Standard Operating Procedures: An Overview

Standard Operating Procedures: An Overview

BLOG

Did you know?
Standard Operating Procedure requirements are laid out in the Canadian Aviation Regulations for both Basic and Advanced Category pilots.
We’ve summarized the requirements below so you can double check your procedures to ensure they meet the mandated requirements. Remember – Advanced pilots will have their procedures checked during a flight review so make sure you have them all in there! 
For more guidance on SOP including examples, check out our SOP Guide which is included in any of our bundled packages!
 
Regulation

Site Survey requirements are laid out in CAR 901.27:

No pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system unless, before commencing operations, they determine that the site for take-off, launch, landing or recovery is suitable for the proposed operation by conducting a site survey that takes into account the following factors: 

(a) the boundaries of the area of operation;
(b) the type of airspace and the applicable regulatory requirements; 
(c) the altitudes and routes to be used on the approach to and departure from the area of operation; 
(d) the proximity of manned aircraft operations; 
(e) the proximity of aerodromes, airports and heliports; 
(f) the location and height of obstacles, including wires, masts, buildings, cell phone towers and wind turbines 
(g) the predominant weather and environmental conditions for the area of operation; and 
(h) the horizontal distances from persons not involved in the operation.

Regulation

CAR 901.23 states that these processes are required.

(1) No pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system unless the following procedures are established:

(a) normal operating procedures, including pre-flight, take-off, launch, approach, landing and recovery procedures;

 

CAR 901.28 has some additional details

A pilot of a remotely piloted aircraft shall, before commencing a flight,

(a) ensure that there is a sufficient amount of fuel or energy for safe completion of the flight;
(b) ensure that each crew member, before acting as a crew member, has been instructed

(i) with respect to the duties that the crew member is to perform, and
(ii) on the location and use of any emergency equipment associated with the operation of the remotely piloted aircraft system; and

(c) determine the maximum distance from the pilot the aircraft can travel without endangering aviation safety or the safety of any person.

Regulation

CAR 901.23 states that emergency procedures are required

(1) No pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system unless the following procedures are established:

(b) emergency procedures, including with respect to

(i) a control station failure,
(ii) an equipment failure, 
(iii) a failure of the remotely piloted aircraft, 
(iv) a loss of the command and control link, 
(v) a fly-away, and 
(vi) flight termination.

How to Get Your Basic Certification

How to Get Your Basic Certification

Blog

How to Get Your Basic Certification

If you are someone who enjoys flying drones, you’ve probably been looking forward to summer all year long! As the good weather approaches, flying conditions get better, the weather gets more reliable, and the opportunity to do cool things with your RPAS is always nearby. You should know that as of June 1, Transport Canada has released new regulations that affect all RPAS pilots including you. If you aren’t familiar with the rules, it can be difficult to understand exactly what kind of certification you need for the flights you want to do. Fortunately, we at Coastal Drone Co. have put together a handy guide to help you learn exactly what you need to get ready to fly this summer!

RPAS certification has been split into two categories depending on the type of flying you plan to do. We will be covering the basic certification here. If you’re looking for information on the advanced certification, it can be found here

Basic Certification

If you aren’t flying too near to people or in controlled airspace, the basic certification is probably all you’ll need. A basic certification comes with some restriction on where you can fly, but for many pilots it will be all they need to do the flying they want. If you have your basic certification, you can fly anywhere you want as long as you are:

  • More than 30m (100 feet) away from any bystanders
  • Not in controlled airspace
  • Never flying over bystanders

If the flights you plan to do meet these requirements, then the basic certification is the one for you. Follow the steps below to get the basic certification you need:

