1. Introduction

Introduction

As industries are beginning to adopt drone technology on a wide scale and develop drone programs, it is important to learn from pioneers who have worked through the challenges and are already reaping the rewards of incorporating this very complex world of drones into their operations.

Measure worked right alongside Fortune 500 energy company AES to establish an international drone program from the ground up. This guide is a brief summary of our collective learnings from that experience (and others) which led to more than $4.6M in financial benefit to the company in the program’s first full year.

The five major components to any drone program are:

  1. Program Management
  2. Pilots & Pilot Training
  3. Air Operations Manual
  4. Drones and Sensors
  5. Data Collection

We will take a deeper dive into each of the elements, with the goal of guiding you in developing your very own drone program and giving you practical tips that you can utilize today.

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Program Management

Companies will implement their drone program in different ways, depending on size, program scope, and geography. However, proper execution of a drone program must include the functions listed below (which are summarized in Figure 1.1).

Most companies will designate someone to lead the charge, be an internal champion, and most importantly, manage the many moving parts of the program. Depending on the size of your organization and how you are structured, this can be one person from a central location, or it can be several people managing flight operations in their region. But regardless of how you are structured, you will need a Grand Central Station, of sorts, to manage your company’s drone operations. Typically, this would be the Drone Operations Manager.

The Drone Ops Manager (or whatever the title he or she is given) is responsible for ensuring all the functions of the program are running smoothly, whether accomplished in-house or outsourced. Simply put, without the Drone Operations Manager, you have no Drone Operations.

For this reason, the Drone Operations Manager must be an excellent communicator and demonstrate a mastery of people skills. Her job will require coordination between many different parties; the ability to influence each of these parties and reach common ground is an important part of the job.

Also, the ability to respond to emergency situations and high-pressure events is important. If anything goes wrong during a mission, the Drone Ops Manager is the first call from the pilot. He must be able to effectively problem-solve on the fly and be confident in his ability to make decisions.

Managing a corporate drone program requires the coordination, oversight, and execution of a wide range of tasks and functions. The Drone Ops Manager will work with a team that might include full-time and/or contract pilots, trainers, drone engineers, and data analysts, among others. With so many people and functions to manage, it’s important to streamline operations as much as possible. Measure and AES use a comprehensive program management tool, Measure Ground Control, to help run their complex drone programs.

Managing a drone program is a complex operation, covering many functions. 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.

Drone Program Management Software

Here are a few ways in which proper program management software can help solve management challenges:

  • Avoid the cost and complexity of multiple software tools
  • Ensure that flight logs and compliance data are uploaded
  • Track equipment status, assignments, and usage efficiently
  • Reduce miscommunications regarding logistics and data collection plans
  • Simplify pre-flight checks, flight setup, data collection for your pilots
  • Enable data quality checks while pilot team is on-site
  • Keep data organized and associated with missions without requiring extra data transfer steps
  • Easily generate reports for leadership and compliance purposes

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. Measure Ground Control is an end-to-end software product that combines a user-friendly flight application with a comprehensive program management portal, allowing drone program operators to manage and scale their operations through one system. A basic overview of Ground Control’s features is provided in Appendix C.

Figure 1.1 - 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 and Pilot Training

 

An obvious requirement of any drone program is pilots. The FAA requires any sUAV operator to have a Part 107 certification before flying for any commercial purpose. So who will be your pilots? Where will they be located?

The answers to these questions will vary depending on industry, company size, and corporate structure. Rather than try to apply a blanket approach to all drone operations, we’ve listed a few examples of how some organizations in various industries are structuring their internal pilot programs:

Utility T&D

Select utility workers obtain their pilot license for regular line patrols, spot checks, issue investigations, and disaster response.

Construction

Pilots serve a geographical region; 1099 pilots or local contractors are on call.

Renewable Energy (Wind, Solar)

Corporate pilots serve several regional sites. Particularly large farms with on-site personnel may have a dedicated pilot. Geographically dispersed sites may be best served by third-party vendors.

Public Safety

First responders obtain their pilot licenses and go through rigorous training.

Motivating Existing Employees to Get their License

If you’d like to have existing employees get licensed, you should consider developing an incentive program to motivate employees. Becoming a drone pilot requires a good amount of dedication and training and adds a big responsibility to an existing job description.

