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Q2 2016

SENSOR SECRETS Payload providers, products enhance the industry Page 14


Engineers, Surveyors Explain Worth of UAVs Page 22


How Established Manufacturers Target New Customers Page 12

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UAV Sensor Sensibility

For unmanned aircraft systems of all shapes and sizes, advances in sensors and cameras are allowing UAVs to capture higher volumes of better data. By Patrick C. Miller


UAS: The Must-Have Survey Tool Whether used as a tool within an existing firm or as part of a service package offered by a UAS entity, UAV work in the field has led all engineering and surveying end users to the same conclusion. By Ann Bailey


Targeting New UAS Clients Proven UAS developers and manufacturers explain their push to expand into the civilian commercial market by educating potential clients. By Luke Geiver


Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation


Broadcast Microwave Services, Inc.


HITEC/Multiplex USA


Cyclops Technologies, Inc.


Maverick Drone Systems


ON THE COVER: Riegl USA has created a platform specifically to carry its unique LiDAR payloads.

RED Consultants, Inc.


Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi


Arizona UAS Summit & Expo 2016


UAS Summit & Expo 2016

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A UAV Sensor’s Worth By Luke Geiver


Technology Connection By UAS Magazine staff


FAA Reauthorization Bill Could Change Future of UAS Industry By UAS Magazine staff

UAV-America, LLC Unmanned Applications Institute, International



EDITOR'S NOTE A UAV Sensor’s Worth Last October, our team visited the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Air Security Op­ erations Center at Grand Forks (North Dakota) Air Force Base to learn about the team’s efforts to per­ form beyond visual line-of-sight opera­tions utiliz­ ing its General Atomics MQ-9 Predator B. We spoke

with David Fulcher, deputy director of the northern border facility. Following the visit, we produced a story on CBP’s BVLOS work, but as you’ll see in this issue, our visit yielded more valuable information than we initially posted. (More on that in a second). To uncover the offerings and role of sensors Luke Geiver and cameras within the unmanned aircraft systems Editor, UAS Magazine industry, we spoke with payload developers ing product to every size of UAS flying today. In the article, “UAV Sensor Sensibility,” by Staff Writer and Photographer Patrick C. Miller, Fulcher offered what I would argue is the most important quote to take away from the story on sensors. Using lighter, smarter and more capable sensors housed on UAVs has an undeniable value for every party linked to the sensor. “We can start to develop patterns to allocate resources,” Fulcher said, when asked about CBP’s use of high-end sensors with its Predator-B flights. Sensors today are not only better than those used only two years ago, they are getting smaller and more powerful every quarter. From laser and radar offerings such as LiDAR to bird-noise mimicking one-off packages, sensors are giving end-users reliable, actionable data to truly utilize in budgeting purposes of all kinds. In some ways, as the effectiveness of the sensor package on the UAV goes, so goes the continued growth of the industry. As Fulcher says, “The ‘S’ in UAS is a system, so the aircraft itself is only part of the system.” Those who have used unmanned aircraft vehicles and sensor packages for engineering or surveying purposes know more than anyone how effective UAS can be in the field. For Staff Writer Ann Bailey’s look into engineering and surveying as the end-use application of UAVs, she started with a simple question for all of her sources. Does your entity use UAVs as a tool in your engineering and surveying service package, or, does your entity perform engineering and surveying as part of your UAS service offerings? Bailey’s story offers perspective from multiple entities that answered that question differently. But, no matter how they answered, the conclusion for every source in the story was the same. UAS used for engineering and surveying cases offers an undeniable benefit. In essence, practically every engineering or surveying job in the future could use UAS. And that’s not even what’s most exciting about the industry to date. We are past hypothetical scenarios and onto real-world use cases showing UAS in the field for engineering and surveying situations. In many instances, we could substitute several other end-use applications that are in action today with engineering and surveying. As always check out our website for the most relevant, original and in-depth coverage on all things UAS or find us at a UAS-related event to talk shop. VOLUME 3 ISSUE 2

EDITORIAL Editor Luke Geiver Staff Writer Patrick C. Miller Staff Writer Ann Bailey Copy Editor Jan Tellmann

PUBLISHING & SALES Chairman Mike Bryan CEO Joe Bryan President Tom Bryan Vice President of Operations Matthew Spoor Vice President of Content Tim Portz Business Development Manager Bob Brown Marketing & Sales Director John Nelson Circulation Manager Jessica Beaudry Marketing & Advertising Manager Marla DeFoe


Art Director Jaci Satterlund Graphic Designer Lindsey Noble

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Technology Connection

These UAVs have been upgraded or redesigned with unique technology, like soaring birds, insects or manned aviation staples.

DIRTY, DANGEROUS OR DIFFICULT: Protected by an outer casing, Flyability's sUAV can operate in difficult environments where collisions and encounters with structures are likely to happen in the same way certain insects do.

The Manned Ping

The clear-cut solution for unmanned aircraft vehicles—and other aircraft operating in the same air space— has always been through the use of an ADS-B receiver. Used on large aircraft, the ADS-B allows the user to sense where it is relative to other aircraft, as well as transmit its own location coordinates to other aircraft. ADS-B receivers are typically too large to place on a sUAV, however. Through its agreement with UAvionix, Trace Intelligent Solutions will soon offer its multi rotor UAVs with a scaled-down ADS-B suitable for sUAV’s. Draganfly, a subsidariy of Trace purchased by the company in 2015, will use the Ping ADS-B. The Ping weighs only 6 grams and can detect commercial aircraft on 1090MHz within a 100-mile radius in real time. The system also transmits its position, heading and altitude to other Ping-enabled drones without relying on a connection to the Internet or cellular networks. Trace has also tapped into the best of the security camera market. Through an agreement with ImmerVision, Draganflyer will also add an amplified, wide-angle 360 degree camera to its UAV. The lens will reduce the time required for aerial scans because of its wide field of view. The camera is currently used in several other imagedependent industries, including defense, security, robotics, communications and automotive.


