By Joseph P BrutonOctober 8, 2019
On a recent Saturday morning, several men stood around a table talking about the specifications and capabilities of a new work tool. From the enthusiasm level, you might have thought they were gathered in a car dealer's showroom discussing the latest sports car. No, this group was chatting about a different kind of high-speed toy-a cutting-edge Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), or what the public might call a "drone," which was recently added to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District's high-tech toolbox.
Following a week of training, the district's UAS team, consisting of David Mello, James Oliver, Casey Young and Jerry Frost, gathered at New Hogan Lake, near Stockton, on a recent Friday morning to present a pre-flight brief and then a live demonstration of the new UAS to Sacramento District Commander Col. David Ray.
Mello explained that the UAS has many practical applications from providing video footage and photos for the Public Affairs Office to creating detailed mapping of sites such as Isabella Dam and is even capable of piecing together high-resolution 3-D images to share with team members and partner agencies.
As he listened to Mello explain the many useful functions of the system, Ray voiced his appreciation for how the UAS will be a great asset for some of the district's most complex projects.
"This is powerful ... it gives us the ability to better understand and synchronize our efforts," said Ray. "This will be very helpful in not just explaining what we're doing, but in allowing people to actually see specific details and visualize information that is difficult to explain."
Following the briefing, the UAS team headed out to a field for a demonstration flight. Even with a stiff breeze, pilot Casey Young had no problems handling the UAS for takeoff, flyovers and landing. And yes, that's "pilot." A full week of training was provided by the manufacture company, Microdrone, and Sacramento District UAS team members Young and Mello are FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Part 107-certified UAS pilots.
The Sacramento District's new UAS is a modern yet scalable system, meaning it can be updated with additional payloads at a later date, in order to keep it from becoming outdated and obsolete.