Drone Services

Drone Services Information

FAA regulations
Currently, commercial drone operations are only permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration through a couple of avenues. One of these is to request a “Section 333 Exemption” from the FAA. EPC submitted its formal request to the agency on May 27, 2015. In all cases, FAA regulations currently require that drones (officially an Unmanned Aerial System or UAS) be piloted by an FAA certified pilot and are limited to an altitude of less than 500 ft above ground within visual line of sight and can be flown only during daylight hours. In addition to the pilot, a visual observer is required and no overflights of “non-participating” persons or vehicles are allowed. Drones are limited to a maximum gross weight 55 lbs and can be flown only in good weather (visual meteorological conditions in aviation-speak).

The Machine – DJI S-1000
The DJI Innovations S-1000 was selected by EPC as our primary workhorse drone owing to its reliability, versatility, and capacity. The S-1000 is a high performance UAS design that has thousands of safe flight hours. It is fully supported by DJI and there are many third party accessories available for the machine. As an octocopter, on board hardware and software can compensate for complete loss of a motor enabling a safe landing. The software for programming the flight controller is mature and sophisticated allowing for a wide range of potential missions. Like any good software, it is constantly being updated to add features and reliability. The S-1000 has a gross takeoff weight of 24 lbs enabling it to carry a payload of up to 11 lbs. Combined with the versatility of mounting options on the ship, this allows for a wide range of sensors and/or cameras to be carried aloft. A gyro stabilized gimbal allows for rock solid photos or video and independent control of the camera. The retractable landing gear allows for 360° pan of a camera.

EPC’s Drone Team
EPC is uniquely qualified for drone operations. Leading the drone team are brothers Glenn and Gilbert Goodlett. Glenn has a background in electrical engineering . He is also an accomplished aerobatic radio control helicopter builder and pilot with substantial experience in radio control systems. Gilbert also has a background in engineering and is an airplane and helicopter pilot and helicopter certified flight instructor. Commercial UAS operations require drones are piloted by a pilot certificated by the FAA. Both Glenn and Gilbert also have over 25 years experience as biologists in the desert southwest.

It is from these backgrounds that EPC has begun developing useful drone technologies that address real world problems. Here’s an example:

Problem – The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918 makes it illegal to disturb active bird nests of virtually every native bird species. In the desert southwest , common ravens and hawks, especially red-tailed hawks often nest in electrical transmission towers and similar elevated structures. If a utility company is building a transmission line next to an existing transmission line or conducting maintenance on an existing line, it is necessary to determine a nest is active.

Solution – Currently, the primary method of determining whether a nest is occupied to station a biologist on the ground with a spotting scope. Even then the results are not always clear and can cause substantial delays in vital infrastructure repairs and upgrades. EPC has developed and tested a drone-based methodology for conclusively and quickly determining if a nest is occupied. The results are chronicled in the video on this page.

Having found a solution to this problem, EPC is now focused on photogrammetry, specifically georeferenced orthophoto mosaics with extremely high resolutions of up to 1 cm per pixel or simply stated, high resolution aerial photographs with georeferencing. Applications include development of base layers for computer aided design project development planning. At lower resolutions, tracking of development at project sites can be cost effectively conducted by periodically re-photographing the project site.

Simultaneously, EPC is working on several additional applications including:

• By leveraging experience with high resolution photogrammetry and strategic partnerships, procedures will be developed for transmission and distribution line inspection
• Large area, cost effective avian mortality monitoring for solar projects and similar based on established line-distance sampling techniques
• Airborne radio tracking of wildlife species
• A variety of plant-related surveys
• And many others that have not been dreamed up yet