Inspired By Insects Inspired by the abilities of insects, Flyability UAS has created a platform capable of surviving collisions. Based in Switzerland, the team first began the design of its system after monitoring the ability of insects to tolerate collisions and continue flying after impact with an undetected object. The research efforts helped the team arrive at a UAV platform design that relies on an outer shroud shield. Due to the outer grid protecting the vital power, sensor and flight components, Flyability’s UAVs can fly in tight spaces and harsh environments. The unique UAV linked to the properties of an insect is being used for industrial inspections inside power plants or tanks too dangerous for humans. The system has also been deployed to inspect glacier cravasses. “We were, unfortunately, at a too-early stage of development during the earthquakes in Nepal, but our product is now robust enough to be deployed in a situation where it can add value to rescue teams,” said Patrick Thevoz, founder and CEO. 6


BETTER ANGLES: Using a 360 degree camera, this sUAV can capture wider angle images similar to that of the world's best security cameras. PHOTO: TRACE INTELLIGENT SOLUTIONS.


IT'S A BIRD: To increase the endurance of the unmanned sail plane platform, researchers have installed a system that looks for air thermals which make gliding for longer an easier feat. PHOTO: UAS MAGAZINE

Soaring Birds Algorithms designed to find rising air thermal pockets are helping fixed-wing unmanned aircraft vehicles soar like birds. A collaborative research effort between the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and Pennsylvania State University’s Air Vehicle Intelligence and Autonomy Lab is helping unmanned aircraft vehicle operators conduct 2.5-mile flights despite carrying a battery with only enough power to sustain four minutes of motor time. During a two-week trial period last year, a team of researchers performed 23 flights in restricted airspace at Phillips Army Airfield. The flights were conducted using fixed-wing sailplanes at altitudes

of roughly 3,300 feet. The average duration for each flight was approximately five hours, according to NRL. To maximize flight time with a limited power source, the NRL’s UAV was outfitted with NRL’s automonous soaring algorithm it calls Automonous Locator of Thermals “ALOFT.” PSU’s UAV was equipped with a different algorithm called AutoSOAR, also developed by NRL. Dan Edwards, solar-soaring program aerospace engineer and principal investigator from NRL, said the autonomous soaring algorithms search for naturally occurring areas of rising air or thermals. During the testing procedures,

researchers used information from each UAV to acquire a more accurate assessment of the local atmospheric conditions. Based on the atmospheric data acquired from both UAVs, a map was integrated into the autonomous flight plans of each to guide them towards strong lift activity conditions. The technique is similar, Edwards says, to that used by a flock of birds. Each UAV recorded multihour flights with minimal power usage due to the soaring strategy. NRL’s UAV recorded a 5.3 hour flight that only required the motor-driven propeller to run for 27 minutes. In the future, the researchers

intend to assess ways to reduce the separation distance between the two aircraft so that each can soar in the same thermal altitude. Solar power sources could also be considered to power the UAVs.



FAA Reauthorization Bill Could Change Future of UAS Industry With the release of the Aviation Innovation, Reform and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill

Shuster, R-Pa., the framework could be in tional approach the FAA can or should place for a new, revised path forward for utilize, including several changes to its UAS the regulatory side of the UAS industry. priorities. The bill offers several changes to the opera-


PROMOTE GREATER UTILIZATION OF UAS TEST RANGES. Although the FAA created six UAS test sites across the U.S., not every site has received similar funding levels or activity levels, in part, due to the FAA’s hands-off approach to the test site scheme.

EXPEDITE THE SAFE DEPLOYMENT OF COMMERCIAL UAS BY CREATING A RISK-BASED PERMITTING PROCESS. Currently, all UAS operators intent on operating for commercial purposes must apply for a section 333 exemption, regardless of end-use desire. FOSTER DEVELOPMENT OF SENSE-AND-AVOID TECHNOLOGY AT UAS TEST RANGES. To fly beyond visual line of sight, UAVs will need sense-and-avoid technology.

ESTABLISH A STREAMLINED PROCESS FOR THE FAA TO PERMIT THE OPERATION OF SMALL UAS FOR CERTAIN USES. Although the FAA can grant certificates of authorization to public entities, there is no difference between a first responder using a UAV and a school research program.




FACILITATE UTILIZATION OF UAS IN SUPPORT OF FIREFIGHTING OPERATIONS. Emergency responders across the country are not all educated on the benefits of UAVs.

DIRECTS THE FAA TO CONDUCT A PILOT PROGRAM TO EVALUATE UAS DETECTION AND MITIGATION TECHNOLOGY. Through its pathfinder program, the FAA is currently researching a counter-UAV technology to be used near airports.

The FAA is not responsible for dealing with privacy-related issues with UAS, only safety.


FAA eases commercial UAS rules, releases encounter data and forecast In early spring this year, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) initiated several measures aimed at speeding up the commercial exemption process and broadening the conditions under which commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can operate.


MICRO UAS RULES: The FAA formed a committee

What It Means:

for rulemaking on micro UAS to consider a more flexible, performance-based approach for the class. What It Means: Rather than focusing on a weight class for micro UAS, a performance-based standard would determine which drones were safe to fly over crowds, taking into consideration human injury thresholds, hazard and risk assessment methodologies and acceptable levels of risk for those uninvolved in the operation.


operations for authorized Section 333 holders and government aircraft operators was raised from 200 feet to 400 feet. Need To Remember: This does not apply to restricted airspace and other areas— such as major cities—where the FAA prohibits UAS operations.


The FAA also released data on 582 possible UAS encounters reported by pilots, air traffic controllers and citizens between Aug. 22, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016. A preliminary analysis of the new data by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College showed slightly more than a third of the incidents could be classed as “close encounters”—incidents that present a level of potential hazard. “The rate of reported incidents continues to be higher than in previous years,” according to the analysis. “This period saw over three times as many incidents as the same period of the previous year.”

released a list of 1,120 UAS previously approved by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation under Section 333 exemptions. This change means that Section 333 holders don’t have to file an amendment to their exemption if they add a UAS that’s on the list.


for commercial, public and other nonmodel aircraft operations will be able to use its new, streamlined, web-based registration process. What It Means: The new process is expected to significantly speed up registration for a $5 the, the same amount model aircraft owners pay.

