Thursday, January 12, 2017

FAA Part 107 Certification

Jack King flying one of Michael Baker's practice sUAS's.
We continuously strive to be at the forefront of assessing innovative and emerging technologies in a deliberate effort to add value and efficiency for ourselves and our clients. In this quest, our GIT National Practice Lead – Bob Hanson, recognized the potential of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS), and established us as an early-adopter over two years ago. Today, we now have a fleet of sUAS fixed-wing and VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) aircraft, capable of a multitude of different and challenging types of projects, and over a dozen FAA certified pilots across the country.

How did I fit in to all of this?
Through persistence, I was selected from a number of prospective pilots across our company to achieve our long-term goal of equipping each of our Mobile LiDAR systems with its own sUAS. To accomplish this, we need certified and highly trained operators as part of each Mobile LiDAR crew. With limited knowledge and experience with sUAS, it quickly dawned on me during my research just how large this emerging industry is. From the many different manufacturers, types of aircraft, specialized applications, and even down to the certification process; it is a daunting arena to dive in to head first. First things first though:


As with every other aspect within our LiDAR Center of Excellence (the Center), our goal is to be the safest and most highly trained team available to prospective clients. Late last year, the FAA made sweeping changes to its UAS regulations, opening accessible avenues for pilot registration and certification. For the Center, it meant the ability to expand our sUAS team beyond our 12 FAA-licensed pilots to now incorporate UAS pilots that could pass the newly-established FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot – sUAS test…specifically, yours truly.

Preparing for the FAA certification test was unlike any test I’d have ever taken before. In small part from being new to virtually everything I encountered, but mainly due to the sheer volume of material I had to sift through. There are multiple FAA approved study guides and materials available (totaling over 2,000 + pages). Needless to say, a lot of couch time, late nights, and short weekends. For several weeks, careful to not impede on my normal workload; I studied, researched, analyzed and deciphered the seemingly never ending pages of charts, maps, graphs, etc. All in all, the FAA put together a rather useful training guide, if not just a little hefty in size.

Test Day:
Here in Jackson, MS we are lucky enough to have a FAA testing center right down the road at a local community college. The test itself is rather meek compared to the study materials, a mere 60 questions – no room for mental lapses. I anxiously started, and quickly realized they spared no expense to provide a well-rounded and challenging gauntlet of questions. The variety of sectional charts and graphs were more than enough to cause a few hair pulling moments, but I got through it in what I hoped were flying colors. After finishing, the “instant” results of the computer’s computations felt like an eternity. For all of my worrying and hard fought studying, there it was…a passing score!

What’s next?:
Just having my certification does not mean that I am ready for TopGun with Tom Cruise (although call signs might be a cool addition). In a commercial environment liability is king, and all of our pilots need many hours in the air to learn our equipment, its performance and limitations, as well as our own. A series of training modules and training seminars have been set up by our own Kevin Pomaski, to ensure all of our operators and pilots achieve the highest level of proficiency in our sUAS operation. As with any well-built structure, it starts from the bottom. With the right foundation put in place, the limits of our sUAS operation are boundless…and I’m thrilled to be part of it!


Jack King is a Senior Mobile LiDAR operator with Michael Baker International's Mobile LiDAR Center of Excellence. He has racked up more miles and projects than any other operator and can now add more flight time than any other operator to his credentials!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Follow our UAS Colleagues on Instagram

The Michael Baker International Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) team is now on Instagram!  Our flight operations teams are going to post pictures to show off some of our work.

A photo posted by Michael Baker Intl UAS (@michaelbakeruas) on

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

From our family to yours, wishing you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veteran’s Day

On behalf of Michael Baker International, the Mobile LiDAR Team would like to recognize and thank our veterans for faithfully protecting our freedom, as well as the active military members and their families who unselfishly serve this country.

As a firm that employs veterans from many countries and delivers mission-critical services in support of our country’s military across the globe, we’d like our active duty, reserve, guard and contractor friends and family to know they are in our thoughts during their extended deployments and separation from friends and families.

On this Veteran’s Day it seems only fitting to share this colorized point-cloud image of an F-18 Hornet from our Navy’s world-famous Blue Angles (celebrating their 70th anniversary this year), captured during a previous project as NAS Pensacola.

Thank You Veterans!
Mobile LiDAR Team

Monday, October 24, 2016

Scrabble and LiDAR

Earlier this month I was on LinkedIn and read a posting on somebody’s page that LiDAR is now an official word in the Scrabble game’s dictionary. I guess that’s a good thing to know. For people that work with LiDAR or acquire the data from a service provider, you perhaps just got a slight edge over your board-game competitors. At least that’s true for those competitors that are not as LiDAR aware or informed as you.

In some respects, I’m still left at odds to think about “scrabble” and that word’s meaning in any context related to LiDAR. According to Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary scrabble means to: “scrawl, scribble; to scratch, claw, or grope about clumsily or frantically; scramble, clamber; to struggle by or as if by scraping or scratching.” That’s sort of an incongruent meaning with the precise nature of the LiDAR systems we utilize and the projects we perform with Mobile, Aerial and Static LiDAR systems. Then again Scrabble is just a game and LiDAR is just a word of no particular importance in that game. Let’s move on.

What is important however, is that LiDAR is such a pervasive technology today that it’s become a common technology even to the layperson. LiDAR has far more usefulness in every day purposes than the mapping-grade systems we operate. LiDAR systems and their data are being deployed in ways that truly reaches the mainstream of our everyday lives. As we so well know, autonomous vehicles of all forms are being deployed with LiDAR capabilities for object detection and recognition and directional guidance.

So back to the subject of this blog, here is Michael Baker’s tribute to all those Scrabble players that will use “LiDAR” in their future games.

You’ll note that we’re also emphasizing some of the qualities on the game board that we feel are important to our LiDAR operations here at Michael Baker. We’re also displaying a HoloLens system and a UAS being on the table. The UAS is being evaluated by our Kevin Pomaski for potential future flight operations. We are already integrating Mobile LiDAR and panoramic imagery with UAS photography to create 3D data for immersive holograms using HoloLens.

With this in mind, it’s also my pleasure to re-introduce Kevin Pomaski to you. Kevin had worked at Michael Baker in the past and has rejoined us (a boomerang) to now provide his personal leadership to our UAS activities and the integration of converging technologies. We will continue to develop innovative solutions for project delivery. Kevin will soon be writing about some those amazing things he is doing while merging UAS data and Mobile LiDAR data, and creating HoloLens visualizations. Kevin will be adding his blog postings on these activities to this blog site in the coming weeks.

Finally, if you want some additional Scrabble tips for LiDAR, this is a pretty good site to learn what you can do with LiDAR in your next Scrabble competition:

Until, next time,
Bob Hanson

P.S.: Art Morris who leads IT support for our systems for LiDAR and UAS here at Michael Baker says those Scrabble tiles placed on the stand to the right have a very special meaning to “The Simpsons” fans.