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DARTdrones, a training company that was an early adopter of the TOP program, says enterprise users are becoming more attracted to drone pilot certification. Photo: High Class Studios

AUVSI recently took home a Power of A (Association) Gold Award from ASAE, the Center for Association Leadership, for its Trusted Operator Program (TOP), now almost a year old. TOP is a certification program aimed at creating a culture of safety, reliability, professionalism and trust within the UAS community. “We applaud AUVSI for creating and implementing such a collaborative initiative that strengthens society,” says Sharon J. Swan, CEO of the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and chair of the Power of A Awards Judging Committee. “Their initiative exemplifies how no other sector helps improve lives as comprehensively as the association community.” There are now more than 100,000 drone pilots certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and that’s just since the regulations went into effect in 2016 to allow commercial flight. ASAE notes that although it was created to begin domestically, TOP has drawn interest from around the world, including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Rwanda, South Africa and the United Kingdom. In addition, three significant enterprise users — a leading insurance company and two of the top 10 U.S. electric utilities — are in the process of adopting policies that would only allow TOP-certified remote pilots to carry out their UAS operations. 18


As indicated by ASAE, industry interest in using TOP for UAS operations is growing across a variety of sectors. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. of The Woodlands, Texas, is evaluating the TOP program and, if things go as expected, plans to start deploying it in the next month for the company’s internal pilot fleet and pilots from external vendors. “We have about 43 to 45 internal pilots and we’re looking for a way to quantitatively assess and grade their skills as an operator,” says Wane Rodieck, Anadarko’s aerial and visual analytics manager. “We were looking for something that went above and beyond Part 107. The AUVSI TOP program was a great next step for us.” Anadarko plans to have all its pilots TOP Level 2 certified by the end of the year, Rodieck says, with some to advance to Level 3 for more industry-specific training. Anadarko uses its fleet of drones all over the world, to monitor construction, detect pipeline leaks, create orthomosaics for its well sites and other uses. The company works with four outside vendors but does about 95 percent of its drone work inhouse. All of the Anadarko pilots fly parttime, he says, using the UAS as a tool to help them do their jobs. “Drones are allowing us to understand what we have in the field much more comprehensively than we were [able to] with our two-dimensional data,” Rodieck says. Rodieck started the company’s drone program and was its only pilot for a couple of years. Now Anadarko has a fleet of 52 UAS, made of up various models from DJI, including Phantom 4s, Matrice 200s and 600s, and Mavics. Before coming to TOP, the company required its pilots to be Part 107 certified and then had its own induction training. “However, there was nothing really structured around the training and certification of those pilots and the company that we’re working with now, it’s much more comprehensive than anything

Profile for AUVSI Unmanned Systems magazine

AUVSI's Unmanned Systems magazine — September 2019