The agency released a forecast of projected UAS sales, noting that by 2020, the combined number of commercial and hobbyist drones are expected to rise from 2.5 million to 7 million. Sales of small hobbyist drones could grow from 1.9 million in 2016 to 4.3 million by 2020. Commercial drone sales are expected to increase from 600,000 to 2.7 million over the next four years.



Timing Growth of the Consumer UAV Market New York-based ABI Research, a technology market intelligence firm, analysed the revenue and unit growth potential for sUAVs over the next 10 years. “Overall, growth in the consumer drone sector will remain strong, spurred by the creation of new-use cases and the adoption of the technological advancements generated by well-funded market leaders,” ABI said.

In 2015, there was $4.9 million in consumer drone sales. By 2025, drone sales will increase by at least 30.4 percent. Toy and hobbyist drone shipments totaled 30 percent of all consumer drones sold.


“Lower-priced products with cutting-edge features, sensors, and software will be available,” according to ABI. “New UAV platforms will shift from customized designs to more open platforms and allow developers to create software add-ons that will prolong the interest people have in them.”


From 2019 onward, consumer UAVs with at least one camera can expect higher shipments than those without any camera. These cameras will be used for more than photo and video purposes, including machine-vision apps such as motion tracking, obstacle avoidance and other advanced functions.

By 2016, toy and hobbyist drone sales will surpass prosumer revenue.



By 2025, consumer drones will exceed 90 million units or $4.6 billion in revenue.

North Dakota Delegation Visits Large-UAS Vendor Elbit in Israel

To cement its relationship with an Israeli-based large unmanned aircraft vehicle manufacturer and operator, a group of North Dakota delegates traveled to Israel in January. “This was really an effort from North Dakota’s perspective—the Grand Forks (N.D.) Economic Development Corp., the Department of Commerce and the governor’s office—to go to Elbit and cement the relationship and show that the state really supports UAS activity,” said Dean Gorder, North Dakota Trade Office executive director. Elbit systems, listed as one of the top five vendors in the global UAS market by London-based research firm Technavio, is slated to work with North Dakota State University and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site on a project to fly a large UAV capable of high-altitude and multi-hour endurance for precision agriculture research, to collect data and monitor chemically resistant weeds, crop stands and nutrient deficiencies. Elbit will fly its Hermes 450. “Elbit gave us a significant amount of time and access to very seniorlevel executives,” Gorder said. “We were able to lay out our vision for the future for the UAS industry in North Dakota. Elbit was very much in agreement with what the state of North Dakota was discussing.” 10


NORTHERN PLAINS-ISRAEL CONNECTION: North Dakota's Agriculture Commissioner Dough Goehring (left) and Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley stand in front of the large UAV made by Elbit Systems that will be used in North Dakota for precision ag research. PHOTO: NORTH DAKOTA TRADE OFFICE

MAKING SERVICE SEXY: Although Robotic Skies President Brad Hayden knows maintenance services aren’t considered sexy within the UAS industry, he is excited for the opportunity to utilize previous manned aviation experience to serve new UAS clients.

MAINTENANCE MESSAGE: Based in Nevada, Robotic Skies will perform warranty repairs and other service work on high-end, commercial unmanned aircraft systems. PHOTO: ROBOTIC SKIES


Robotic Skies Forms To Repair And Maintain UAS Brad Hayden, president and CEO of Nevada-based unmanned aircraft systems company Robotic Skies, wants to fix the UAS industry. After growing up and working in the avionics repair sector, Hayden has started a UAS service offering he calls “un-sexy.� The company’s current mission is to help service and maintain UAVs for commercial service providers or end-users. “When UAS businesses start coming online—which is starting to happen now—

they’re realizing that they have a big need for warranty program management, field support and other services,� he said. “I determined that UAS was going to require very similar field support in a turn-key fashion to UAS manufacturers.� Robotic Skies is currently focused on high-end, commercial systems. The team is certified to work on manned aircraft and UAS, according to Hayden. In addition to his family background in avionics repair, Hayden also






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has experience running a nationwide manned aviation repair and maintenance network that currently numbers more than 100. Although the Nevada company will work in the region, Hayden will model his UAS maintenance business after the nationwide entity. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re maintenance professionals. We have a tremendous competitive advantage with our network because we literally have decades of manned aviation best practices that we can draw on to services this new market,â&#x20AC;? he said.


READY FOR THE LONG FLIGHT: Drone Aviation Corp.'s tethered drone can stay in the air for several hours, hovering in place to capture data and send it to a ground control station. PHOTO: DRONE AVIATION CORP.

Targeting New UAS Clients By Luke Geiver

From its 350-acre Maryland test flight plot, UAV Solutions can fly an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for nearly any type of client. Formed in 2006, the

company established itself as a proven developer and manufacturer for military, defense and government-related clientele. But, as the global emergence of the public commercial UAS industry continues, UAVS is now a prime example of a UAS entity that is expanding and work12


ing to reach the civilian commercial end-user. UAVS has a 60,000-squarefoot facility for its 45-member team. The facility includes a machine shop, electronics and wiring room and full composite creation room allowing the team to create many parts inhouse. “We are essentially a one-stop shop,” says William Davidson, CEO and chief engineer. “We can go all the way from design and prototyping to manufacturing and production.”

