By Mike Morris

Moss is a national construction management company and an Engineering and News Report Top 100 Contractor with an impressive portfolio of projects across the U.S. that range from high-rise construction and utility scale solar projects to maritime ports. Moss seeks out innovations which can improve deliverables, mitigate risk, and improve processes.

Drone-use in construction has the potential to become a $28.3 billion global market. Like many companies in the construction industry today, the team at Moss realized that drones could be valuable tools on the job site, enhancing safety operations and reducing costs, as well as improving accuracy and efficiency. However, before launching the company’s drone program in 2019, Moss’s safety management knew they needed to set standards for safety and compliance.

From the start, the team prioritized launching a drone program quickly, safely and in compliance with federal regulations and company policy while seeing meaningful gains in the field. Moss also felt that adequately training and equipping teams of employees—many of whom had never touched a drone—without spending months developing standards for training and operations would be key for the company. Next, the company began searching for a partner who could help develop their written program, as well as manage the team’s flights.

Let’s take a closer look at the five-step process Moss adopted to get their drone program off of the ground:

Skyward instructs Moss on hands-on flight practice, a critical component of the company’s three-day, in-person training.

1. Standard Operating Procedures

Starting with the essentials, Moss first turned to a comprehensive set of expertly validated policies and procedures. This allowed the company’s safety and executive personnel to customize the program to meet their needs, including integrating corporate policies into the general operating manual, setting training standards, and establishing risk mitigation strategies.

Following the process, Moss VP of Environmental, Health & Safety Scott Gerard spoke highly of the company’s experience and ability to tailor the program to meet their needs.

2. Certification

Next, Moss had to certify the company’s team of drone pilots. This included Part 107 training, given the company’s plans to fly drones commercially in the United States.

Pilots in-training also received access to Drone Pilot Ground School, which prepared Moss’s pilots for the FAA’s aeronautical knowledge test. Every pilot passed the test and acquired their Remote Pilot Certificates to become licensed drone pilots.

In addition to training, it’s important to note that both pilots in-training and newly licensed pilots will appreciate having a responsive and knowledgeable team of drone management platform experts whom they can reach out to as the foundation of their new drone program starts to take form.

3. Drones and equipment

To launch Moss’s drones into the air, the company needed commercial-grade drones, best-in-class tablets and controllers, extra batteries, essential accessories and hard cases for easy storage and transportation. This will be true for most companies and will also allow for both consistent training and a thorough overview of the aircraft to be used in the field. Though it varies across providers, some drone management platform developers will provide drone kits to ensure your team is set up with appropriate gear for safe and compliant drone operations.

4. In-person classroom training

Nearly 20 Moss employees attended three days of in-person training. Classroom-style instruction allowed for an introduction of the following topics:

  • Hardware best practices
  • Standard operating procedures and FAA compliance
  • Safety culture
  • Airspace and weather
  • Emergency preparation
  • Simulated real-world operations

On the final day, each Moss pilot executed a practice mission of his or her own choosing from the ground up. They established a goal, planned a flight, checked airspace, followed checklists, flew the mission and gathered data—all according to standard operating procedures. Moss pilots also used drones to capture 4K videos of the surrounding area and perform other sample operations like flying over stockpiles to collect data.

When implementing a new tool to launch a high-value, low-risk drone operation, it’s also important to understand what flight planning, airspace access and reporting will look like through your drone management platform. Keep your company’s objectives top of mind as you search for ways to adapt the program to meet your needs, just as Moss was able to do.

5. Hands-on flight training exercises

Classroom sessions are great, but field training quickly takes pilots to the next level. For this reason, Moss spent the second and third days of their in-person training in a nearby field getting real fly-time. Moss’s pilots took to the sky and flew sample missions under the supervision of experts, strictly following the company’s standard operating procedures and the concepts covered during classroom sessions. This not only provided a safe environment to build drone pilot skills and put operational practices to the test, but also helped pilots get up to speed much faster.

Ready for Takeoff

Moss began to deploy drones in the field shortly after training was completed. While their drone operations are still in the early stages, the company is quickly building a strong program, seeing results and demonstrating the powerful value UAS can bring to daily operations.

Here are just a few of the use cases they are using or developing today:

  • Photogrammetry – extracting 3D data from 2D images
  • Leak inspections
  • Solar array inspections
  • Aerial surveillance during demolitions
  • 3D construction mapping to compare actual construction progress to 3D planning models
  • Videography for promotion
  • Photography showing the view from an office window or balcony that hasn’t yet been constructed
  • Pre-slab pour inspections
  • Post-tensioning layout verification

Further, drones are now catching the attention of other Moss employees. Additional team members are expressing interest in becoming Part 107 certified to fly missions and with safety and compliance standards in place, Moss is off to a great start.

It’s possible that many companies who are looking to launch drone operations may not know where to start. Even if they own drones and have certified pilots, developing a program that can scale up, remain safe and comply with federal regulations and company policies comes with additional challenges. Turn to a drone management provider who can help your organization implement a one-stop shop of tools and training resources to start flying a high-value, low-risk drone operation as soon as your team is ready. In addition to finding a drone management platform that can support your team’s needs and manage your flights, establishing standard operating procedures, securing the right equipment and completing certification, in-person classroom training and hands-on flight training exercises will help set your team up for a successful drone program launch.

Mike Morris is a customer success manager at Skyward, a Verizon company. As an experienced customer relations manager with a demonstrated history of working with unmanned aerial systems, Mike helps reinforce best practices for drone adoption and management for Skyward’s customers.