Many companies have found the best way to motivate employees to become certified is through company-provided training, paid time to study for Part 107 exam, and incentives – some offer a bonus after successfully acquiring Part 107 certification and completing training. Human Resources and Talent Management remind employees that sUAV skills are a great way to beef up their resume. Still others make it a requirement to achieve promotion or next-level advancement within the company.

Whatever approach you take, making sure employees are rewarded and recognized for their expertise will go a long way to creating a successful drone program.

Assessing Internal Resources

With the vast growth of the consumer drone market in recent years, many employees already involved in facility operations and maintenance may have some existing familiarity with drones.

Furthermore, people with manned aviation experience - those holding sports pilot licenses for example - will have an important leg up in understanding the complexities of the National Airspace System. At AES subsidiary Indianapolis Power & Light, Contract Coordinator Stephen “Stix” Dorsett became a resident expert on drone inspections of transmission and distribution lines and served as a leading pilot when Measure was training other AES utility workers.

Stix advises companies to identify the drone hobbyists first: “Find the person who’s been flying in their free time.” He goes on to explain, “A lot of companies are looking at commercial pilots to do these jobs, but your own internal hobbyists are excellent for this because they are teachable and also possess job knowledge.”

Hiring Externally

In some cases, existing personnel will not have the requisite skillset or available bandwidth to be good candidates as drone pilots. Characteristics to look for include an aviation background, organizational skills, superb attention to detail, professionalism, high regard for safety, willingness to travel, and familiarity around advanced technology. Whether looking internally or externally, use clear job requirements in the job description to set expectations.

Some requirements to include in the pilot job description:
  1. Obtain qualifications on specific sUAS and missions that are required for the pilot to perform his/her function.
  2. Possess a thorough understanding of the capabilities and limitations of sUAS airframe and sensor payload equipment.
  3. Develop flight plans, check NOTAMS, TFRs, and weather; coordinate airspace integration with any affected controlling agencies or privately-owned properties.
  4. Facilitate pre-mission briefs, complete safety risk assessments prior to flight and after-action reviews upon post-flight.
  5. Solve problems on the ground in real-time and perform limited UAS and ground support equipment troubleshooting in the field.
  6. Maintain requirements for Remote Pilot Certificate with small Unmanned Aircraft System rating.
  7. Maintain knowledge of civilian airspace and aeronautical charts.
  8. Be on call to travel on short notice.
Facilitating Pilot Training

Whether hiring new drone pilots or designating current employees as pilots, running a comprehensive, ongoing training program should be one of the core responsibilities of the Drone Operations Manager. There are a number of different ways to structure an effective training program, but Measure recommends three types of training: basic introductory training, drone-specific designations, and application-specific qualifications. Of course, all trainees must pass the Part 107 exam prior to the following training.

PART 1
Basic Introductory Training

The introductory training should cover many of the core principles of your organization’s program architecture, as outlined in the Air Operations Manual (which is covered in the next section). This includes items like maintenance guidelines, crew rest requirements, drug and alcohol policy, regulatory compliance, and more.

PART 2
Drone-Specific Designations

Drone pilots should be trained on a specific drone platform, for example the DJI Inspire 2 or the senseFly eBee. Measure denotes training of this sort as a “designation.” Designations are important in setting 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.

PART 3
Application-Specific Qualifications

Pilots should be trained to perform one or several specific industry applications - also known as a qualification. Qualifications might include such things as flying around high-voltage transmission lines, conducting a wind turbine inspection, or flying a grid pattern over a construction site. Certain qualifications, for example solar plant inspections that require thermal imagery, can only be performed with certain aircraft or sensor. Therefore, a pilot must often become designated on a particular aircraft type before “unlocking” an associated qualification course.

An Air Operations Manual is the foundational document of a professional drone program and should be distributed to every pilot, 1099 employee, and any other member of the drone program. Each company’s Air Operations Manual will be unique depending on the attributes of your organization, but should always address the following subjects (summarized in Figure 3.2):

While often overlooked, it is imperative to establish who has the authority to approve flight operations and under what circumstances.