Davidson believes the ability to take a UAV idea from concept to flight could be a major element of its civilian commercial success. “There are a lot of personal drones that are right on the edge of commercialization and that area is very saturated,” he says. “There is a space for companies like ours to tailor a system to more specific requirements.” To date, UAVS has built a range of UAV platforms, from one pound to 800 pounds. The route to economic success begins with commercial end-users in need of more than what a personal drone can provide, Davidson says. Utilizing its experience designing and tailoring UAS to individual client needs will help the Maryland firm achieve its civilian client needs, he also says. The only

real hurdle, Davidson explains, is helping its potential commercial clients know about its vast capabilities. Dan Erdberg, president of Drone Aviation Corp., a Florida-based, tethered-drone developer that spun-out from an aerospace technology, engineering and manufacturing firm that serves the military and information gathering sectors, is also working to educate his potential clients. The company has created a tethered platform system that includes a unique deployment set-up and tethered cord covered in Kevlar. The system can fly to heights of 400 feet (roughly a 40-story building). Deployed from a hard-sided case, the tether can send power and communication to the inair drone and receive critical


CONNECTED TO THE COMMERCIAL USER: After working with the U.S. Department of Defense and other military-based clients on other unmanned tethered products, DAC is now targeting new clients that need a long endurance platform.

CUSTOM UAV BUILDERS: From its 60,000-square-foot facility in Maryland, UAV Solutions can manufacturer parts or platforms for clients. PHOTO: UAV SOLUTIONS


‘Originally, we were completely defense focused,’ -William Davidson, CEO, UAV Solutions

information back through the same tether. “Our unit can stay in the air for hours and hours,” Erdberg says. “We can also fly a lot heavier airframes.” Despite its unique offerings, Erdberg says his potential civilian commercial clients are still not in tune with the advantages of a tethered platform for certain situations. To help showcase DAC’s tethered platform capabilities, Erdberg has formed a partnership with Skyfire, a UAV consulting firm that serves emergency responders. “We thought they would be a great partner to get our product into the hands of first responders,” he says. Erdberg has also held discussions with first responder groups in Florida and Georgia. Davidson’s team is constantly reaching out to U.S.-

based commercial end-users. In some cases, showing what they have to offer clients at the 350acre site in Maryland. Over the past year, most UAVS clients have been focused on university research, agriculture efforts or infrastructure monitoring. Like DAC, Davidson’s team isn’t forgetting about its origin in the UAS industry. The company is also applying lessons learned from its civilian commercial customers to its military and defense focus. “The military has very good systems that they have been using for the last decade but they come at a cost,” he says. Many of its civilian UAVs are now equipped to meet the same needs of its military clients, but they cost less than the military is accustomed to. UAVS has finalized a supply agree-

BUILT FOR THE BIG-TIME: UAV Solutions is building sUAVs for more robust commercial applications and government clients around the world. PHOTO: UAV SOLUTIONS

ment this year with the Department of the Army for Romania. The agreement will give Romania four Phoenix 30 Quad Rotor UAS, including electro-optical infrared stabilized cameras and sensors, a ground control system and applicable spares along with ground support equipment. The government of

Bulgaria has also used UAVS’ systems. “Originally, we were completely defense focused,” Davidson says. Author: Luke Geiver Editor, UAS Magazine 701-738-4944







SENSOR SENSIBILITY As sensors and payloads have become smaller, lighter and more capable, UAS of all sizes, and their users, have benefited. By Patrick C. Miller

From thousands of feet in the sky to a hundred feet off the ground, the sensors and payloads carried by unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) of all sizes to gather data and complete missions are what make them far more than planes with­ out pilots. The ability to lighten and miniaturize electronics while providing a high degree of accuracy and precision for a multitude of applications ranging from surveying to surveillance to sense-and-avoid means that UAS are becoming more capable every day. FLIR Systems Inc. and RIEGL USA Inc. both offer versions of their sensors for the small UAS (sUAS) market. “People in UAS have wanted thermal imaging for years,” says David Lee, marketing manager for FLIR Systems which makes sensors that see heat rather than light. In May last year, FLIR released its Vue sensor for sUAS operators. It was followed more recently with the improved Vue Pro, which offers onboard recording and in-flight control. Two years ago, RIEGL introduced its VUX1 LiDAR sensor that was small enough and light enough to mount on an unmanned system while remaining well under the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 55-pount limit for sUAS. James Van Rens, RIEGL USA CEO, says the LiDAR system which sends out small pulses of laser light to generate 3D maps is accurate to within two millimeters at low level and a few centimeters up to 25,000 feet in altitude.

SENSING DANGER: LeddarTech, a Canadian supplier of detection and ranging systems, brought its expertise in designing sensors for automotive manufacturers to the UAS world. Its light-pulsing technology enables UAVs to automatically remain a safe distance from structures and objects. PHOTO: LEDDARTECH



BIRD BRAIN: A new payload for Aerial Technology International's AgBOT UAV enables it to mimic the calls and flight patterns of predatory birds to scare off nuisance birds that destroy farm crops. PHOTO: AERIAL TECHNOLOGY INTERNATIONAL

Headquartered in Wilsonville, Oregon, FLIR has been in business since 1978 and is the world’s largest manufacturer of thermal imaging sensors. Until last year, Lee says the public was probably most likely to see images on the TV show “Cops” shot from police helicopters equipped with FLIR sensors. The early FLIR systems were large and heavy because they had a small number of detectors that had to scan very fast, requiring cryogenic cooling. Today, Lee says FLIR uses uncooled sensors with its Lepton long-wave imaging technology, which enables the sensors to be lighter, but more complex. With only two moving parts, Lee says they can run continuously for years without failure. According to FLIR, their cameras are ten times less expensive than traditional thermal cameras. Some of the most common applications for FLIR sensors include search and rescue, firefighting, precision agriculture, security surveying and inspections of roofs, cell towers, substations and power lines. “We’re getting the third dimension into the mix and seeing things from above,” Lee says. 16


