A MEASURE WHITE PAPER FOR ENTERPRISE

Drones in T&D

Today's Benefits, Use Cases, and Best Practices for Drones in the Electric Transmission & Distribution
TABLE OF CONTENTS
 
 
 
 
 
00

Appendix
A. Insource vs. Outsource Decision Guide
B. Components of an Air Operations Manual
C. Measure Ground Control Web Portal

 

1. Introduction

Introduction

The commercial adoption of drones is growing quickly, and electric utilities and co-ops are no exception. Drones provide a practical solution for the inspection of transmission and distribution (T&D) lines, as well as substations. Drones support business efforts to avoid hazardous man- hours; reduce costs for maintenance, inspections, and repairs; and minimize downtime. Valuable use cases have been proven with ground crews, linemen, plant managers, and engineers.

Measure’s vast experience using drones includes providing actionable inspection data on thousands of utility poles and towers across the United States. Measure has conducted inspections for a variety of electric utilities, including companies such as Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL) and DP&L, both subsidiaries of our parter, AES, a global Fortune 500 energy company. Measure has also trained these and other energy companies on how to safely operate drones and manage an internal drone program.

Federal regulations, such as the current restrictions on flying drones beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS), are a common topic of discussion in the industry. Certainly, the use of drones in T&D will grow even faster as regulations are loosened and better airspace management and waiver application tools become available. Some organizations are already testing BVLOS operations, and, should you be interested in taking this step, Measure can help. However, through this white paper, we hope that you will find that drones can deliver real value to your organization today - using current technology and under current regulations. There is no need to wait for future advancements. The future is now.

Drones-TD-cover

Save for Later?

Download the PDF version and read at your convenience.

Download the PDF

The Benefits of Drones Today

Drones provide safe, efficient inspections and data collection for businesses across the energy industry. Trained pilots and experienced data analysts use drone technology to drastically reduce inspection time, save labor costs and reduce hazardous manhours, while providing higher quality data that enables companies to maximize energy production.

Using drones in transmission & distribution today both opens up new possibilities and replaces existing work. Without drones, inspections are typically completed manually, using climbing, bucket trucks, long-range photography; or helicopter. Clearly, manual inspections involving climbing or using buckets introduce hazards that are avoided with drones. Ground-based data collection typically lacks the detail and flexibility that a drone can provide. Helicopters can capture data quickly and over large areas of land, but they are expensive, can’t operate near residential areas, and often miss finer defects (missing cotter pins, for example).

While we expect the benefits and use cases for drones to expand further in the future, the technology available for use right now, today, already offers significant benefits.

Easy-to-use, multi-rotor drones can complete detailed inspections of 5-6 miles of distribution poles per day capturing both thermal and RGB imagery. Teams will benefit from a higher level of detail - missing pins, rust, damaged insulators – compared to typical ground or helicopter patrols, and thermal imagery can quickly identify hot spots. The more detailed and accurate data delivered by a drone inspection can enable companies to proactively identify more defects, which could lead to fewer power outages and reduced repair costs.

utility pole

Improved Efficiency

Utilities may find that they can save time and cost with drone inspections. For example, with a drone, substation inspections can be completed within an hour and no shut-down is required.

Stephen Dorsett, a licensed UAV pilot who works for Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL), explained further,

“Every time we fly, we’re literally saving 2-3 days of work. Without the drone, you’d have to obtain approval before even sending someone up in the truck, a process that could take days.”
Reduced Risk

Keeping ‘boots on the ground’ is one of the most obvious benefits of drones. Crews can get a close up view of a potential defect without climbing or using a bucket truck. Drones can also help avoid risks related to traversing across private property, accessing poorly maintained or dangerous right-of-way areas, and dealing with unknown conditions following a storm.

drones in utilities

Fast Response

Drones can also provide invaluable insights after a natural disaster when the terrain conditions may be unknown and fast response times are critical. Using drones allows quicker access to areas that may be blocked by water or fallen trees. Drones can collect information that can help you send the right equipment and personnel to the right location in order to restore power as efficiently as possible.

