Opposite page: Shea Hammond (left) and Jenny Laird of the Engineer Research and Development Center’s Environmental Laboratory prepare the Multirotor G4 Skycrane UAS for field data-collection for the Harmful Algal Blooms project in Vicksburg, Mississippi, August 2017. Left: Jared Butler, alternate dive coordinator, Portland District, uses the senseFly albris drone to conduct an emergency response mission to evaluate Cougar Dam after a severe winter snowstorm, February 2019. Below left: Travis Barnett, Jacksonville District, conducts a test flight of the Microdrones MD4-1000 at Disposal Unit 2, Duval County, Florida, April 2020.
PHOTO BY VICTOR WILHELM
PHOTO BY TODD MANNY
USACE engages in a full spectrum of activities using unmanned and remote systems. Some examples include unmanned surface vessels such as the Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel, the Multifunctional Assessment Reconnaissance Vessel, and the Mini Robotic Submersible Dredge. The Blue Roof Program deployed UAS technology in the Hurricane Michael response with promising results, leading to expanded UAS integration into other emergency support functions. USACE has made tremendous progress implementing operation-wide safety management systems. The use of drones and other remote systems in dangerous areas, rather than USACE employees or contractors, is one important example of this safety focus. And while safety is the primary benefit, remote systems deployment also provides higher fidelity and quality of collected data, including full-motion and high-definition video. When the use of SUAS or other remote systems is appropriate, the cost savings over traditional methods can be as high as 90% and up to an 85% time-savings for data collection. The increase to personnel safety is, of course, immeasurable. USACE Aviation is not just all about drones; USACE owns or manages more than a dozen manned aircraft that conduct a variety of data-collection missions globally. The day-to-day oversight of these systems involves a team of scientists, engineers, support contractors, and program managers who ensure legal, safe, and effective use of these high-value systems. APMO supports aircrew training, safe operations, fleet management, mission development, and compliance. The Aviation Policy Letter, APL 19-08, developed by APMO and implemented across USACE, enables safe, legal, and effective missions to be developed, approved, and coordinated with qualified crewmembers. The aviation program manager (APM) is the commanding general’s authorized representative with delegated authority for all aspects of USACE aviation operations including, but not limited to, mission approval, crewmember training and standards, accident investigations, waivers, fleet management, system and operational safety, and information security. The Aviation Program’s efforts have especially focused on cybersecurity. The APMO is located near Redstone Arsenal, capitalizing on its proximity to the Army aviation acquisition efforts there. USACE’s mission is to solve the nation’s toughest engineering problems. This requires maintaining technical relevance in many disciplines, and unmanned systems are a growing segment of the engineering ecosystem. Taking the lead in all areas of unmanned systems allows USACE to maintain its position as a world-class engineering organization, realize significant time and money savings, and increase personnel safety. Keeping SUAS flying through approved waivers and safe, legal, and effective operations enables an annual execution exceeding $150 million in innovations, projects, and research across USACE.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! USACE Aviation also assists in airlift support for more specialized missions that involve military air (MILAIR) transport. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response, MILAIR support has been vital to USACE’s ability to help expand hospital capacities nationwide. Under the guidance of longtime USACE employee Ed Massimo, USACE’s coordination with the MILAIR transportation network made this possible. Due to construction at the training site, Massimo established an alternate classroom at the USACE Humphreys Engineer Center Support Activity facility to ensure USACE employees and other Army personnel were trained on schedule. This drive to accomplish the mission paid tremendous dividends a few months later when MILAIR became the lifeline for senior leaders to meet the urgent needs imposed by the pandemic. The USACE Aviation Program resides within the DOL due to the DOL’s longstanding oversight of aviation operations, its contributions to ongoing transportation efforts, and its function as an enterprise program integrated into all field operating activities. The DOL provided seamless support for and integration of the Aviation Program’s ongoing activities. USACE Aviation focuses on mission accomplishment. The goal is to ensure data-collection and air-movement needs are met efficiently. n 1 47