“The main reason to put a FLIR sensor on a UAS is to position a sensor in 3D space.” He estimates that 95 percent of FLIR’s customers have a specific problem they’re trying to solve or business opportunity in mind when they purchase a thermal imaging sensor. For example, one customer is looking to start a business inspecting solar panels. Another is using FLIR sensors to check whether irrigation systems on golf courses are operating properly and yet another is looking at sugar beet piles to make certain the stored crops aren’t fermenting, which is visible as generated heat. “The people who continually surprise me are our customers and the innovative ways they find to use our sensor,” Lee says. According to Van Rens, the advantage of LiDAR is not only its precision, but also its ability to take accurate measurements in adverse environments and complex urban areas. In addition, it can map through vegetation and water-absorbed soils. Using LiDAR-equipped UAS to inspect electrical transmission towers and power lines enables them to perform a task

that can be dangerous for manned helicopters. “This application is one that a lot of power line companies and people involved in transmission industry are interested in having UAVs do,” he says. Referring to a LiDAR image of an electrical transmission line, Van Rens pointed out the areas in which an electrical utility could gain valuable information, which included trees encroaching on the right of way, sagging power lines and the connecting guide wire at the tower tops which can show overall system stability. RIEGL has adopted a somewhat different approach from other sensor manufacturers by developing and selling its own UAS platform, the RiCOPTER. “Our customers told us they didn’t want to put an expensive sensor up in the air on a handmade system,” Van Rens says. “RIEGL came out with its own turnkey system to give people confidence.” Designed for professional surveying missions, RIEGL’s octocopter is equipped with an integrated VUX-1 LiDAR sensor, an inertial measurement unit (IMU), a global navigation satellite sys-

tem (GNSS) and can also carry two additional digital cameras if needed. While demonstrating the RiCOPTER at a radio-controlled aircraft show, Van Rems says a hush fell over the crowd as the UAS took off because it sounds like no other unmanned aircraft. He describes it as a multi-purpose tool capable of carrying a variety of sensors to reliably perform such applications as construction, road and railroad surveying, corridor mapping, pipeline inspections and precision agriculture. One of the sensor trucks of the large UAS world is the General Atomics MQ-9 Predator B flown by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from the National Air Security Operations Center (NASOC) at the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Air Force Base. The agency also flies the Predator B along the Mexican border from sites in Sierra Vista, California, and Corpus Christi, Texas. “The ‘S’ in UAS is a system, so the aircraft itself is only part of the system,” says David Fulcher, deputy director of the northern border facility. A former U.S. Navy aviator who now flies manned aircraft


‘We can take a picture, go back and take another picture later of the same thing and run a computer algorithm to determine what has changed in those two pictures. We can start to develop patterns to allocate resources’ -David Fulcher, deputy director of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection National Air Security Operations Center

and the Predator B—known as the Reaper by the U.S. Air Force—for CBP, Fulcher explains that more than any other aspect of this large UAS, it’s the sensors that provide the greatest asset to law enforcement. “It’s an aerial surveillance platform,” Fulcher explains. “It carries the electro-optical and infrared camera system, as well as a ground radar system.” Fully loaded, a Predator B can weigh up to 10,000 pounds. Designed for endurance, not speed, the UAV can remain airborne for more than 30 hours flying near its service ceiling of 50,000 feet. However, Fulcher says CBP’s certificate of authorization (COA) with the FAA limits the Predators’ altitude to between 18,000 and 28,000 feet. The COA allows the agency to fly up to 100 miles south of the Canadian border in an area stretching from Washington State to Michigan. Although the sensor systems on the Predator make it well suited for patrolling low-population areas, Fulcher says there’s a misconception that the UAS operates as an all-seeing eye in the sky. To catch smugglers and those trying to enter the U.S. illegally, it’s first necessary to determine where to look. Noting that all the sensors

deployed on the CBP’s Predator UAS are also deployed on its manned aircraft, Fulcher says, “The radar systems predominantly cue the camera. The cameras are pretty small with a narrow field of view. So you have to know what you’re looking for in order to be able to see it on the camera. “It can’t do wide-area collection at the same time,” he continues. “When you point and focus the camera, you can pick out things like a group of smugglers coming across the border. You can tell how many there are. You can tell that they’re carrying backpacks.” But what the cameras can’t do is differentiate between a male and a female, identify a particular make or model of vehicle or read a license plate. “There’s a lot of discussion about UAS technology, but aerial surveillance is not a new technology,” Fulcher says. “We’ve used radars and cameras in law enforcement for decades now. The new technology is the fact that there’s nobody on the aircraft and it has increased endurance.” One of CPB’s latest sensors is called VaDER (Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar). Originally developed by Northrup Grumman’s Electronic Systems for the military, it uses synthetic

EYE IN THE SKY: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection National Air Security Operations Center at Grand Forks, North Dakota, flies the General Atomics Predator B, equipped with electro-optical sensors and ground radar. Max Ratermann is director of air operations at the facility. PHOTO: UAS MAGAZINE

aperture radar which is capable of seeing tire tracks and footprints. It is not yet in use along the Canadian border. “One of the key features of synthetic aperture radar is that every pixel is very precisely located based on the way the radar generates the image,” Fulcher says. He describes the process of “cuing up data” to determine where Border Patrol agents should search for clues by helicopter or on foot. “We can take a picture, go back and take another picture later of the same thing and run a computer algorithm to determine what has changed in those two pictures,” Fulcher says. “We can

start to develop patterns to allocate resources. “Smugglers tend to use the same routes until they’re caught,” he explains. “Movement is one of the keys to smuggling that we try to exploit with the radars. The ground moving target radar is installed on all of our Predators, which can pick up vehicle traffic. In the areas that there is smuggling, we can pick up the vehicles, the direction of travel, and the size and speed of the vehicle as its moving.” The objective is to stay ahead of drug smugglers—who Fulcher says are becoming increasingly sophisticated—by pushing sensor detection beyond the borders and



