That title is more relevant to my long term goals here in the Emlid community. New to ‘everything’ is a loaded statement, so before I throw out my first (of what will be BILLIONS) question, allow me to explain in this book I wrote here special for all of you!
What I’m New At:
- Commercial Drone Services, The Industry I’ve Just Started a Company In (TCAS Analytics)
- The Legacy Drone Community Cultural Norms (Lonnnng stories for this one)
- RTK Level GNSS Systems
- Anything Even Remotely Related to the Surveyor Discipline
- Ellipses, Or Other Strange Terms I Keep Reading
- Pix4D, The Photogrammetry & Orthomosaic Mapping Software We Chose to Invest In
- Getting Chicks to Think I’m Handsome
What I’m NOT New At:
3 Decades of Professional Civil Aviation Expertise Across a Broad Swath of the Industry Including:
- Commercial Pilot
- Flight Instructor
- Certified Aircraft Mechanic
- New Aircraft Sales Territory Manager
- Lobbyist Representing Civil Aviation Industry to the US Federal Government for Air Traffic Policy Issues (We liked to say ‘advocate’)
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Civil Aviation Regulatory Environmental Compliance Officer (as boring as it sounds)
- USAF Civilian Intelligence Officer & Civil Aviation Subject Matter Expert (as awesome as it sounds)
- Brief 3 Year Enlistment as Air National Guard MQ-9 Reaper Intelligence Exploitation & Production Specialist (a little drone street cred)
- and one hell of a winning smile (not true, snaggle tooth)
Started & Ran/Run 3 Successful Small Businesses NOT in Aviation:
- Promotional Products Distribution
- Traditional Residential Property Rental Property & Management
- Vacation Rental Property & Management (Absolutely 2 VERY Different Things)
All The Things All That Stuff Made Me Smart On:
- ICAO International Civil Aviation Regulatory Standards Harmonization
- FAA Air Traffic Services & Air Space Systems
- FAA Regulation & Rule Making Processes & Requirements
- US Government National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Applications, Requirements, & Processes (Like I said, VERY boring stuff)
- ADS-B Civil Aviation Surveillance Systems (Both Aircraft In/Out Equipage & Air Traffic Sides of the Equation)
- Legacy Air Traffic Primary & Secondary Surveillance Systems (Both Aircraft Transponder Beacon & Air Traffic Sides of the Equation)
- International Civil Aviation Flight Operations, Requirements, & Procedures
- What It’s Like to Watch Live When an MQ-9 Reaper Launch a Hellfire at a Guy Who (Trust Me) Deserved To Be Removed From The Battlespace (As Cool As It Sounds)
- Proven Lobbying Techniques Which Successfully Compel The FAA and/or DoD to Modify or Eliminate Certain Aspects of Proposed Regulations or Rules Which if Implemented Would Cause Harm (Financial and/or Operational) to Certain Civil Aviation Sectors Not Being Considered (Drone Sector is Going To Need a LOT of This)
- FAA Part 23 Civil Aircraft Certification Standards & Requirements
- FAA Part 43 Aircraft Maintenance Standards & Accepted Practices
- FAA Part 61 Civilian Pilot Certification Standards & Requirements
- Strategies For Starting & Effectively Running Small Businesses
Why did I tell you all that, and why would anyone care? The surprise to some will be that I’m not actually some sort of narcissist looking for unearned respect from this community up front. Nope, no way, no how, not what I’m about. Hell, at least 90% of all that stuff I did has exactly ZERO to do with RTK GNSS anything. I did however, want to put it out there for a number of reasons, first and foremost being that I plan on being a regular here, and whether or not you can see it, I believe that a sizable amount of my experience and knowledge will be applicable to many of the initiatives being taken on by members of this board. Especially when you consider how quickly the word is spreading in the small commercial drone services business owner communities about there FINALLY being an affordable RTK GNSS option which will equip them to raise their small business game.
