Dayton is historically known as the birthplace of aviation and this year proves no different for one Beavercreek aerial company. Woolpert, Inc. has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to extend their business by utilizing drones; otherwise known as unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in Ohio and Ship Island, Mississippi, paving the way for other Ohio companies to develop other innovated uses of drones. Woolpert, Inc. is the first in the nation to commercially fly a drone. Woolpert plans to put the drone to work later this year.
Jeff Lovin, Woolpert senior vice president said, “UAS technology will enable a revolutionary leap in terms of capability, repeatability and efficiency when it comes to monitoring and mapping services.”
Woolpert, Inc. has been in business since 1911 and is currently listed as one of the top 100 design firms by Engineering News-Record. This national company is a geospatial, infrastructure management and design firm specializing in high-tech mapping and imagery services producing high quality aerial surveys and photography for agricultural and environmental research, real estate companies, commercial clients, and more. Woolpert has over 600 employees in their 22 offices nationwide.
“The most exciting concept of the drones is the ability to help a wider variety of clients and to be able to do jobs that were possibly considered too small geographically for it to be viable with a manned aircraft because of the cost of the aircraft,” Woolpert’s head research scientist, Matt Hutchinson said. “But, when used correctly, the UAS provides the opportunity to fly much smaller areas, like a few square miles perhaps, because of where the job is and where your office is, you can put it in the back of a pickup and take it to where you need to fly. That is just one example.”
Six months ago, Woolpert’s team of researches started filing the necessary paperwork with the FAA. Working with the FAA and the company’s attorneys, Woolpert provided a crafted application, documents outlining technical information about the unmanned aircraft, training manuals, general operating procedures, and a reason using the drone was in the public’s interest. The whole process and documents submitted can be found on regulations.org. The drone use was approved last month.
“It was really a matter of filing the right paper work with the FAA, which took some pro-activity on our part by keeping a post on where the industry was going, speaking to the right people at the FAA and working with our attorney to craft an application, which was submitted to the FAA for consideration,” Hutchinson said.
The drone is no more than 15 lbs and has a wing-span of 9 ft. According to the exceptions outlined by the FAA, the drone cannot exceed airspeed of 58 knots and cannot be higher than 400 ft. above ground level. They also must be in good working condition and be in sight of the operator at all times. The FAA allows Woolpert to operate an unmanned aircraft system for the special purposes of precision aerial photographs taken by an onboard camera. The drone that will be used by Woolpert is versatile, landing on its belly either on land or water. This allowance and revolutionary leap in technology will allow the company greater capability, repeatability and efficiency when it comes to mapping and surveying.
“We use very expensive cameras and devices and we are taking all that knowledge and expertise and rolling it into small UAS. It’s just a new twist on what we have already been doing for decades,” said Hutchison. “For the past 40 years we have been providing mapping and surveying around the area and we have been doing this for decades on a manned airplanes. Manned plans fly in the air everyday and are equipped with cameras and recording devices for the purposes of our business. It is just a continuation of that– it’s all about mapping, surveys for businesses.”
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com