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A New Pilot’s Adventure

Opportunities are all around us and when the right place aligns with the right time, opportunities can be created and seized. This is exactly what happened for me this June and I couldn’t have done it without Central Colorado UAS.

In my second month as an official member of CCUAS, I received an email from our President, Taylor Albrecht. He was sharing about an opportunity from one of the club’s many partners and connections. This opportunity was to work with Juniper Unmanned, a commercial drone company in Denver, as a visual observer. We were to be inspecting distribution lines in southern California with drones in order to quickly eliminate potential fire risks. As a developing drone pilot seeking knowledge and experience this was just the kind of opportunity I was seeking. I quickly responded and reached out to the company. Just a few days later, I found myself packing for a month-long gig in California.

 

Operation was in full throttle when I arrived, there were thousands of poles to be inspected and only a month left. With the unique group of individuals that would become my coworkers, with backgrounds in geology, music, baseball and so much more, we would inspect them all. Each day after a 6:00am safety meeting and team briefing, we broke into pairs (1 drone pilot and 1 visual observer) and headed out to start inspecting and collecting data.

(each day brought unique environments)

Drone pilot and visual observer (VO) teamwork was crucial for success every day. At each area of inspection, it was both the VO and the pilots responsibility to have acute awareness of the surroundings. Sites ranged from newly built neighborhoods to desolate fields, each bringing different challenges. Densely populated areas meant more people management and awareness, where open fields brought more attention to terrain and wildlife. The drone pilot would typically be stationary near the truck and the VO would, as the name ensues, maintain a visual line of sight (VLOS) on the drone, per 14 CFR § 107.33. Upon take off, the drone pilot would navigate the drone to the first pole, capture a set of 6 images, looking for any immediate threats to safety (i.e leaking transformer, cracked poles or broken conductors) then fly to the next power line and repeat. Communicating with one another clearly and quickly about any hazards or concerns, providing clear flying directions via radio to the pilot as needed, and making sure the drone pilot was staying true to the flight plan devised prior to taking off were key components to daily success and overall project completion. We repeated this each day collecting images of the thousands of distribution line poles safely and quickly.

Southern California in June, yes, it was hot! Such heat creates a unique condition in which to be operating drones. In fact, there were days we were maxing out the operating temperature of the drones. We could, at times, only fly the drone for 10 minutes before we would need to cool it off in the air conditioned car. The drones were still operating safely, however, environmental conditions can definitely have an impact. Sometimes, try as we might, we can’t predict every failure point. With great teamwork and best practices in place, problems can be overcome! At times too, it can be easy to forget the boundaries and limitations of technology. Happenings such as this are great reminders to be attentive and aware of our technologies capabilities and power.

Talking with strangers is, at times, no simple task. On the other side of each fence, door and window is an intricate life of experience that others are blind to. As a VO, being aware of this is important to our safety and effective communication. When people see a (DJI Inspire 2) drone (with a zenmuse x7 lens) flying above or near their home, it can lead to an array of responses. Some people think they’re great, others distrust them. I interacted with many people who were pleased with our presence and excited to have us there working to keep them safe and others who were unhappy at first, but with a kind conversion and explanation were happy to have us there. Then there were others who told us to leave. As a VO for Juniper Unmanned (and as a pilot myself) fostering understanding, awareness, and communications about drones and our operations in the area was important for successfully completing the job. Further though, I hoped to develop and shape the greater social appeal of drones. Working to make drones something people are able to see as valuable as opposed to something purely invasive and destructive. With the growing number of drone businesses, operators, and owners, it is important we all as drone operators continue to keep open dialogue and communication concerning the uses of drones.

Through this experience, I was able to gain valuable exposure and knowledge in the world of drones. I made wonderful connections, developed my skills and understanding of drones and furthered my excitement and passion for drones. This was an incredible opportunity for a new pilot to learn and explore the industry and I am very grateful and thankful. None of this would have been possible without my connection to Central Colorado UAS and the special opportunities and connections they provide. A big Thank You to the club and all of the wonderful people that make it all possible!

 

Thanks For Reading,

Leah M. Dory                                                                                                                            Leahdory@gmail.com 

 

Recreational Pilots

Are you flying a drone? If so, your operation is considered to be commercial and under the FAA Part 107 regulations. That is unless you meet all eight points found in what’s known as the “Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft” found in 49 USC 44809 (44809) of the Federal regulations. Whew! I thought flying a remote controlled aircraft was supposed to be fun!

Well, it is but these operations are becoming increasingly regulated as the world tries to figure out what to do with the technology and make it safe and unobtrusive. The recently implemented Remote ID regulations and those in 44809 are intended to help open up the capabilities of unmanned aircraft.

So you want to fly your bird purely for fun. According to 44809 you must meet all eight of these items:


(1) The aircraft is flown strictly for recreational purposes.
(2) The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.
(3) The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer co-located and in direct communication with the operator.
(4) The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.
(5) In Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
(6) In Class G airspace, the aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
(7) The operator has passed an aeronautical knowledge and safety test described in subsection (g) and maintains proof of test passage to be made available to the Administrator or law enforcement upon request. (emphasis mine)
(8) The aircraft is registered and marked in accordance with chapter 441 of this title and proof of registration is made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.


Item 1 seems pretty easy. If you’re going to fly and take photos or videos that get posted on the Internet, you’re probably not flying purely for fun. Well, maybe.

