Throughout history, we've seen hobbies come and go. Stamp collecting, plastic model building, and chemistry sets are probably a few of the ones that come to mind right off the bat that aren't nearly as popular as they once were. However, some hobbies stick and every now and then some of those hobbies with sticking power grow from a mall kiosk fad into a multimillion dollar, federally regulated, industry. Drones, or as the FAA refers to them, Unmanned Aerial Systems or UAS, have grown from simple toys that didn't do much more than destroy your parents living room ceiling fan into complex aviation wonders that can save money, time, and even lives!
Industries of all type and size are realizing the potential power of these devices and are putting them to work on jobs that have, in the past, been too costly or dangerous to accomplish on a regular basis. From oil companies, to power companies, to first responders, Unmanned Aerial Systems are being put to work performing tasks as simple as inspecting towers and as critical as looking for signs of life at disaster scenes.
The results are faster turn around and lower costs on tasks that might otherwise require specialized equipment, teams, or complex coordination. The positive impact that these devices have had on these industries leads other industries to consider potential uses for UAS in their line of work. The lighting industry is no exception and the answers to the question, how can a UAS help when it comes to lighting projects, seem to be increasing by the day!
When it comes to Unmanned Aerial Systems and the lighting industry several key opportunities are immediately opened up by putting a UAS in the sky!
The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is that the UAS can accurately paint a picture of the current outdoor lighting conditions of a property. Through mapping and at-altitude photography, an accurate picture of what the current light levels are doing on a property, buildings, cars, and other items can help determine and plan an outdoor lighting project more accurately. For example, being able to see how the current lighting lands on property lines from the air, can help plan the right fixture or lens application on the perimeter of a property to help prevent light trespass. Furthermore, testing out several options and then taking pictures or video of those options operating at night can help confirm the right product choice and prevent costly changes later. Additionally, just like the UAS can show the before conditions, it can also show the after conditions-- thus allowing the company to provide a confirmation to the customer that the project delivered what it promised! Another way UAS can help with outdoor lighting projects is in the development of accurate maps and measurements. Aerial photography can provide accurate surveying for a designer or planner. There are multiple UAS mapping platform applications that use GPS and Altitude data to get the measurements within centimeters of accuracy in some cases. Combine aerial photography with traditional ground surveying techniques and the reliability of the mapping increases even more!
UAS can also help identify potential job site hazards are issues before they become bigger problems! By getting accurate photo information on the project site before it starts job hazards can be mapped and potential risks mitigated to prevent costly delays or, more importantly, injuries.
The benefits of UAS in the lighting and electrical industry are numerous and are growing daily, however, there are some unique challenges when it comes to UAS deployment that have to be considered when thinking about adding UAS technology to the workflow.
When considering adding a UAS to the tool box, companies need to understand that the FAA recognizes two types of UAS operations-- hobby operations- operations for personal, private use, and commercial operations- operations for hire or compensation. The laws of physics apply equally to both types of operations; however, the laws of government are a bit different depending on which operation one is flying under. The best way to know if it's personal or commercial is if there is money involved. If someone is being paid to fly a drone--either by a company as a contractor or as an employee, it's a commercial operation. This means that the person flying must have or be in the presence and under the supervision of someone with a UAS Remote Pilot Certificate, and the UAS being used has to be registered with the FAA. The process to get trained and licensed isn't costly, however getting caught flying illegally is.
Most companies will find benefit in hiring a contractor who is licensed and insured and adding the cost of that contractor to the cost of the project. However, some companies may find benefit in having their own in-house team-- especially if there are going be a lot of flights each year. Before deciding the best route to take it's a good idea to have some costs in mind.
If a company decides to add UAS and a UAS pilot to its tool bag, here are some costs that will have to be considered.
A good UAS is going to cost north of $3000.00 with some reaching into the tens of thousands of dollars and more! There are lower cost options out there, however, when it comes to safety and capability, getting a bigger bird will almost always pay off in the long run. After all, a company that buys one $5000.00 UAS every five or six years is better off than the company that had to buy 10 $500.00 in that same amount of time because they keep crashing or breaking.
Another cost to consider is the companies pilot. In order to fly a UAS commercially, the flight operation has to be performed or monitored by a Pilot In Command with a Remote Pilot Certificate. The cost to get and maintain this certificate is not terribly high and is going to be negligible for most companies, however, the real cost comes in the form of moving that person from one project to another. This is a cost that isn't impossible, but it can amount to several thousand dollars depending on locations and durations, so it has to be considered on the front end when planning and budgeting of the project happens.
Overall, a good UAS program is not cheap to implement, however, it's also not expensive either when considering what the options would be to get the same images and information. For example, a helicopter and pilot can easily cost several thousand dollars for each flight and paying a survey company to map a potential project that may not have even been sold yet is certainly not a fiscally responsible option. However, a good UAS program provides all of these functionalities at a fraction of the cost, not to mention the added benefit of marketing material that can be developed from the images and shared after the project is done!
UAS are here to stay and are very much a part of many of the industries connected to the lighting industry. It only makes sense that UAS go to work making lighting projects better for both the contractors and the customers. The question left for the lighting industry isn't are you going to use UAS, the question is how you are going to use them!
FSG has been using UAS technology in outdoor lighting projects now for more than four years. You can watch some of FSG's marketing videos that were developed from some of that work by Clicking Here. Learn more about the FAA and UAS by visiting the FAA's website Want to get a UAS flying on your project? FSG can help. Click Here and FSG will connect you with a resource that can help get a UAS in the air over your next lighting project.
Brannon began his career at FSG in 2012 writing and preparing content for FSG’s communication department. In a world where the story sells, Brannon quickly found his stories and projects being used in sales presentations and thus began his transition from internal communications to marketing and sales.
Brannon works with one of the best teams any marketing professional could ask for to create and deliver dynamic sales and marketing materials to FSG sales teams nationwide. Brannon lives with his wife and four children in the Houston area. When away from his work Brannon speaks publicly for non-profit youth organizations with an emphasis on foster care and youth development. When not doing that, Brannon enjoys camping with his family and going to Disney World with his kids.