Quick Return on Investment

Many of the commercial drones in use today are off-shoots of the recreational drone market. The types of drones that are commonly deployed by ground crews for line inspections or post-disaster assessments, such as the DJI P4P, are reasonably priced. Operation is also relatively simple making adoption easy and enabling quick return on investment.

Use Cases For Drones in T&D

Let's Look at Some Ways Drones Work for Electric utilities

For Transmission and Distribution operations, the drone serves a variety of near-term needs when readily accessible. While the applications are endless and new uses for drones are discovered frequently, let’s look at a few common scenarios.

SCENARIO 1.

Transmission Tower Spot Check

Imagine getting a call about a problem with a transmission tower. Without a drone, you order a lineman to go up the tower to inspect the issue, which is dangerous work to begin with. Adding to the obstacles, the only way to get to the tower might be through difficult terrain which is only accessible by way of private property, or the tower is above a line of trees, obstructing your view from the ground.

With traditional means, it may take a couple days to obtain permission to walk across private property and to schedule a small crew to trek to the tower and run an inspection.

With a drone and licensed pilot readily available, this can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. Drones can be used in areas too close to trees or homes for helicopters and in areas that are difficult to access for ground patrols. You don’t need to trek across private property or difficult terrain. There are no hazardous man-hours involved. And you get a clean look at the tower in real time, allowing your team to properly diagnose the problem and suggest a remedy before you even leave the site.

SCENARIO 2.

Regular Ground Patrols

During routine maintenance, a lineman sees a potential issue with a pole. A utility company that has trained and outfitted their ground patrol teams with drones can direct that lineman to get a better look at the possible defect without climbing or using bucket trucks. During regular patrols, a team member can quickly deploy a drone to capture a higher level of detail and more easily spot potential issues. They can see things that they may have otherwise missed, better classify the problem, and determine the best course of action, all while avoiding hazardous manhours.

SCENARIO 3.

Substation Upgrades, Maintenance, & Inspection

A problem is reported at a substation. Although easily accessible, substations pose a special challenge because the substation has to be turned off for a human to do the inspection. In rare situations, this can even lead to a brief power outage for customers.

Stephen Dorsett from Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL), explained,

“One of the most valuable things the drone does is allow us to inspect infrastructure without having to shut it down. This saves us hazardous manhours, improves turnaround time by several days, and eliminates paperwork.”

SCENARIO 4.

Storm Restoration

A tornado has come through and damaged several towers in its path. Rather than putting men on foot to assess the damage across miles of terrain, you grab the drone and do a survey of the area. With the proper software, the photos are uploaded and stitched together with photogrammetry, creating one cohesive map. You’re able to see the path of destruction and key in on the damaged areas, allowing you to quickly and efficiently plan recovery measures.

SCENARIO 5.

Urban or Suburban Vegetation

Today’s drones can also help with vegetation assessments in populated areas. Avoid traversing across private property or having to access right-of-way areas in what is often a tight, over-grown space between urban or suburban back-yards. Using drones to inspect along the side of roadways may also help to avoid blocking roads or lanes of traffic with bucket trucks, and putting workers at risk.

SCENARIO 6.

Everything else

The applications of having a UAV (unmanned aircraft vehicle) and licensed pilot for transmission and distribution are endless. As a drone operator at Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL), Steven Dorsett gets new requests on a weekly basis. As for uses of the drone, Dorsett says, “They’re a dime a dozen; we’re always finding new uses [for the drones]. Across the industry, there are situations where the drone is an extension of yourself.”

In the past four years, Dorsett has used the drone to help with painting projects, training, to take pictures for the Safety Council, for substation upgrades, fiber optic jobs, spot checks from the side of the road, and more.

Dorsett and his coworker Jessica Franklin, Transmissions Operations Engineer, note that the most value is realized when you combine the abilities of the technology with the years of experience and knowledge of your team.

“For a lot of flights, we’re looking for one thing and finding something else,” Franklin explains. “When you have a knowledgeable operator, you can do a flight, find the problem, find the second problem, and order a resolution all in the same day.”

Today, Dorsett is one of two licensed UAV pilots at Indianapolis Power & Light. He says he receives several requests each week for the drone and is grateful for his company’s commitment to innovation and technology.

