The Federal Times reports that DOI’s “entire fleet of drones costs less than a single one of its manned aircraft,” but they are performing dam inspections and wildlife surveys in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the costs of traditional methods.
Mark Bathrick, director of the Office of Aviation Services at the Department of Interior, speaking to the Federal Times says that many of the drones – while castoffs of DOD – are brand new. That’s due to the incredible speed of drone technology development.
“We got some of these drones still in the shrink-wrap from the manufacturer because DoD had already moved on to the next one,” said Bathrick. DOI’s fleet includes 3DR Solos, Fixed-Wing Falcon, Falcon Hover, and the Pulse Vapor 55tM Helicopter.
“DOI has employed aircraft in support of its missions for over 50 years. The goal of the DOI UAS program is to incorporate this new class of aircraft into DOI’s government-owned and commercially contracted aircraft fleet to support DOI missions for which UAS may be better suited than manned aircraft, achieving superior science, safety, savings,” says the DOI Website.
The department uses drones in areas from wildfires to the study of volcanic activity. They use drones to “conduct their natural resource missions more effectively and with less risk.” The fleet of rejects from DOD turns out to be ideal for bridge inspections, geological surveys, wildlife management, and other management of DOI’s assets.
In addition to utilizing the drones to perform the practical work of the agency, DOI has taken an active role in promoting the use of UAS in the agency and elsewhere. They’ve developed policies, procedures, training and procurement opportunities – and Bathrick and other DOI employees have been frequent speakers and participants in drone industry conferences and seminars, spreading the word about the benefits and practical aspects of drone programs.