For example, Measure often encounters situations where the viability of a mission is called into question due to factors such as inclement weather or an operating environment with too many distractions (such as an unexpected gathering of persons nearby). The Pilot in Command (PIC) must determine whether that mission can be flown based on conditions in the field, but certain situations detailed in our Air Operations Manual dictate when a pilot in command should make a call to the Drone Operations Manager for approval to continue or discontinue the operation. One example is if an aircraft sustains damage but it appears to not affect the airworthiness of the drone. After explaining the situation to the Drone Ops Manager, the PIC will receive a “go/no go” order.

Establishing clear lines of authority and scopes of responsibility not only makes individuals more accountable to each other—improving safety outcomes—it also can help determine responsibility in the case of an accident.

State clearly in the Air Operations Manual that all pilots must abide by federal, state, and local regulations concerning the operations of drones as well as other applicable rules like FCC guidelines concerning the use of certain types of spectrum for command and control of an unmanned aircraft system. These rules should be written so as to apply not only to internal pilots but to any third party operating on behalf of the organization.

Flight and Mission Planning Procedures

Flight and mission planning should make up the most in-depth sections of a quality Air Operations Manual, as flight and mission planning done right will ensure consistently look at some of the planning stages to get an idea for the complexity of this process.

Once a mission has been ordered and green-lit, preflight planning begins. The entire process can be managed in a comprehensive drone management software.

Mission Planning in Measure Ground Control

Flight Mission Planning

There are general data collection procedures that can be developed by mission type, but even these will vary depending on a number of factors. Generally, the inputs needed to tailor the proper set of data collection procedures are the industrial application and specific data product needs, along with the location of the job site and time frame for when the mission must be conducted.

With this information, a flight planner can determine and schedule the exact aircraft, sensor, and other supporting equipment needed for a job; assign pilots to the mission; obtain any regulatory approvals needed to fly in the requested area (airspace, night waivers, etc.); and provide precise flight settings to the pilots.

If using Measure Ground Control, the flight planner can even create exact flight paths for each mission and upload them to the flight application for pilot’s easy access in the field. See Figure 3.1 for more details on the flight planning tools available in Ground Control.

Once the pre-flight planning is complete and a pilot team has been deployed to the job site, another set of field flight planning procedures takes place. This involves the assignment of duties within a flight crew, a pre-flight equipment inspection, adjustments to the pre-flight mission plan based on the realities on the ground, and more.The Pilot in Command will also complete a final check of weather and airspace, as well as an overall safety assessment.

Grid Flight with Image Annotations

Grid Flight with Image Annotations

Waypoint Flight Settings in Flight App

Waypoint Flight Settings in Flight App

Checklists are immensely helpful in ensuring that all required tasks are performed before the mission begins. With Measure Ground Control, pre- and post- flight checklists are built-in to the flight app (more on that later in this guide).

After the mission is flown, post-mission procedures ensure that the data collected achieved the mission goals and that the crew safely leaves the area with all its gear organized and stowed properly.

Matching Equipment and Personnel Matching the appropriate equipment and personnel to a given mission can become quite complex in organizations with a high volume of flights. The scheduling process includes addressing issues like crew rest requirements between flight operations and whether the circumstances of the mission will be extreme, as in a post-disaster scenario or high-security area.

Having a structured drone maintenance and repair program will eliminate many potential safety hazards in the field, reduce unproductive downtime due to malfunctioning equipment, and lessen instances of poor quality data acquisition.

Maintenance schedules cover procedures ranging from preflight inspection to internal aircraft inspection to bench testing to complete overhauls, dictating the frequency with which these should occur. Measure and AES go one step further, utilizing Measure Ground Control’s program management tools, which tracks the usage of drones, batteries, and sensors over time via automatic telemetry data upload and analysis. Ground Control adjusts maintenance schedules in real time based on actual usage and estimated wear and tear.

Hardware Maintenance in Ground Control

Hardware Maintenance in Ground Control
Mishap Reporting

Mishaps will occur from time to time in the field, and a professional drone program must have policies in place for what to do when accidents happen. The Air Operations Manual should answer the following questions:

  • 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?

Collecting flight telemetry data is a useful way of tracking the information required for mishap reporting. Program management tools that automatically collect and analyze telemetry data, such as Ground Control, can make mishap reporting more streamlined and accurate.

Figure 3.2 gives an easy-to-reference summary of the sections of an Air Operations Manual.

Figure 3.2 - 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?