“It’s another tool in the toolshed,” Dorsett says. “We have power tools that cost three times as much as the drone, and yet, we use the drone more frequently. It’s a no-brainer to have a drone and a couple of licensed pilots.”

Drone Program Basics

What’s in an Enterprise Drone Program?

Once you’ve made the decision to add drones to your operations, it’s time to think practically about the setup and execution of your drone program. Managing a corporate drone program requires the coordination, oversight, and execution of a wide range of tasks and functions, as shown in Figure 3.1. How many of these functions your organization takes on, and therefore the size of your drone program team, will depend on the complexity of your operation and decisions regarding in-sourcing or out- sourcing. A helpful in-sourcing vs. out-sourcing decision guide is provided in Appendix A.

In Measure’s experience working with energy companies, a hybrid approach tends to be the best fit. In this case, day-to-day and quick-turn operations are carried out by an in-house team while larger, more complex flight operations and data analysis are out-sourced to a third-party.

Drone Program Manager

Most companies will begin by designating an internal manager to lead the program and oversee the many moving parts. Typically this would be one person from a central location - a Drone Program Manager. For particularly complex or global programs, companies might need several people to manage operations in their region or for a certain type of operation (e.g. disaster response). Regardless of how you are structured, you will need a Grand Central Station, of sorts, to manage your company’s drone operations.

The Drone Program Manager is responsible for ensuring all the functions of the program are running smoothly, whether accomplished in-house or contracted out. He or she will work with a team that might include in-house or contract pilots, trainers, drone engineers, and data analysts, among others. He or she may be ordering and/or tracking jobs; ensuring compliance with safety, regulatory, and company policies; managing equipment; and measuring program success. With so many people and functions to oversee, a program management software designed specifically for this purpose is crucial. Measure and Fortune 500 energy company, AES, use Measure Ground Control, a comprehensive software platform built based on real-world experience, to help run their complex drone programs. You’ll learn more about Ground Control later in this paper.

Air Operations Manual

An Air Operations Manual is the foundational document of a professional drone program. It shapes the operational and safety culture of the organization. Each Air Operations Manual will be unique depending on the attributes of your organization, but should always address the following subjects (more details outlined in Appendix B).

  • Authority & Control of Flights
  • Regulatory Compliance Guidelines
  • Training Standards
  • Flight & Mission Planning Procedures
  • Crew Resource Management
  • Equipment Maintenance & Repair
  • Mishap Reporting
Figure 3.1 - Functions of Drone Program Management
Function
Description

Work Ordering

Placing a work request for drone data.

Fleet Management

Scheduling of aircraft and sensor payload for each job, managing shipping and storage logistics, following equipment maintenance schedules, and completing repairs or upgrades as needed.

Pilot Management

Tracking certifications, licenses, training, and proficiency of each pilot; assigning pilots to each job; overseeing travel schedules; ensuring rest requirements are met; and measuring on-the-job performance.

Compliance

Checking airspace, flight, and pilot rules and regulations for each job; ensuring that any necessary permits, licenses, tranings, or waivers are in place.

Flight Planning

Determining flight schedule, pattern, altitude, and image capture specifications, as well as any weather-related requirements (e.g. temperature, light, or irradiance limitations), to meet the data goals of the job.

Data Collection

Flying the drone and appropriate sensor payload, according to the flight plan and safety procedures, to collect the data from the job site.

Flight Logging

Collecting all flight data such as flight path, altitude, speed, battery usage, and screen captures to effectively document and track the flight.

Data Engineering

Automated and/or manual processing and analysis of the raw drone data to create a useable data product or report.

Data Management

Storing, tracking, organizing, and delivering the reams of drone data collected, processed, and analyzed.

Performance Tracking

Continuously ensuring company policies are being followed, tracking program metrics, and measuring program benefits (e.g. costs and hazardous man-hours saved).

Program Improvements

Continuously ensuring company policies are being followed, tracking program metrics, and measuring program benefits (e.g. costs and hazardous man-hours saved).