  1. Register your RPAS:
    The first step you need to do before you fly this summer is register your drone with Transport Canada. Registering is a quick process that only costs $5 to complete. Once you have registered, you will be given an identification number that you need to put somewhere on your drone. This will allow your drone to be identified in the event of a flyaway or accident. This identification number is required by law, so make sure you get one before you fly. You can register your drone here
  2. Take RPAS Ground School Basic:
    Basic ground school takes about 2-3 hours will teach you everything you need to know to be a successful and safe drone pilot. It teaches all the topics that you are mandated to know by Transport Canada, so you’ll know you have the knowledge you need to be successful. Our basic ground school also includes an exam prep package. Exam Prep is geared more toward passing the exam than ground school. You’ll get a summary of the new regulations in plain language and some sample questions to prepare with the right answer explained so you learn as you go. While not as in-depth as ground school, exam prep covers some of the nitty gritty items you’ll find on the exam. Our basic ground school can be found here
  3. Take the Transport Canada Exam
    Once ground school is done, all that is left is to take the exam! The exam contains 35 multiple choice questions and it gives you 90 minutes to complete them. You need at least 65% in order to pass. Many people find the exam challenging, but you are free to retake it after 24 hours and it only costs $10 to take, so failure isn’t the end of the world. You can take the exam here

  4.  Go out and Fly!Congratulations!! You did it! Once your exam is done, you will receive a certificate of completion that will allow you to fly your drone anywhere that qualifies for a basic operations! It is important that you keep a copy if it ready to present any time you fly. Police officers may ask to see your license and can charge you a hefty fine if they find that you don’t have one.

And with that, you are all prepared to fly your drone all summer long! If you find the limitations of basic certification too restrictive, you can always upgrade to the advanced certification to get even more freedom in where you can fly! A guide to getting it can be found here. Have fun and fly safe!

 

3 Things I’ve Learned From Drones

3 Things I’ve Learned From Drones

Blog

3 Things I’ve Learned From Drones

(and the stories behind the lessons)

I’m an instructor on drones and in airplanes so I have lots of opportunities to teach aviation. Every once in a while, though, aviation flips right back around and returns the favour. Here are 3 lessons I’ve learned from drones and the stories behind them.

Lesson 1: There are lots of ways to forget gear.

Here’s the situation. We’re at the office packing up the vehicles to leave for a flight. The flight location is about 3 hours from the office and about 2 hours from civilization (aka a Walmart). Checklist is out and we’re going through the items.
Jack*: “tablets…check, cables…check, micro SD cards… hey Jill, where are the SD cards?”
Jill: “OH GOOD CALL they’re on my desk”
Now at this point, as we later learned, Jill meant this as “they’re on my desk. Now you know where they are so you can go get them” and Jack interpreted it as “Jill says they’re on her desk, so she’ll grab them before we go”.
You can probably see where this is going. Guess who left without SD cards and only realized once they arrived on site. Yep.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty)

The Lesson:

Despite having (and using! these are different things…) a checklist, you can still forget things. Our lesson and remedy from this scenario was to assign packing duties to one person only. Usually this is the PIC (pilot in command) unless they’ve delegated otherwise. That way we avoid confusion and by giving one person the responsibility, more ownership is taken over the gear.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty)

Lesson 2: ATTI mode can smell fear.

Do you know when a great time to fly in ATTI** mode is? I can tell you when isn’t! Just like Murphy always promised, I was on a narrow dock with railings on either side about a storey up from the water surrounding us. The wind was blowing and I had about 20% battery left. Our GPS connection kept dropping off and throwing the aircraft into ATTI mode where it would drift around in the wind requiring constant and varying corrections. It all worked out okay. I landed without incident but between this and the flight from lesson 3, my heart still starts jumping whenever the DJI low battery sound come on.

**ATTI mode on DJI gear means no GPS or vision positioning systems assistance. Internal sensors only.

The Lesson:

Make your practice sessions some of the hardest flying you do. Fly close to structures and trees and note how your aircraft reacts. Try out all flight modes and make sure you can bring the aircraft back home. Practice reorienting yourself with the aircraft when it’s at a distance. That way, if you encounter these scenarios with the added stress of being on a job site, you’ll be better equipped to deal with it.

Lesson 3: The sun is an obstacle.

Okay, maybe not in the same way as trees or buildings BUT it can be just as limiting. There have been a few flights where I’ve been thankful to have remembered my cheap, non-polarized*** sunglasses but none quite as impactful as the boat flight. As you may have already figured out, we were launching off of the back of a boat. To do this legally in the Vancouver Harbour, we had to be out of the airspace by landing back on the boat by 6:45am; just in time for HeliJet’s first arrival. It was getting close to then so we were getting the last of the shots as the sun crested the mountain range behind us. We had been using the drone’s lights to maintain orientation and line of sight but now, the sun was reflecting off of all the building windows downtown and I lost visual contact. Shortly after this, the aircraft lost GPS, flipped into ATTI mode and my video signal became intermittent. Then the low battery warning kicked in. By the time we regained line of sight and flew back (thanks to some help from the return to home function), I landed on the boat with :48 seconds of power left. It was 6:44. We all lived to fly another day.