The truth is, I love watching others succeed, especially if I was in any way able to to provide any sort of assistance to them. I’m a small business entrepreneur to the core, run all my businesses, as well as my personal life based on a few very basic core ethical & moral tenets & values, and refuse to engage in any sort of hostile or toxic practices or behaviors. People will ALWAYS be prioritized ahead of profits, we will do the right things for the right reasons, and I’ll never charge someone for something, be it a service or product, which doesn’t measure up to my standards. I know it sounds like idealistic dribble to some, but I’m fine with the criticisms from that crowd. I’m sick and tired of this “It’s not personal, it’s just business” greed-driven, unbridled profits over everything, way of doing business which has become so pervasive and toxic in the US over the last few decades. I’m sorry, greed is a moral failing, and it’s certainly not good. I’ve met people who buy into that “Wolf of Wall Street” nonsense, use it as a perpetual excuse to screw over anyone they can for a buck, and claim that if it’s not illegal, it’s acceptable business practices. I’ve not the time or energy for that type of toxic failure of a human, and will do everything in my power to remove them from my immediate area of operations.
Anyway, kinda went off the ranting rails there, sorry. What I was starting to say before I began current-culture raging was that I fully acknowledge that this forum is nothing short of Emlid’s house, and by that notion an RTK GNSS/ Surveyor-esque community. However, the makeup of this community, I feel, is going to evolve quickly into one which includes a large percentage of drone service providers and business owners. I know I’m even close to being the first Commercial Drone Services business owner to register & post, I’m certain I won’t be the last, and if I can help any of them in any way to succeed, well, hell’s yeah. That’s why I dropped all that previous experience stuff in here, because I want to be an asset.
Which brings me to tonight, and the original impetus for my posting this dissertation. My commercial drone services business, TCAS Analytics (Southern Maryland, USA) is currently in the latter preparatory & training stages of standing up for initial market service launch, the procurement of a set of Emlid Reach RS+ systems being our most recent investment. We’re still in the process of developing an extensive set of corporate Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which together look very much like an FAA Air Carrier Crew Operations Manual, as well as the first broad set of standards and policies, all of which will evolve right along side the company as it grows and expands in perpetuity.
If you’re a new drone services business, or hell, even if you’ve been around for awhile, but you aren’t yet thinking about developing these types of formal documents specifically for your business operations, maybe because the FAA doesn’t require them, you feel you’re too small, you don’t have the time, or even didn’t know about things like that before reading them here, the sooner you start the effort, the better off your company will be in the future. I say this as someone who was working for the FAA, my office located at the 800 Independence Ave SE headquarters building in Washington DC, and had a front row seat to watch on the day the Congressional mandate to regulate sUAS dropped on the Administrator’s doorstep like a bag of flaming poop.
I won’t get into all the policy justifications which the FAA leadership maintained in an effort to avoid having drones/ sUAS placed under their regulatory purview. However, I will say that a large part of this FAA executive leadership team-shared reluctance was without a doubt being driven the fact that doing so would result in a cascading series of significant and ever-increasing financial, regulatory, and operational resources the agency would legally mandated to funnel towards what eventually ended up becoming the first new sector to join the US civil aviation industry in multiple decades. Trust me, this industry is NOT known for being flexible or welcoming to outsiders or new ideas.
That said, we’ve only begun to see the benefits to the sUAS community, especially on the small-scale operator side, and these benefits will continue to manifest in many MANY awesome ways. But, there is usually a cost to such benefits, right? For US commercial drone operators, these costs are almost guaranteed to present as new more stringent & demanding FAA regulations being introduced which make our jobs more difficult/ expensive. For those of us who resign to being unprepared, or are simply unwilling to accept (what in my opinion) are actually industry bolstering requirements and standards to meet, life will be a few measures more miserable for a longer time than it could have been. Those unwilling to comply will also risk losing the businesses they worked hard to build, and then spend their days bemoaning how over-intrusive and business stifling governmental overreach took away everything. Sadly, these folks will have only themselves to blame, never being willing or able to step back and recognize that what we do is not without risk, FAA has a storied history of working with industry to limit impacts to the industry, and without those safeguards metal hurtling through the air, of any size, can have devastating consequences which these restrictions are designed to prevent. Yes, a little drone has enough kinetic energy to cause a LOT of damage and/or injuries, and NO, the current drone community is NOT paying attention to anything even close to a safety risk management program. You reading may be doing your part, but the drone community as a whole is falling pathetically short.