Pilots & Pilot Training

An obvious part of any drone program is pilots. In-house pilots may be dedicated to the drone program, or they may combine drone operations with other job responsibilities. Often in the case of electric utilities, select team members obtain their pilot license for regular line patrols, spot checks, issue investigations, and disaster response. Third-party or contract pilots may be called in for larger projects.

The FAA requires any sUAV operator to have a Part 107 certification before flying for any commercial purpose. However, that is only the first step. Measure recommends a three-part training program that includes basic introductory training, along with training specific to the type of equipment the pilot will use and the application in which he will use it.

Introductory Training. Introductory training should cover the core principles of your organization’s program, such as maintenance guidelines, crew rest requirements, drug and alcohol policy, safety procedures, regulatory compliance, and more.

Drone-Specific Training. Drone pilots should receive hands-on training for the specific drone equipment they will be using, such as the DJI Inspire 2 or Phantom 4 Pro. This type of training sets a baseline for safe operation of aircraft and ensuring that pilots can adequately take manual control of the aircraft at any time to avoid hazardous situations.

Application-Specific Training. Pilots should be trained to perform one or several specific industry applications. This might include such things as advanced flight skills for operating around high-voltage transmission lines, how to capture thermal imagery, or how to setup and fly a waypoint pattern. Pilots should also be trained on proper data handling for their specific use case, such as proper organizing and transfer of data files, as well as important data security techniques.

The energy industry has always been a leader in utilizing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing data to monitor infrastructure and make decisions. From mapping out critical infrastructure to right-of- way management, utilities have built extensive databases of geographic information. One of the best ways to maximize the return on your drone inspections is to integrate drone data into your existing workflow.

It’s important to spend time up front to understand what your drone data will be used for. Here are some questions to get you started:

Of course, if you are dealing with critical infrastructure, you must also ensure that all data procedures follow NERC/FERC compliance.

Next, compile an inventory of your existing data architecture so you can identify if you have the tools to store, process, and analyze drone data. Data capabilities will vary significantly by organization, and many organizations may choose to out-source some, or all, of their data processing and analysis needs. Even if you choose to outsource data processing and analysis, it is still imperative to determine how you will integrate the resulting data products into your business systems and workflows.

Once you understand what data you need and how you will use it, you are ready to start collecting drone data and putting it to work in your organization.

Prior to flying, each pilot will need to understand the data required and any data collection or flight path specifications. If the data collected will require data processing and analysis, a pre-flight meeting with the data team is recommended. Drone data follows the old computer-science adage, ‘garbage in, garbage out,’ meaning no amount of magic can turn improperly collected data into a valuable data product.

Before and upon arriving at the job site, the pilot will need to conduct a thorough assessment of the operating environment. Each pilot is responsible for following safe, legal flying practices. Measure also recommends:

In order to ensure that the data collected meets the project needs, Measure pilots also conduct quality checks with the data team, typically at several intervals, during complex jobs. This helps to reduce the chance of having to return and re- fly a job site due to poor data quality.

While some jobs, like a quick spot check of a pole-top issue, are fulfilled with the basic, raw imagery taken by the drone; other jobs, like mapping and maintenance or vegetation assessments, require the processing, analysis, and delivery of large data sets.

Once data has been captured and transferred, it is loaded and prepared for processing and analysis. At Measure, we typically bring processed data into programs like Pix4D, ArcGIS or Scopito to perform analysis and share the final data with end users. For energy inspections, we often use ArcGIS or Scopito (see Figs 3.2 - 3.3) to produce an interactive webmap that can be annotated. ArcGIS data can also be delivered through a convenient app, making it easy for field personnel to locate issues and provide updates right from their smart phone.

Example Inspection Images

Figure 3.2 - Screen shot of an ArcGIS interactive web portal for a vegetation inspection
drone data

Figure 3.3 - Screen shot of a Scopito interactive web portal for a maintenance inspection.
drone inspection

Drones-TD-cover

Save for Later?

Download the PDF version and read at your convenience.

Download the PDF

The next obvious part of any drone program is, of course, the drones. When choosing the right equipment for a job, there are a number of factors to consider: type of operations, data requirements, security requirements, and cost. Common drone platforms and sensor payloads are shown in Figures 4.1 and 4.2.

