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PatR last won the day on January 5 2019

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  1. Good stuff in the linked article but there are several important things to remember; Our drones are not waterproof, so we should not ever fly in the rain. We can fly in light snowfall as long as that snow is not wet. Temperatures between 36*F and 25*F can produce wet or slushy snow, which further melts and turns to water than can enter electronics and cause problems. Colder temps generate "dry" snow which is usually OK to fly in. Avoid freezing rain or any condition that creates airframe icing. If you see ice accumulating in any form on the airframe or propellers land immediately as a crash is imminent. Ice adds weight that accumulates quickly and disrupts the airflow over the propellers. Falling snow reduces visibility. Understand you will not be able to fly as far away and still maintain line of sight. Don't try to push for long distances in falling snow, even when using FPV, as snow is a solid and will attenuate radio signals. If you aircraft is becoming hard for you to see the radio signal is becoming hard for the aircraft to see. Searching for your aircraft after a fly away in 4' deep snow is no fun. Plan your take off and landing areas. You don't want to land and bury your camera in the snow. Clear away the snow for an area large enough to take off and land. I've flown numerous times in temperatures as low as +2*F and in light snow with no problems aside from some slight "notchiness" in gimbal pan rotation. Understand that a crash in cold weather can be disastrous for some plastics as they become quite brittle at low temperatures. Plastic props can shatter if they have become cold and get bumped into things. If you use common sense and follow some decent safety practices you can do a lot of cold weather flying with few or zero problems.
  2. PatR