intercept them before entering the U.S. “We use all these pieces of equipment to accomplish our missions,” he says. “Predominantly, our mission set is border security.” In the realm of sUAS sensors and payloads, necessity can become the mother of invention. When Stephen Burtt, CEO of Aerial Technology International (ATI), took the company’s UAS to precision agriculture shows to demonstrate them to farmers they were impressed. However, one question frequently came up: Can you use them to scare off birds? “I must have heard this question a hundred times at one trade show,” he recalls. “It started as a joke and became more real as more people asked for it.” Based in Wilsonville, Oregon, ATI began working three years ago with the agriculture industry of the state’s Willamette Valley. Burtt discovered that farmers were quite serious about the nuisance of birds decimating such high-value crops as grapes and blueberries. Ground-based sound systems have long been available to farmers, but Burtt says they eventually lose their effectiveness as the birds become accustomed to their locations. Another solution is having a falconer bring in a predatory bird to fly over fields. It works, but at $800 an hour, it’s an expensive way to frighten birds, Burtt notes. Early this year, ATI introduced the Raptor Module for its line of AgBOT UAS, a sonic emitter payload that enables the aircraft not only to mimic the calls of 20 different birds of prey, but also duplicates their flight patterns. 18


YOUR LIDAR EYES: Using UAS equipped with the RIEGL VUX-1 LiDAR sensor, the electric utility industry sees this application as a viable replacement for manned helicopters normally used for this purpose. PHOTO: RIEGL USA

“The response has been overwhelming,” Burtt says. “The people who have wanted this are ecstatic. Farmers have been spending millions of dollars on different deterrents. I have a feeling this will be a valuable tool in the bag.” ATI’s experience in precision ag has taught the company a valuable lesson in trying to meet the market’s needs. The ability to switch out sensors and payloads in the AgBOT UAS to accomplish a variety of missions provides farmers with a flexible and useful tool, Burtt says. For example, Burtt says the company originally attempted to support a wide variety of sensors and platforms that sometimes didn’t work well together. Now they outsourced their sensor and data analytics to Micasense Inc. “Our mission now is to provide support and training,” Burtt explains. “We deal with each client personally and give them enough training to be successful.” UAS sensors aren’t always related to gathering data and images.

SEE THE HEAT: FLIR Systems Inc., the world's largest manufacturer of thermal imaging systems, followed up its 2015 Vue sensor for small UAS with the Vue Pro. PHOTO: FLIR SYSTEMS

In the case of LeddarTech, a Canadian supplier of detection and ranging systems in Quebec City, Quebec, their sensor technologies use light pulses to provide navigation and collision avoidance capabilities to sUAS. “This enables drone operators to execute precise flight missions while protecting their equipment and making it safer for people on the ground,” says Mi-

chael Poulin, LeddarTech’s director of product management. “We commercialize modules developers can integrate into their products and systems,” he adds. “We have services to develop custom solutions by integrating circuits into core components developers can use.” Some of the company’s customers are using its sensors as altimeters for automated landings,


as well as terrain-following flight operations and collision avoidance. Poulin says that for structural inspection applications, the sensor enables the UAS to maintain a constant distance from the structure by creating a detection bubble around the drone. The key is a signal processing core within LeddarTech’s integrated circuits, which means the drone itself doesn’t need to handle much of the processing load, according to Poulin. Some of these same technologies are being used for automotive applications developed by LeddarTech and are currently in use with major auto manufacturers.

“We’re planning to be more visible in the UAS market,” Poulin says. “We want to be a significant player in sense-and-avoid solutions for the drone market.” Fulcher sees improvements in sensors as a bright spot in moving UAS technology forward. “As the sensor systems continue to improve faster than the aircraft, we no longer have to change the aircraft to change sensor systems,” he concludes. Author: Patrick C. Miller Staff Writer, UAS Magazine 701-738-4923 BUILT FOR BUSINESS: RIEGL'S RiCopter was purpose-built for the company to provide a stable, reliable UAS platform on which to mount the VUX-1 LiDAR sensor, as well as two additional high-definition RGB cameras. PHOTO: RIEGL USA


Supporting the Unmanned Aerial System Ecosystem in North Dakota & Beyond As the UAS industry grows, the need for robust industry expertise and infrastructure is key. Be it flight ops, data analysis, training, planning or new market development – the value of an experienced team is critical. Help us lay the ground work on making the northern plains a premier destination to advance the safe and responsible use of drones in commercial settings.

Grand Sky, the first commercial UAV airport in the United States, is a unique development and it’s open for business! The UAS-focused business park has state-of-the-art infrastructure to serve as the premier destination for development, testing, training, research and operations for the UAS industry. Grand Sky offers 217 Acres on Grand Forks AFB, 1.2 M Sq. Ft of build space as well as hangars and shop space.

Sky Skopes is the first FAA approved UAS operations, and services, company in North Dakota providing unique and actionable aerial data. Sky Skopes is a recognized performance leader in the UAS industry and has achieved operational excellence providing industry-leading customer satisfaction, and superior safety records.

InnoVets is an aerospace and advisory services company. Let InnoVets show you how to seamlessly integrate your unmanned aerial systems business into the National Airspace System with efficient operational procedures, planning and support services. InnoVets is a 100 percent U.S. Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business.

“VirtualAirBoss™ is the only business software proven to effectively manage your UAS business operations from A to Z. Schedule, fly, manage and report on a diverse fleet. “Push button” templates. Integrate sensors, cameras and data analysis tools cost-effectively in one system. Fly in compliance. Deliver actionable results. Make money.

The Unmanned Applications Institute is a UAS training and strategic development organization. UAI’s focus includes geospatial and remote sensing training and curriculum, new business/market development and strategic planning and consulting. Our team brings multi-discipline expertise in a collaborative environment to help our partners ensure rapid success.

EdgeData equips enterprises to capture and leverage data to grow profits and market share, protect cash flow, track compliance, and make data-driven decisions. EdgeData serves the wind energy market with BladeEdge, an application for management of efficiency, return on investment decisions for repairs /upgrades and the information to contribute to life extension decisions.