Drone aircraft come in two major physical configurations: multi-rotor and fixed-wing. Simply put, for operations that require ease-of- use, maneuverability, and data collection in a relatively localized area, a multi-rotor drone is almost universally the right option.

In the multi-rotor drone marketplace, DJI dominates with over 70% market share. DJI products offer quality and reliability at an affordable price, and they cover a wide range of applications and levels of sophistication.

Standardizing on one drone manufacturer, or, if possible, one drone airframe, will simplify aircraft maintenance and repair. DJI’s market dominance and expansive equipment selection makes it an attractive choice. DJI has come under a certain amount of scrutiny for data handling practices. These can be mitigated by using a feature called “Local Data Mode” available in select flight control applications, such as Measure Ground Control (discussed later in this section).

Operations that require long-distance flight or wide-scale mapping are typically better served by fixed-wing aircraft. Fixed-wing platforms lack the maneuverability and ease-of-use associated with multi-rotors, but offer superior endurance. Many applications suited for fixed-wing aircraft remain limited by FAA regulations prohibiting beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight without a special permit. Measure currently uses the senseFly eBee for utility-scale solar power plant inspections with great success. The eBee is a fixed-wing drone that packs a lot of power in a small platform and accepts a variety of payloads, including visual, thermal, and multispectral sensors.

As discussed in the previous section, managing a drone program is a complex operation, covering many functions (see Fig 3.1). Looking across the drone software market, you will find a plethora of products targeted at one or a few of these functions. For example, there are popular software products focused only on flight logging or only on equipment management.

However, using a single software solution for as many functions as possible - work ordering, resource management, flight planning and tracking, program reporting, compliance, and data management - will help you streamline your operations and manage your program more efficiently. You’ll also have the program oversight that most corporations, such as electric utilities, need to ensure consistently safe and compliant execution of all aspects of their drone program.

Measure was searching for a comprehensive software platform to manage its own extensive drone operations. Unable to find a platform that met all of its needs, Measure built one, based on the experience of managing thousands of flights across myriad applications. That product is Measure Ground Control. A basic overview of Ground Control’s management portal is provided in Appendix C. Ground Control also includes an integrated flight application.

Figure 5.1 - Common Commercial Drone Hardware
Drone Make & Model
Style
Specs
Best For
Notes

DJI Phantom 4 Pro

Multirotor

Max Flight Time: 30 min Wind Speed Resistance: 10 m/s

Basic imagery & mapping

Good for tactical situational awareness for emergency response and basic smallscale mapping for most construction sites as well as distribution line inspections due to its portability, low price point, and ease of use.

DJI Inspire 2

Multirotor

Max Flight Time: 27 min Wind Speed Resistance: 10 m/s

All purpose

The workhorse in the industry; rugged and fieldtested. Excellent all-purpose drone.

DJI M210

Multirotor

Max Flight Time: 38 min Wind Resistance: 12 m/s

All purpose

Dual gimbal payload allows for simultaneous thermal and RGB data collection. Preferred platform for police and fire use.

senseFly eBee

Fixed-wing

Max Flight Time: 50 min Wind Resistance: 12 m/s

Utility-scale solar plant inspections

Superior endurance and thermal image capture frequency. Best choice for large-scale mapping missions such as in solar, and agriculture.

FIGURE 5.2 - Common Commercial Drone Sensors
Sensor
Type
Compatability
Functions
Verticals

Zenmuse X45

RGB

Inspire 2, M200 series

RGB mapping

Solar

Zenmuse X5S

RGB

Inspire 2, M200 series

Primary fleet RGB payload, High-res inspection, RGB mapping

Solar, Wind, T&D

Zenmuse X7

RGB

Inspire 2, M200 series

Cinematography

Media

Zenmuse XT-R

Infrared

Inspire 1, M600 series, M200 series

IR Mapping, Surveillance

Solar, T&D, Energy

Zenmuse Z30

RGB

M600, M200 series

Live inspection, Surveillance

Public Safety

SenseFly S.O.D.A.