*** non-polarized so you can still see screens like the tablets

Lesson learned:

It’s important to think about the sun’s position when you’re flying. You will be staring at the sky for a while, after all. Aside from the obvious issues of sunburn and dehydration, it’s important to note how it may impact your ability to maintain line of sight, even on overcast, but bright days.

BONUS Lesson 4: Weather happens to drones too.

This didn’t happen to me, but to a former student of mine.
It’s late November in Vancouver. It’s one of those low overcast and misty days with the temperature just above 0 degrees. This experimental builder had a new drone to test out and popped it up to test flight characteristics. As the aircraft was hovering, he noticed the sound of the motors chan

ged. Bringing it back, he thought there must be an issue with how he had it configured. Upon inspection, he noticed ice adhering to the underside of all of his propellers! The slight pressure change that happens as lift is produced caused the temperature to drop just low enough for the humidity to freeze onto the propellers. Remember learning about icing risk in ground school? Well it can actually happen! So it’s good to be aware and to listen as well as watch for changes in aircraft performance.

Do you have any good lessons you’ve learned through your flying? Let us know!

Transport Canada’s Regulatory Update from UC18

Transport Canada’s Regulatory Update from UC18

NOTICE: check out our new post about the rules that are now in effect!

At the end of October, Transport Canada presented a regulatory update at Unmanned Canada- Unmanned System Canada’s fall conference in Vancouver, BC. While specifics such as release dates for the highly anticipated regulations were not a part of the announcements, we saw some helpful details that paint a picture of what we can expect. From this, we’re able to illustrate the expected paths to compliance under the new framework.

Before continuing, please note that the information below is what we anticipate will become regulation. These regulations are not yet in force.

GENERAL UPDATES

  • 2018 is still TC’s goal for regulation release (Canada Gazette 2 – CG2)
  • SFOCs will still be valid following CG2 during the implementation of regulations; a 6-month timeframe
  • SFOCs can still be issued for unique operations during the 6-month implementation period
    • While it wasn’t said, it was implied that operators will be encouraged, after CG2 drop, to work toward the appropriate permit rather than a standing SFOC.
  • There will no longer be a recreational vs. commercial distinction. Operations will be categorized as basic or advanced. A fun flight can be “advanced” and a research project or work for pay can be “basic”.
  • These rules apply to all remotely piloted aircraft between 250g and 25kgs
  • Unmanned Aircraft will be referred to as Drones or RPAS for Remotely Piloted Aircraft System on TC documents moving forward

BASIC OR ADVANCED

To decide if you pursue a basic authorization or advanced authorization, the main deciding factor is the class of airspace you intend to operate in. If your flights will only ever be in class G uncontrolled airspace, you may only need a basic certification. If you want to be able to operate in classes C-F, you will need an advanced authorization. The table below provides more information on the regulatory categories for basic and advanced operations.

250g – 25kgs, operated within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS)

Quick reminder on aerodromes. They are any area of land or water, including a frozen surface that is used, designed, prepared or equipped for the arrival, departure, movement or servicing of aircraft. It includes heliports, airports, bodies of water with floatplanes etc.

The administration of the knowledge exams for basic, advanced and flight reviewer will be through Transport Canada’s online Drone Mangement Portal.  This tool will also enable drone registrations.

FLIGHT REVIEWERS

Flight reviewers must be associated with a training school that provides compliant ground school. The initial round of flight reviewers will be certified to conduct their reviews after passing a flight reviewer exam around the same date as CG2 drop. The next eligible flight reviewers will have to meet the additional requirement of holding an advanced certificate for a period of 6 months before they are able to write the flight reviewer exam.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOU…

…ARE A CURRENT STANDING SFOC HOLDER with an SFOC that expires before January 1, 2019

Renew your Standing SFOC as soon as possible.  You’ll be able to operate under your standing SFOC until you complete the new requirements to hold your RPAS certificate.