For more information on these companies, what they represent and how to help develop the expertise needed to make the Northern Plains into a national hub for UAS research development, testing, training and operations – please visit:



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UAS: The Must-Have Survey Tool Engineers, surveyors and UAS entities explain the real-life work case for UAVs from experience gained in the field. By Ann Bailey

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are the newest supplemental tool for many established engineering and surveying firms. For numerous startup UAS entities, performing engineering and surveying services represents a clear path to economic feasibility. We spoke with established engineering and surveying firms and UAS companies to highlight how each are operating—and benefiting at— their respective organizations with UAS.

Experienced UAS Surveyor

Utah entrepreneur Dave Terry’s model airplane hobby propelled him toward a UAS surveying business. Terry, owner of Silverhawk Aerial Imaging in Ogden, started his business in 2014 after flying model airplanes for 20 years, he says. “I saw the value and power of it and that’s what drove me to do it as a business,” Terry says. Silverhawk Aerial Imaging primarily conducts data acquisition for industrial companies, using a UAS mounted with a camera to take video and still images of land, buildings and infrastructure. Clients include engineering firms, developers and the mining industry. Silverhawk Aerial Imaging uses numerous UAS platforms for surveying, including several DJI platforms. “We will have a client that has a pipeline they need inspected or they will want us to run a thermal camera over the pipeline to determine the leak,” Terry says. UAS has the edge over full surveying because it can capture images more quickly and safely, he adds. For example, a UAS can replace a cherry picker normally used to survey a building to determine the WORLD WORK: Aberdeen, Scotland-based Cyberhawk does UAS survey work for customers across the world. PHOTO: CYBERHAWK AERIAL



EYE FROM THE SKY: Cyberhawk says UAS surveying provides highly detailed and accurate geospatial data with the added benefit of aerial imagery, providing a rich source of actionable data. PHOTO: CYBERHAWK AERIAL

location of heat loss. Sensors on a UAS can determine the heat variance from the air. Terry believes he has built a solid reputation in Utah and the mountain west by being on what he calls the cutting edge. “We’re pushing the envelope in terms of products and services. We’re developing the market in some ways,” Terry says. Meanwhile, his company has developed relationships with others in the UAS industry and with federal agencies. The company is a member of the Mountain West Unmanned Systems Alliance, a partnership with Rocky Mountain Unmanned Systems, Utah State University and the Utah Film Commission. The goal of the alliance is to make Utah a hub for the commercial development, testing and use of UAS. Silverhawk Aerial Imaging is working with officials with Hill 24


Air Force near Ogden to gain permission to fly in the military’s air space. In addition to its relationshipbuilding efforts, Terry says the team is working to educate the region on UAS. “I feel we do a pretty good job at educating customers about what is out there and what is happening with the company,” he says. Terry believes that surveying with UAS has the potential to develop into a vibrant industry. One of the biggest challenges for potential UAS companies is that they need to get a pilot’s license to fly UAS, Terry says, adding that Silverhawk Aerial Imaging has two pilots besides him. “There are a lot of obstacles right now, but I think if those barriers to entry come down more people will get into it,” he says

Preflight Startup

In Fargo, N.D., Joey Schmit, is tackling the barrier of obtaining a pilot’s license. While he is waiting for the FAA to approve the 333 exemption he applied for in October 2015, Schmit is taking classes to get his private pilot’s license and also will be hiring employees, getting his business’ paperwork in order and forging relationships with potential clients Schmit wants Flight Pros LLC UAS surveying business to be ready for take-off once the FAA approves his company’s 333 exemption. Schmit is gathering a fleet of UAS, including four multirotors he plans to use to survey for real estate companies and engineering firms when his exemption is approved. “I have been upgrading as I go and trying to get the best fleet of drones,” Schmit says. A professional disc golfer,

who has played 200 courses around the world, Schmit says he got frustrated playing on some of the oddly designed fairways. He owns Frolfware disc golf course, in Fargo, and began using a UAS to videotape courses so disc golfers would know what to expect when they came to play his course. He believes the timing is right for UAS surveying. “We’re looking at doing virtual surveys. That is a very powerful tool for engineering firms and construction companies to see before and after with the drone.” Schmit’s dream UAS machine would be one that takes high quality raw photos and images and an unmanned aircraft that has virtual take-off and glides like a helicopter, he says. “The cohesive package is what we’re looking for,” Schmit adds. Schmit is confident that when the FAA approves his company’s 333 exemption, his business will see economic success quickly. “Once I get my paperwork in order and am flying legally, there will be job opportunities immediately,” he says

Adding The UAS Option

Matt Schrader, vice president of Hanson Professional Services, based in Springfield, Illinois, sees using UAS as a logical next step in innovation for the 62-year old company. Hanson serves clients across the U.S. and lends support to their overseas projects. “Not only are we an engineering company, we are an applied sciences company, so we’ve got a lot of environmental folks we’re surveying for,” he says. Schrader believes that Hanson Professional Service Inc. will eventually offer


APPROACH TO THE JOB: Dave Terry, owner of Silverhawk Aerial Imaging in Ogden, Utah, has developed a solid reputation with customers by forging relationships with private companies and the federal government. PHOTO: SILVERHAWK AERIAL IMAGING

utility companies UAS surveying services. Using UAS to survey allows the team to provide its clients with bigger pictures and more immediacy, Schrader says. For example, when heavy flooding hit Missouri this past winter, the company was able to take pictures of the damage to creek banks. “Some of the sites we originally did with the UAS had scour and eroding done to them,” Schrader says. Using the UAS to survey quickly could show clients that damage. “You can have near real-time imagery of the sites,” Schrader says. While Hanson Professional Services’ main focus will continue to be on traditional surveying, using UAS provides the company with another option to offer its customers, he says. “We’re using it as another tool for us. We’re not an aerial imaging company or aerial mapping company so we are just using it to supplement our own capabilities,”

‘There are a lot of obstacles right now, but I think if those barriers to entry come down more people will get into it’ -Dave Terry, owner of Silverhawk Aerial Imaging in Ogden, Utah