RGB

eBee, eBee+, eBee X

IR mapping

Solar

SenseFly Thermomap

Infrared

eBee, eBee+

IR mapping

Solar

SenseFly Sequoia

Multi-spectrail

eBee, eBee+

NDVI mapping

Agriculture

Flight Apps
Measure Ground Control Flight Application: LAANC airspace authorization
Flight Apps
Measure Ground Control Flight Application: Pre-flight checklist and automated grid flight pattern
Flight Apps
Measure Ground Control Flight Application: Waypoint flight setup
Flight Applications

A flight application is used to control the drone during flight. You can find many drone flight applications available in the various iOS or Android app stores, and several of them are available for free. DJI offers a free application, DJI GO, that works with all DJI drones and is available at no additional charge. Given DJI’s dominance in the drone market, their flight application also has the highest number of users. However, this application serves the needs of a very wide range of drone users, including hobbyists who want to take aerial pictures and upload them to social media.

 

A flight application designed specifically for commercial use is typically the better choice. A commercial flight application should offer a simplified interface with only the functions required, and it should be oriented toward safety and security with features such as pre- and post- flight checklists, integrated airspace advisories and authorization, and local data mode to block data sharing with DJI.

Having a flight application that is integrated with your program management software offers additional benefits, such as automatic uploading of all flight data. Flights along with completed checklists and screen shots can be easily and consistently captured, tracked, and reported on, along with notifications of any flight activities that do not adhere to safety best practices. Measure Ground Control, which integrates a program management platform with a flight application, also includes features such as flight playback, where the flight is recreated on-screen, as well the ability to translate flight logs into drone and battery usage data that informs maintenance decisions.

 
Drone Data Software
drone-data-software-1
ArcGIS data delivered through a smartphone application for use by field personnel

Drone data is often uploaded into various software platforms for processing, analysis, and visualization. Figure 4.3 summarizes just a few of the different software products used by Measure’s Data Engineering team. As shown in the Figure, different software platforms are best suited for different types of applications and data needs. Some tools are designed to be used only for raw dataset processing, while others are only useful for analysis or visualization of processed data. Analytical tools in particular are often targeted to a specific industrial application. For T&D work, Measure most commonly uses Scopito and ArcGIS.

What data software you need will also depend on whether you will be processing and analyzing drone data internally, or whether you will be outsourcing this function. If you don’t plan to do internal data processing and analysis, you only need to worry about how to best integrate the final drone data product into your operations. Many electric utilities will want to receive data in ArcGIS for integration into existing systems, while others will use a stand-alone data portal, such as Scopito, for viewing, storing, and tracking their drone data. If you will be using an outsource model, access to these platforms will typically be provided by your vendor. Please see Figures 3.2 and 3.3 in the previous section for examples of data delivery through ArcGIS and Scopito.

Always keep in mind who the stakeholders of your program are and who will need access to the data. Data that is difficult for asset managers or O&M teams to use, for example, is not likely to maximize the return on your investment. Make sure that the processing, analyzing, and visualization of your drone data results in a data deliverable that can drive better decisions for your business operations.

Figure 5.3 - Common Drone Data Software
Software
Purpose
Stage
Type
Use Cases

Pix4D Mapper

Photogrammetry

Processing, Analysis, Visualization

Desktop + Cloud

Mapping, solar inspection, 3D modeling, construction, agriculture

Hangar

Photogrammetry, Documentation

Processing, Visualization

Cloud

Construction

Dronedeploy

Photogrammetry

Processing, Analysis, Visualization

Cloud

Mapping, construction, agriculture

Scopito

Inspection Management

Visualization, Analysis

Cloud

Wind turbine inspection, T&D inspection

FlirTools

Thermal Image Inspection

Visualization, Analysis

Desktop

Solar inspection

ArcGIS Suite

GIS Data Manipulation

Visualization, Analysis

Desktop + Cloud

Mapping, solar inspection, T&D, agriculture

AutoCAD Suite

CAD Data Manipulation

Visualization, Analysis

Desktop

Construction

Conclusion

In this paper, we have reviewed the benefits and use cases of drones in transmission & distribution operations. We have introduced the components of a drone program and discussed options for hardware and software. Everything is this paper is something your organization can do and take advantage of today.