…ARE A CURRENT STANDING SFOC HOLDER with an SFOC expiring in the spring or summer of 2019

You probably won’t need to renew (particularly if the expiry is after, say, June 2019) if you get moving on your RPAS certificate requirements right away.

…DO NOT YET HAVE A STANDING SFOC and need to fly in January

Get 3 applications + standing application in before the end of the year. If not, you may have some downtime while you gain your certification under the new framework.

…DO NOT YET HAVE A STANDING SFOC and don’t mind being “grounded” for a bit

If it’s reasonable for you to get 3 applications + standing application in before the end of the year, do that. If not, you may have some downtime while you gain your certification under the new framework.

We don’t know exactly when the regulations will come into force, but given the timelines and dates TC has set for themselves, this should play out throughout the spring of 2019.

UPDATE | 2018-11-16

I received a few great questions following the publication of this blog post.

1. What happens to current Ground School certificate holders? Do they have to take an additional exam or will they be grandfathered into the new process without an exam?

  • There will not be any grandfathering through of knowledge. Everyone from Airline Transport Pilot License holders to first-time Phantom fliers will need to write the knowledge exam that is appropriate for the certificate they’re pursuing (basic or advanced).

2. Will current ground school certificate holders have to take the flight school exam?

  • If they’re pursuing an advanced certificate, they’ll need to meet a skill requirement in front of a flight reviewer after they’ve written their advanced knowledge test.

3. We have clients from all over Canada. Will they now have to find a local flight examiner?

  • Yes. Anyone who is currently on the list of compliant training organizations has been contacted by TC to put forth candidates to be flight reviewers. Transport Canada is confident this “first batch” of reviewers will provide adequate coverage for all areas of Canada.

4. We have a national standing SFOC (Complex) as do a few of our clients. Does this get replaced with a permit to fly in the future?

  • Pilots will now be certified to fly individually, rather than under an organization like the SFOC provided. Individuals will need to pursue the appropriate certificate for their intended operations and there may be additional requirements at a company level to ensure consistency in the operations conducted (operations manuals, safety systems, checklists etc)

 

3 Steps to Successfully Implement Drones in your Business

3 Steps to Successfully Implement Drones in your Business

It’s easy to get excited about drones. Unless you have an Aston Martin equipped with missile launchers in your garage, drones are the closest thing to a Bond gadget that you can actually buy. There are ample predictions estimating the global drone industry to be worth over a hundred billion dollars within the next two years and the applications for drones already seem infinite. But don’t get lost in the possibilities – build a plan. Like any technology drones are an investment and planning for how to implement drones in your business is the best way to ensure your investment is profitable.

Start with proof of concept. Find a case study that matches your industry or contract a professional to do a job for you. Once you have proof of concept you can better understand how drones are going to benefit your business. The proof will help determine how to measure the success of the program and focus on tangible outcomes. Quantifiable results that directly affect your business’s bottom line are typically the goal here.

Recognize and rank opportunities. Learn where will you obtain the highest ROI. Starting small and establishing success in areas with the highest ROI supports establishing a successful drone program and keeps costs in check. Implementing drones in one or two key areas will make measuring results and managing the program easier. Not to mention, there is a learning curve with anything new and learning can be costly if you’re not careful.

Understand all the costs. There are more than meet the eye. Drones can deliver data at a fraction of the cost of many traditional methods, but it takes more than heading to your local electronic store and tossing a drone into the sky. Knowing all the costs allows you to make an informed decision on what part of your drone program should be contracted out and what parts should be done internally.