Guide-to-Managing-Succesful-Drone-Program

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Drones and Sensors

The next obvious part of any drone program is, well, the drones. Similar to the questions of where your pilot resources will be located, you also have to determine where to store and maintain your hardware.

Options for drone storage:
  • Store the drones with the pilots and have pilots maintain them.
  • Store the drones centrally with the Drone Operations Manager or Drone Engineer and have him maintain them and ship them out to job sites ad hoc.
Drone Hardware and Sensors Recommendations

Now onto the fun part: the drones themselves. 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.

Drone aircraft come in two major physical configurations: multirotor and fixed-wing. Simply put, for operations that require greater maneuverability within a more confined space or for mapping of relatively small areas, a multirotor drone is almost universally the right option.

Operations that require long-distance flight or wide-scale mapping are typically better served by fixed-wing aircraft. These include such use cases as long-distance transmission and distribution line inspection and large-scale solar plant inspections. Fixed-wing platforms lack the maneuverability and ease-of-use associated with multirotors, but offer superior endurance.

In the multirotor drone marketplace, DJI dominates with over 70% market share. DJI products offer high quality and reliability at an affordable price and 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. Any concerns over data handling practices can be mitigated by using a feature called “Local Data Mode” available in select flight control applications, such as Measure Ground Control.

Takeaway:
Multirotor drones are best for agility; fixed-wing drones are better for endurance.

Many inspection applications suited for fixed-wing aircraft remain limited by FAA regulations prohibiting beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight without a special permit, but one of the most versatile platforms currently available is the senseFly eBee. The eBee is a fixed-wing drone that packs a lot of power in a small platform. The eBee accepts a variety of payloads, including visual, thermal, and multispectral sensors. Measure utilizes the eBee for utility-scale solar power plant inspections with great success. Measure has also experimented on some of its eBee fleet with integrated solar panels on the wings of the aircraft, allowing for extended flight time under sunny conditions.

Figure 4.1 - Drone Hardware Recommendations
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 4.2 - Sensor Recommendations
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

Data quality assurance begins with flight planning.

For the purposes of this paper, we will assume that the data processing and analysis will be outsourced to a third party provider. This is because most companies do not have the internal resources to develop and manage data engineering capabilities for the high volume of sophisticated drone data that may be collected. (The development of a drone data processing program is covered in our white paper Putting Drone Data to Work).

That being said, good data in equals good data out, and bad data in equals bad data out. If the raw imagery that is returned to the data team is bad, there is absolutely no genie or magic wand that can make that bad data usable.

This is why flight planning is such an important part of the drone operation. To help with flight planning and project management, you should invest in streamlined software that is capable of meeting all these needs, like Measure Ground Control. Take a look at an example process to see how to use Ground Control to properly manage assets, plan flights, and coordinate schedules.

While in the Program Management interface, create a request for a new job and select date/time, pilot, and equipment. Managers should also check the airspace at the mission location and request any needed waivers or permissions. The flight planner must match schedules for pilots to ensure those with the right skillsets are available for the job.

Schedule Pilots and Equipment
STEP 2. COMMUNICATE MISSION DETAILS TO PILOTS

Ground Control can automatically email pilots their mission information and will notify them of a new mission assigned to them every time they login to the app on tablet, phone, or computer. Depending on how you communicate with your pilots, you may also want to copy site or project managers for effective communication.

STEP 3. SETUP FLIGHT PATHS AND PARAMETERS

Since you have completed your pre-flight planning procedures and know the specs to ensure quality data is captured, pre-load all flight guidelines, paths, and parameters into Ground Control via the web portal. You will first create a new mission and then attach a flight plan to that mission using the Flight Planning tool mentioned in Figure 3.1 of this paper. The flight plans will automatically be loaded into the flight app when the assigned pilot accesses Ground Control in the field.

Drone Mobile Flight App
STEP 4. CONDUCT IN-FIELD CHECKS

When the pilot opens Ground Control on their iPad or iPhone, the appropriate checklists will also be presented automatically and flight routes will be pre-loaded. Pre-loaded checklists help keep pilots organized in the field and help to ensure that proper protocol is followed on each and every flight. In addition to going through the checklists, the pilot will conduct a pre-flight safety assessment with everyone on the mission.

Flight App Checklists

Pilots will also check weather and airspace and get real-time approval through LAANC.