Schrader says, adding that could change in the future if there is increased demand for UAS surveying from the company’s clients Brookfield, Wisconsin-based R.A. Smith National Inc. is also supplementing its service offerings with UAS. The civil engineering and structural engineering and survey firm was granted a 333 exemption and certificate of authorization from the FAA in the spring of 2015 and has been surveying with UAS since, says Jon Chapman, R.A. Smith National Inc. 3D laser scanning manager . According to Chapman, R.A. Smith National Inc., founded in the 1920s, is perceived as a mainstay in the market, making it important to stay on top of the industry’s technological advances. “When we started seeing this technology come out in trade magazines and heard whispers in

the marketplace, it really intrigued us. With the considerably small up-front investment needed to get our feet wet, we thought it was a no-brainer,” he says. So far, most of the company’s surveying has been volumetric, Chapman says. Clients include land developers and rural building contractors who operate quarries. Because of the specifications of the company’s 333 exemption, it has had to decline some types of jobs, Chapman said. “You have to be very careful not to step outside the boundaries of the exemption,” he says. Across the Atlantic Ocean in Aberdeen, Scotland, Cyberhawk has surveyed with UAS since 2008. The company operates UAS to conduct land surveys and inspections in the utilities, infrastructure and oil and gas sectors across the world, according to the

company. The company’s online portal, iHAWK, provides an easyto-use browser-based platform to disseminate survey and inspection data without the need for additional software. Cyberhawk uses its UAS to conduct aerial surveys that include oil refineries, electricity substations, chimney stacks and offshore and onshore wind turbines. Cyberhawk, which operates overseas from its European location, gains approval to fly with its clients relevant aviation authorities. In the United Kingdon, Cyberhawk has approval to operate under the Congested Area Operations Safety Case. “We utilize multi-rotor and fixed-wing platforms to provide detailed surveys and inspection data to our clients in a wide variety of industrial settings,” the company told UAS Magazine via



REALIZED DATA: Darling Geomatics in Tucson, Arizona, takes images for flood control districts, state parks and for ranchers and the mining industry. PHOTO: DARLING GEOMATICS

email. “With over 13,000 in individual flights to our name, we offer unmatched experience and technical knowledge to our clients.” The company’s reputation within the UAS industry and its track record results in return customers, Cyberhawk believes. Meanwhile, the company presents at industry conferences and uses social media and its company website to promote its expertise and services. Rapid deployment and data acquisition are major benefits for any Cyberhawk client, as well as companies seeking accurate data at an economical price, the company says. Surveying sites from the air reduces the time on-site and the need to access all areas of the site on foot, and that has obvious health and safety benefits, Cyberhawk points out. UAS surveying provides highly detailed and accurate geospatial data with the added benefit of aerial imagery, which provides a rich source of actionable data. UAS surveys can acquire data in areas that aren’t readily accessible on foot, such as tidal, marshy or hazardous areas. The ability to fly lower than manned aircraft many times results in obtaining higher quality data than surveying with manned aircraft, says Ryan Darling, a pilot for Darling Geomatics in Tucson, Arizona. Darling Geomatics, which began doing UAS surveying in April 2015, takes images for flood control districts, state parks and for ranchers and the mining industry. “Typically, we can deliver quicker and it’s cheaper in most cases,” Darling says. However, the size of the project his company can do is limited to one or two square miles. The project limitations didn’t stop the team from joining the growing UAS surveying world, however. The company’s UAS surveys so far have been in Arizona, but it is willing to travel to other states if it is cost-effective to do the survey project, Darling says. “As soon as we could get an exemption from the FAA, we got an unmanned aerial system.” Author: Ann Bailey Staff Writer, UAS Magazine 701-738-4976



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The Future For UAS And Arizona Arizona is home to more than 1,200 aerospace companies and ranks fifth in the U.S. for aerospace employment. Thanks to the state’s work through the Aerospace Arizona Association in representing aerospace entities and educating policy makers at the federal, state, county and local levels, the state could soon become known as “the premier destination for aerospace innovators,” including unmanned aircraft systems companies. As the state continues its support and commitment to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation (AREDF) believes the state’s role in the national UAS industry is becoming clear to regional and national startups, aerospace majors and decision makers. Mignonne Hollis, executive director for AREDF and founder of Aerospace Arizona, helped form Aerospace Arizona to serve as a proactive advocate of the interests of the aerospace industry in order to accomplish the enactment of responsible legislation and public policy that promotes the economically viable, socially and environmentally responsible development of the industry. The work of Hollis is paying off. The state has its own UAS test site and is home to several UAS firms ranging from startups to large UAV and aerospace brands. Home to Fort Huachuca, the 28


Understanding Arizona’s Aerospace Opportunities Clear Skies: Most Flying Days in World Aerospace Community: 1,200 Companies Training Opportunities: Largest UAS Center in World

Workforce Ready: 6 Aerospace Education Sites

largest UAS training center in the world at more than 350,000 square feet, Arizona is well positioned to enhance and expand industry efforts today and well into the future for small, medium or large operations focused on every type or size of UAS, Hollis says. Arizona offers more flying days than any other location in the U.S. and 6 world-class aerospace educational facilities. The tax-friendly climate and regulatory environment combined with the state’s favorable cost of doing business helps to set the state apart from others working to grow its UAS presence.

While Aerospace Arizona works to expand and enhance aerospace and UAS activity in the region, AREDF can focus on three key areas: economic influence, local business development and regional industry development. “We provide feedback to Arizona legislators on a variety of economic topics,” Hollis says. “We hold positions on influential state and national economic development councils and initiatives,” adding that the association “focuses on long-term results that are in the best interest of the [UAS] industry.”


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FLIGHT OPTIONS: Both large UAV and small UAV operations have multiple opportunities to perform test flights or commercial services in Arizona. PHOTO: ARIZONA REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION

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UAS Magazine - Quarter 2  

Payloads: Cameras, Sensors, Gimbals

UAS Magazine - Quarter 2  

Payloads: Cameras, Sensors, Gimbals