Here are a few things no drone program should be without:

  • A Drone
    • This may seem obvious but do your research and talk to a professional. It’s worth it to get the right drone the first time.
  • Software
    • There is a lot of great software out there to collect and analyze data. Software can be pricey so find out what works best for your applications
  • A Well-Trained Pilot
    • There are an increasing number of people that can fly drones, but not everyone is qualified for your jobs. Make sure your pilot is up to speed on their certifications and understands the regulations. Liability is not limited by negligence.
  • Visual Observer
    • It’s easier to lose sight of a drone than most people think. Every pilot needs a VO. Not only is it a legal obligation, but distractions happen and having a second set of eyes that knows what they’re doing helps a lot.
  • Insurance
    • There are two types, liability and hull. Liability is a must, and hull insurance is recommended especially if you need a more expensive drone for your applications. Most pilots have experienced a crash at some point.
  • Data analyst
    • With the influx of data companies are able to gather using drones many legacy systems are unable to process it all. Someone needs to understand what all that golden data your drone is mining means.
  • Company-specific written documents
    • Think standard operating procedures, safety protocols, pre-flight and post-flight checklists. These help to keep your company out of the headlines for the wrong reasons and reduce growing pains as you look to implement drones. Working with a professional here is recommended, the general public has limited understanding of aviation and airspace.
  • Management
    • All parts of a business are managed, drone operations shouldn’t be the exception. There are records that should be kept, and knowledge that can be gained from a well-managed program.

Know when to ask for help. You are a master of your business and there is no shame in admitting you might not be a master of drones. If you want to hire a pro for a job to see drones in action before diving head first into the industry it’s probably a good idea. If you don’t have hours of time for research or the means to manage the program, there are resources available. Don’t let obstacles like these scare you away. The hype about drones is supported with success stories. Make your business one of them.

Sensors and Payloads: The Way Drones Make Money

Sensors and Payloads: The Way Drones Make Money

When it comes to making money with your drone, it all comes down to the payload. Really, the drone is just a tool for putting the camera or another sensor into an area that was too expensive or prohibitive to do otherwise. This is where the drone industry gets exciting. What applications can you dream up using these cool technologies?

Cameras

Cameras are the most popular type of payload and are typically at least one of the sensors onboard. They can be as small as a keychain like on FPV racing drones or large, cinema-quality cameras with complex gimbal set-ups weighing tens of pounds. Some aircraft can even handle two cameras and have one for pilot orientation and the other geared for a specific purpose such as low light operations, 360 degrees or with zoom capabilities.
Infrared Sensors
This highly versatile piece of tech can be used in agriculture, surveillance, accident scene assessment, wildlife tracking, search and rescue, infrastructure assessments for heat loss or for machinery diagnostics for heat build up.

Synthetic Aperture Radar

The details of how this impressive technology works are a bit beyond this post but the ultimate result is that this sensor can “see” through cloud cover, foliage, even structures. Since it uses a lot of power, it’s currently on large aircraft and satellites and primarily used to do assessments and monitoring of ice caps, earthquakes, resource monitoring, intelligence acquisition etc.

Multi and Hyper Spectral

Multispectral imaging such as NDVI or Normalized Difference Vegetation Indexing is used in precision agriculture. These sensors read bands of frequencies reflected off the surface below and crunch that data through software programs. This data provides insights into crop health, land management and hundreds of applications outside of agriculture like ecology, oil and gas, oceanography and atmospheric studies.

Chemical/Biological “Sniffer” Sensors

Using spectrometers, drones can detect airborne biological information for atmospheric analysis, helping meteorologists make better forecasts. Through the aid of algorithms, these sensors can also detect abnormalities in the cases of chemical attacks or gas leaks.

Releasable

Covering everything from spraying pesticides to dropping off your Amazon order, releasable payloads are a huge opportunity. Think Hunger Games style parachuting supplies or aid to people in need. However, regulatory bodies are understandably restrictive when it comes to dropping things from aircraft. Once safe and reliable systems enable beyond visual line of sight flying and clean releases, we can expect to see this side of the industry grow beyond the current applications into areas like aerial pharmacies.

RFID Scanners

Providing asset and inventory tracking, airborne RFID scanners allow drones to scan areas in a repeatable, cost-effective manner. Anything you’ve attached your tags to can be traced by simply flying overhead.

GPS Tag

Similar to RFID scanners, drones can pick up on and follow tagged equipment, people or assets. New technology even allows tracking via camera image, rather than needing to provide a pre-established tag. Although there are limitations, this is a promising avenue for the future.

Laser (LiDAR)

Although there are some extra requirements before you’re allowed to sling a laser around the skies, laser payloads like LiDAR enable surface mapping through foliage, clouds and ground cover

What did we forget? What payload technology gets you most excited about the future of drones?