Item 2 is interesting because the FAA still hasn’t come out with the definition or recognition of a community-based organization. So until that’s done, pilots should refer to Advisory Circular AC 91-57b for safety guidance. Whew!

Items 3 through 6 pretty much follow the same guidelines found for commercial pilots in Part 107 of the FAA regulations.

What about item 7? Enter “The Recreational UAS Safety Test,” or TRUST (gotta love those FAA acronyms!), which was released June 22. You can now go to one of the approved online testing providers to take the course and test. It is free and takes around 30 or so minutes. It is also fully correctable to 100% so as one of our members put it, it was the first test he ever got 100% on!

Here’s what the folks at FAA Safety sent out to their representatives regarding TRUST:


Today, the FAA announced the selection of 16 organizations as FAA-approved Test Administrators (TAs) of The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). 

TRUST meets the congressional requirement under FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (49 U.S.C. 44809) for recreational flyers to take and pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test. It was developed with input from various segments of the drone community including manufacturers, educational institutions, organizations, and individuals. 

A list of FAA-approved TAs can be found on our website

Please pass along this information to your community. To assist you, here are key talking points when discussing the TRUST: 

TRUST stands for “The Recreational UAS Safety Test” 

  • Mandated by 49 USC 44809(a)(7)  
  • All recreational flyers (including children) operating under “The Exception” (49 USC 44809) must take and pass the test 
  • Part 107 remote pilots who choose to operate under “The Exception” (49 USC 44809) must take and pass the test 
  • The FAA will not recommend which Test Administrator a recreational flyer should use 
  • Look at the TAs listed on our website and decide which entity suits their needs 

Upon completion, TAs will issue a TRUST completion certificate to the applicant 

  • Will have the name of the applicant, a unique token number and the TA’s name 
  • Can be used as evidence that the requirements of 49 USC 44809(a)(7) have  been met
  • May be in paper or electronic format  

TRUST is available online and free for anyone to take  

Test Administrators (TAs) are FAA-approved organizations that administer the TRUST 

  • TAs selected have successfully completed the FAA’s application process and represent a broad cross-section of the recreational drone community 

There you have it. You can go to any of the providers, take the course and pass the test and received the required documentation to keep with you as you fly for fun.

We recommend the great folks at PilotInstitute.com for their version of the course and exam.

The knowledge gained by taking the course and exam is beneficial for pilots to understand how to operate safely, so from that standpoint it’s a good thing. It remains to be seen what level of compliance will be seen, particularly among the remote control aircraft community.

Taylor Albrecht

First Flying Park Work Day

Our June, 2021 meeting was special in that it was our first “official” work day at the Buena Vista Drone Flying Park (DFP). The purpose was to do “final” preparations for the summer flying season.

DFP Latest Map
Courtesy Stu Langrehr

The Planning and Maintenance Team had done a tremendous amount of work prior to the work day. Led by the efforts of Delmar Smith, the Flight Deck zone was moved to the east side of the Qualification Zone. In addition, the first wall of the Obstacle Zone was erected. Thanks to Delmar, Jim Pyles, Alan Simpson, Rick Moen and his son, and Ken Skipper and others for helping accomplish these tasks.

Delmar Smith gets selfie with Alan Simpson

A couple of days prior, Delmar and Taylor visited Valley Precast to pick up more “landing pads” – 32″ concrete covers – and “safety cones” – concrete blocks. Those were pre-placed for the work crew.

The major work to be accomplished was to make the landing pads level with the ground. Since they are about 3″ thick, this wasn’t a slam-dunk task. But it was completed and they look great!

Landing Pads before
Landing Pads after

In addition all of the safety cones needed a clean place to sit and fresh coat of paint. Becky Berry took on this task and along with the help of Kevin Thonhoff and others, the cones all look fantastic!

The buckets needed some touch up after winter exposure, and Phil Crossley took on this task eagerly. It’s now easy to see a full circle in every bucket, so they are ready for flight. In addition, Kevin Thonhoff presented the Remote Targets created by his class of drone students at Salida High School. Now the Qualification Zone is complete!

Nadir view of completed qualification course

Mike DeSanti gets the award for traveling the farthest. He flew his aircraft from Ft. Lupton, Colorado to be there. New member Phil Crossley traveled the farthest via road, navigating Monarch Pass from Gunnison. Several new members contributed mightily to the efforts, including Phil, Jim Amster and Paul Andrews.

Photo of Mike De Santi departing for home
Mike De Santi give wing wave as he departs for home

We were surprised to have new member Sue Benes come by and introduce herself. She is ready to learn how to fly her new aircraft and was happy to see the Park. In addition, Sam Pedregon and his wife dropped by. They watch the emails and Facebook posts to stay informed, and Taylor invited him to join the Club.

Thanks to all who have put in so much effort before and during the work day, including:

  • Honora Roberts
  • Dennis Heap
  • Kevin Thonhoff
  • Delmar Smith
  • Jim Amster
  • Paul Andrews
  • Sue Benes
  • Becky Berry
  • Phil Crossley
  • Mike De Santi
  • Brett Mitchell
  • Taylor Albrecht
Photo of work group with Remote Targets
Photo of work group with remote targets

A special thanks goes to Stu Langrehr who led the team since the beginning and put in lots of time and effort to make it happen.