information that looks good but will quickly find out latter you need to do the process again. How groups and other professionals will view the technology. Drones and UAVs typically take away jobs in fact if not used properly they will take away to many jobs. So the reaction will always be a negative one. Agriculture and most industries that would use them should see a cost savings so your organization can afford to hire more people and become a larger operation. Mainly as no matter what they do it is extremely difficult for them to manual labor and it come out not looking like a machine cookie cut it off an assembly line. Farmers will most likely see the biggest cut in jobs and that will be about 3 tractor operators, and in reality that could be avoided and the farmer simply turn his farm to a nearly 24/hr a day operation during planting and harvest. Where some industries such as film you are adding an extra tool to help give crew the same amount of control but with a lower foot print and safer location you get video and photos that would be near impossible or to dangerous any other way.
To some things up when we sent righteous flight through its framing process again we added MD Bucey’s 15 years flying unmanned aircraft as a hobby. His military service that involved micro electronics , and his Bachelors degree in television and film with his Masters in entertainment business. When it passed through all the filters we came down to a focus on the arts, video and photography with marketing to companies that may use those. We also found that we could cut or operational cost and increase quality of service to our customers by doing custom drones and controls which would include mechanical camera special effects built into the drone. With the cost of the drone and equipment being around 5% of our final agreed on price. Wich would be lower than our clients doing a service themselves.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!