If you get a chance, take a look at what I feel is an appropriate level of prerequisites, demonstrated knowledge standards, and flight maneuver requirements which the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) currently requires of their commercial drone pilot applicants. Then maybe take a look at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO - pronounced EYE-kay-oh) sUAS Regulatory SARPS (basically what the international civil aviation regulatory community agrees are the global minimum civil aviation, and now sUAS standards), and consider both to be the bare minimums for what you develop for your company.
Anyway, with respect any company’s efforts to do just that, it’s important that they retain, maintain the currency of, and have at the disposal of all operational crew-members, a set of written documentation related to all corporate processes and deployed platforms & equipment. While not an aviation-related piece of equipment, and certainly not something which the FAA would even have any regulatory jurisdiction over, we should all be striving to leverage the full suite of capabilities offered by every piece equipment used to execute a sUAS mission. To that point, we at TCAS Analytics are intent on including all relevant operational processes and SOP integrations of the new Emlid Reach RS+ units into our Operations Manuals, which we feel will consistently yield a far higher quality, greater level of precision, and thus more useful and valuable deliverable for our end-use customers’ use.
The problem I’m running into is that when I click on the Emlid “Documentation” link, there are actually no downloadable documents to be found.
We were hoping Emlid maintained a set of non-HTML, preferably PDF versions, of all the documentation related to the various units, which could be downloaded by customers and users for their needs. We have placed a significant priority on being capable of providing our customers with any of our services in any location or level of network connectivity. In other words, if a crew is out at a job site and wishes to reference an Emlid document for any number of reasons, they need to have access to these whether or not they have any internet connectivity. They need to be able to pull up the appropriate Emlid documentation PDF on an offline laptop or cellular device.
So, finally, the question(s):
- Does Emlid maintain downloadable PDF versions of all the Reach RS+ (as well as for all Emlid models for customers equipped with those) documentation available on the website?
- If you do, where do we go to download them?
- Does Emlid maintain a rigid documentation review and update schedule, or update as needed?
- Does Emlid have any sort of opt-in-able documentation/ firmware update notification service?
- If so, how do we opt-in?
- If Emlid doesn’t maintain downloadable versions of their product documentation, what could we say to convince you that it’s important to do so?
Thanks for reading my post, and I hope I get to meet, learn a ton from, and maybe even offer some assistance to as many Emlid employees and customers as I learn this new discipline. For the record, yesterday we deployed the 2 Reach RS+s in the field, one as a Base, one as a Rover, and successfully pulled the high relative positions of our GPCs prior to an orthomosasic mapping training mission. Earlier today we ran the collected through with Pix4D Mapper processing of that mission, stumbled clumsily through importing the GPC .csv (Why does DroneDeploy get a special export option but not the Pix4D kids???), and were eventually thrilled to see that we seemed to have got it right on the first try, which was certainly not the expectation. Next challenge is to figure out how to make the Absolute Positioning function work, because Relative Accuracy is not what our standards are going to be.
Finally, the end. Yeah, verbose is where it’s at, and brevity is for those without a lot to say. Anyone who has worked anywhere in the Intel Community will likely question my employment claims based on my shirking of this core tenet of that culture. Truth is, I hated the “Bottom Line Up Front”, or BLUF requirement, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain too loudly or not comply. It just took me some extra time to scrub the “fluff” from the products I wrote.
Thanks for the answers, looking forward to learning a TON!