If you are looking to start an internal drone program, outsource operations, or have your pilots trained, Measure can help. Measure offers a range of products and services for companies such as electric utilities. Contact us for more information on:

Drones can deliver measurable improvements for your T&D operations. When you’re ready to get started or want to take your existing program to the next level, drop us a line at measure.com/contact.

Appendix

Appendix A: Insource vs. Outsource Decision Guide
 
Insource
 
Outsource

Pilot skills required

Low

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

High

In-house data engineering skills & software

Available

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Not Available

Hardware Costs

Low

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

High

Program execution costs (software, insurance, management)

Low

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

High

Risk tolerance

High

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Low

Data complexity

Low (e.g. visual pictures only)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

High (hundreds of images, thermal analysis, etc)

Inspected asset value

Low (e.g. bare earth)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

High (e.g. wind turbines, cell towers)

Mission risk conditions

Low (e.g. empty site)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

High (hazardous environment)

Flight locations

Specific sites with on-site staff

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Disperse, unknown, or unstaffed locations

Flight frequency

High (daily, weekly)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Low (monthly, annually)

Flight predictability

Low (on-demand, reactive)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

High (planned in advance)

Appendix B: Components of an Air Operations Manual
Subject
Purpose
Considerations

Authority & Control of Flights

Establish who has authority to approve flight operations under what circumstances

Who can put in a request for drone operations?

How are operations reviewed and approved?

What authorities do the approver and the pilot- in-command have?

Regulatory Compliance Guidelines

Unequivocally state that all applicable rules and regulations must be followed

What federal, state, and local regulations affect your operations?

What is the process for requesting regulatory waivers?

What other regulatory guidelines (e.g. FCC) may apply?

Training Standards

Stipulate pilot training requirements by mission type and ensure only qualified pilots are flying

What training is required for each of your mission types?

How often must training be renewed?

Do training requirements differ between employee and contract pilots?

Flight & Mission Planning Procedures

Ensure consistently successful aerial data collection and safe flight outcomes

What are your data collection requirements?

What is the type, location, and timing of the mission?

How are you managing your equipment and pilots?

Crew Resource Management

Reduce and mitigate errors related to human factors in in-field flight operations

What are your crew rest requirements?

How do factors like weather or stress impact pilot scheduling?

How are crew errors or infractions addressed?

Equipment Maintenance and Repair

Reduce safety hazards, downtime, and data quality issues due to malfunctioning equipment

Who will be responsible for drone maintenance and repair?

What are your pre-and post- flight maintenance procedures?

How will you track equipment usage over time?

Mishap Reporting

Determine policies and procedures for when accidents happen

What severity of accident warrants a report?

Who needs to be informed when an accident happens?

What information needs to be collected at the scene and by whom?

Who will be responsible for filing a mishap report?

Appendix C: Measure Ground Control Program Management Portal
Measure Ground Control Web Portal

A free trial is available at measure.com/software

drone equipment
Manage Users & Equipment
  • Keep tabs on the activities, certifications, and training of your team

  • Setup user profiles with location, credentials, experience, and status

  • Control user permissions with pre-defined roles

  • Manage all equipment, with automatic usage tracking and maintenance recommendations

  • Store equipment details, create kits, and disable or quarantine equipment as needed

drone program management
Plan Flights
  • Create and schedule missions, and mange the program calendar

  • Assign pilots, equipment, and other resources to missions

  • Automate task assignments with customizable workflows

  • Check airspace

  • Design and upload flight plans

  • Set company-wide flight parameters

drone software
Track Flights & Program Metrics
  • Access automatically uploaded flight logs, including flight playback and screen shots

  • Check automatically flagged incidents for activity outside of safety best practices

  • Review pre- and post-flight checklists

  • View interactive dashboards of program metrics

  • Create and export reports and flight data

  • Upload mission raw data and final data results

Drones-TD-cover

Save for Later?

Download the PDF version and read at your convenience.

Download the PDF

Request a Free Consultation with an Advisor.

Please take a moment to let us know more about you.