    Large drones

    The 55lb weight limit can be exceeded if the unit is inspected and certified as safe for operations and the operator demonstrates their ability. Currently the only "authority" providing such inspections is, of all things, the AMA via their giant scale airframe inspection and approval program.
  3. To many corporate partners where each has to put their fingerprints on any new developments before they can be released. Works sort of like a color blind artist having influence over the final version of paintings created by normal vision artists. Agreements are far and few between.
  4. " We have a CRADA with NAVSEA and we’re one of the few, if not the only, civilian UAV developers allowed to fly for the military." Boeing has similar associations with NAVSEA and NAVAIR, which I'll assume is what enables their civilian subsidiary Insitu to "independently" develop and fly for the military and civilian agencies and corporations. Those types of associations makes operational acceptance a lot simpler as they need only comply with existing military standards and CoA's instead of civilian FAA standards. There is also the ability to compete directly with existing programs of record and win contracts with products that are not under the total control of the military or government. One can also win "no bid" contracts with products that are not covered by a program of record. What makes "small" businesses becoming accepted by military/government agencies so difficult is what I'll call "access". Unless the company already has a long history of government or DoD contracts, or is one of the mega corporations doing business with the government, access for small and/or emerging companies is for all intents and purposes blocked. You can spend a lot of $$ and a lifetime trying to get doors opened up, as many of the original AUVSI members found out. If there is a company that has a great product, been trying for years to gain access, but can't gain government market entry after years of trying, should they be purchased or absorbed by any of the mega players their existing products suddenly become very attractive to government agencies. It's not what you have or do, but who you are when doing the talking. I have a theory that's why a certain company suddenly partnered with Precision Hawk as Precision Hawk had previously partnered with Boeing. Boeing has access across a great many fields of endeavor, while one of their subsidiaries has ranking members of the military and AOPA on their advisory board. If an electric drone company was to partner with someone like AeroVironment with a long history of DoD contracts they would likely see difficult to open doors suddenly swing wide open. " At the moment there isn’t enough incentive for civilian companies that aspire to fill that void to go through the arduous process of becoming a program of record and its doubtful that the military will make enough of a commitment unless they do." I totally agree with that.
  5. Thanks for your experience history. It makes gauging a possible fit a lot easier and establishes what your comfort level will handle. Interesting the Army would not cross train a UH-60 crew member for UAV operations when they will try to obtain Shadow instructors from the civilian market. A little insult to injury in the next as there was a point the Army considered training cooks to operate complex UAV's. Someone figured out that was probably a bad idea and would have ended up cost prohibitive in crashed UAV's. Funny thing, the personnel they ultimately did select to train for operations ended up causing a significant increase in incident rates where they took over from the pre-existing civilian contractors. The Air Force works just the opposite. When they need more UAV pilots they will, and have, pull from the F-16 pilot ranks for cross training. Then again, the Air Force eliminated most of their civilian contractor operators quite some time back. The Navy likes contractors for some work but the groups handing more specialized activities employ military personnel. That keeps the stuff that needs to stay quiet, quiet. In today's market a good UAV candidate will have a good understanding of aviation and flight, military protocols, computer literate, a fairly strong knowledge of telecommunications and IT, with strong Excel skills. They need to understand business is about making money and things many find important will get sacrificed to accomplish that end. As for how long a civilian outfit would keep an operator on long deployment schedules, my experience, and observations with other team mates, shows some companies will actually increase the tempo and terms over time. If it is a growing company or expanding in sales there will be a constant shortage of operators. Similar applies if a company develops new models and lands contracts that deploys the new products without phasing out old products. For myself, I started out with a 90 days on, 90 days off schedule, with "off" meaning I could be anywhere I desired and do whatever. With each deployment the time on station increased while the time home decreased. That type of deployment modification remained a constant until I had to stop deploying for health reasons. Had I not possessed knowledge and skills that benefited R&D and system reliability improvements my employment would have come to an end. There are many doing what I was doing that have been locked in a pretty rough deployment cycle for the past 10+ years. Many have quit in order to be with family. Your assessment of FAA regulations inhibiting U.S. use of UAV's is correct. On the military side there's also the Posse Comitatus Act to consider where military UAV's are considered. Truth be told though, our military has been operating UAV's in our airspace since at least 2005, where the Hunter was being used to surveil our southern border. Somewhat later the G.A. Predator was employed to maintain a watch on our northern border, and has been used in the same area to provide proof of criminal activity by U.S. citizens. Other government operations have used various high level UAV's for surveillance of the U.S. civilian population in U.S. TFR locations a U.S. President was visiting, forest fires, and deployed to support law enforcement agencies attempting to capture suspected criminals. Our Coast Guard employs several types of UAV's for coastal watch and drug interdiction at sea using both contractors and military personnel for operations. Your degree and military history would get you in the door for an interview. From my perspective the degree is not viewed by companies as much for relativity to the field of endeavor as it is for a demonstration of the ability to learn. I've seen people with degrees in Theology land upper level management positions. I've also seen many with business degrees that couldn't find their backside with both hands land in critical management positions. We won't talk about new engineer graduates as they frequently are almost worthless unless they had hand's on experience prior to entering the job market. Law enforcement uses drones for many things, traffic and criminal activities being some of them. They are also using them for general population surveillance despite public statements to the contrary. Understand that LEA's don't have personnel dedicated to drone operations, they pull people from the ranks to learn drones in order to augment department capability when the need presents itself. The training ends up sort of like a perk where the individual gets a bump in pay for a new field classification.
  6. Jesse, Unless you are already affiliated with a law enforcement agency there's not a lot of hope in obtaining a position as a drone pilot or maintainer with one of them. They prefer to use people within their own ranks for several reasons, one of which is having personnel already familiar with their SOP protocols. It's a fairly closed community. As a W/O you have a lot of aviation related opportunities in the Army. In the Navy that rank along with some advanced education can open doors to their drone community. Either way, do some research to learn what group is doing what and make friends in the highest places possible. Contrary to what you mentioned earlier, the military game book for drone operations is very well established and only gets hung up in areas where new technology is being considered for integration. As technology is advancing faster than military agencies can react that speed in developments breeds a lot of indecision and confusion at higher levels. The hurry up and wait game has never changed. If you're seriously considering the civilian sector you'll need a degree to achieve much in the way of advancement if you get hired somewhere. Take a look at the career opportunities at various company websites and you'll see that educational requirements sit at the top of the qualifications list. You have some great qualifiers already with a military and possible deployment history, and they love people that already have a clearance. They don't like taking people lacking a clearance as the expense to submit someone for investigation is really expensive. You mentioned the Scan Eagle, produced by a Boeing subsidiary named Insitu, Inc. They have another program of record platform called the RQ-21 Blackjack. As a vet you meet some of the initial qualifications for a field service representative (FSR), which encompasses both flight operators and maintenance personnel for both platforms. Recognize they run their ship in a manner very similar to the way the military works, with many in management having strong military histories. With new hires there can be an initial distinction but the separation between flying and servicing is something that is quickly lost. You have to be able to do both. Bear in mind that FSR's are expected to deploy for the majority of the year. It's quite possible to be out 9 or more months at a time with only 30-45 days of home time between deployments. Unless there is something about you that fits the needs of other departments, or that would permit you to excel as part of a department management team, you would remain an FSR and deploying to forward locations for your entire term of employment. Some of those places are quite remote and very, very primitive. That can be great for some people but hard on those with families they leave at home. To get in the door requires a top notch resume' that closely fits the position qualifications mentioned on the careers page. Military and deployment history, clearance status, time remaining on the clearance, college degrees more or less appropriate to the desired position, experience, physical condition and your ability to make people want to like you all come together to land a position. If you get an interview, tell them what they want to hear and how your skills and experience will benefit the company and how the company will help to grow, both professionally and academically over the course of the long career you hope to spend as a team member. If you're a team player you have a head start. If you're the independent type you won't last long. If you're the indecisive type you won't last long. They don't like or want people that want to be heroes. The pay and benefits are pretty good, and the job can be great for those that can play the game.
  7. Saw an ad from a Stockton, CA outfit the other day looking for 107 operators to use company owned or their own equipment for power line and cell tower work the other day. The requirements were sort of similar to what's required of military drone operators; ability to be self sufficient, ability to be "deployed" for several weeks at a time, ability to work in primitive locations, etc. The pay scale was pretty low.
  8. That discussion could fill several pages of posts.
  9. You may well find that when presented with a request for proposal the more savvy customers will require a breakdown of the rates for the different components, all the way down to mileage rates.
  10. Welcome, and indeed, where are you?
  11. Nice. I was asked the other day to shoot a property being cleaned up after a post fire logging operation moved out. Just visuals though.
  12. I can't help with your chosen location but the following may be of some assistance. The two best internship opportunities I can think of in this field would be AAI/Textron in MD and Insitu, Inc. Insitu is located in Washington state but if you meet the qualifications and get accepted they pay an intern pretty well. You might also look into L3/BAI Aerosystems in Easton MD. Good luck!
  13. Unless you are flying several hundred hours or more a year the "on demand" insurance is probably the best way to go, if you can adequately plan the location and time in advance. I've been obtaining liability and hull insurance quotes from several agencies and the prices are unbelievably high, even having bu-ku recorded hours of full scale and UAV flight time. For what they want to cover up to two million $ in liability you could insure a low time pilot in a tail dragger and a Mooney and have enough money left over for a nice vacation. Someone with 50 hours in a Cessna 150 can obtain $1 mil hull and liability insurance for $800.00 or less a year while just the liability coverage for a multirotor will be well over $1,000.00 for $1mil in coverage. If you want hull and equipment coverage the price jumps up even more. Sorry for the rant but the rape of commercial multirotor operators has yet to diminish.
  14. The FAA made it very clear in a letter to ATC personnel after 107 was passed that individual requests to airports, from anyone, were not to be acknowledged other than to re-direct them to the official FAA website.