Flight Authorization
STEP 5. COLLECT DATA AND PREPARE FOR THIRD-PARTY PROCESSING

Using the Ground Control flight app, pilots can control the flight of the drone with a streamlined, user-friendly interface that only presents features and flight controls relevant to commercial use cases. As a flight is completed, the telemetry data sent from the drone to the iPad or iPhone ground control station is automatically uploaded to a secure cloud storage system run off US-based servers.

Drone Program Management Software Family

Once in the cloud, this telemetry data is parsed, analyzed, and presented to a user in the Ground Control web platform. Pilots can review each flight they have flown with second-by-second reconstructions that provide information on altitude, roll, pitch, yaw, speed and more.

The imagery (RGB and/or thermal) data collected by the drone should be properly organized and uploaded for processing. Depending on the type of inspection, data may be organized by location, mission, flight number, and/or asset identifier. Data may be uploaded and associated with a mission in your drone program management software, or it may be saved to a cloud storage system shared with your data processing provider.

With a solid foundation of the key elements for your program in place, you will need the right tools to bring it all together and manage your program.

As you have seen throughout this paper, Measure Ground Control provides a centralized hub for managing the full scope of your drone operations.

That being said, when it comes time to scale your program, you may need help with custom features, integrations, and technical support in order to pull all the pieces together. Typically, organizations with more than 200 employees or 10+ pilots have a need for some or all of these features, but every organization’s needs vary.

CUSTOMIZE SET-UP FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION

Depending on the complexity and unique nature of your business, out-of-the-box may not work for you when it comes to features such as user profiles, work orders, and reporting.

Measure offers custom set-up options including, but not limited to:

  • Uploading historical flight logs
  • Custom user profiles
  • Custom dashboards and reports
  • Custom work order options
  • Custom pre- and post- flight checklists
  • Flight application limits
  • User training

For instance, AES needed to split up their users by the geographic region they served. So, we created a unique identifier within the User Profile where they could designate business unit such as AES US or AES MCAC.

INTEGRATE WITH EXISTING SYSTEMS

You have existing systems that will require integration, such as:

  • Single Sign On (Active Directory, SAML)
  • SAP and ERP systems
  • GIS tools

Measure can develop these custom integrations specific to your business needs.

TECHNICAL SUPPORT

As you scale your operation and add several, sometimes even hundreds, of users with multiple roles within the company, technical support becomes crucial to a smooth operation. With Ground Control, you have options as to the level of technical support you require.

Getting these fundamental elements right is crucial to creating an effective drone program that improves safety, asset performance, and culture.

Dealing with on-site technical malfunctions, weather changes, job site changes, and financial constraints are all part of the daily pressures to drone operations and each industry presents its own challenges. But with a solid foundational structure to your program, capable employees managing the operation, and the tools to support your goals, your program will succeed.

To see for yourself how Ground Control can help your drone program succeed, sign up for a free 30-day trial.

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 - Features of Measure Ground Control

MANAGE PEOPLE & EQUIPMENT

  • Keep tabs on the activities, certifications, and training of your team
  • Setup user profiles with location, credentials, experience, and status
  • Control user permission 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
  • Get reports of pilot and equipment activity

SCHEDULE & PLAN FLIGHTS

  • Create and schedule missions, and manage the program calendar
  • Assign pilots, equipment, and other resources to missions
  • Automate task assignments
  • Check airspace
  • Design and upload flight plans
  • Set company-wide flight parameters

FLY & COLLECT DATA

  • Check weather and airspace conditions
  • Request LAANC authorization
  • Retrieve and apply DJI Geo Unlock
  • Fly with GPS-aided manual control or automated grid and waypoint patterns
  • Use active track modes spotlight, POI, trace, orbit, and profile
  • Automatically upload flight logs, screen captures, and completed checklists
  • Block DJI data sharing with local data mode

TRACK & REPORT ACTIVITY

  • Access automatically uploaded flight logs, including flight playback and screen captures
  • Review pre- and post- flight checklists
  • Create and export reports and flight data
  • View interactive dashboards of program metrics

ANALYZE & STORE DATA

  • Store unlimited flight logs, imagery, video, and upladed files
  • Add inspection results and review mission and portfolio-level summaries
  • Upload completed data products to each mission
  • Access integrated visualization tools to view inspection data
Guide-to-Managing-Succesful-Drone-Program

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