$200k Drone bought by Erlandsen

Little Drone for Ag use
Drone getting programmed
Drone in flight

Erlandsen invests $200k
in Lidar drone technology

By Gary Bégin
EAST WENATCHEE -- Erlandsen, a well known and long established firm specializing in "surveying, planning and engineering" has bought into state of the art aerial technology in the form of a $200,000 Lidar drone.
LidarUSA, a world leader in drone technology, sells a six-propeller 30-pound model that Erlandsen uses to tackle jobs that might be dangerous to a normal topographic survey party as the drone needn't be accompanied by anyone, but the pilot.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) actually requires a licensed pilot be in charge of flying the drone and that permission be granted to take flight, either by use of an internet site or via local airport officials if in vicinity of same. Like all pilots, a flight plan still needs to be filed.
Part of the rules to obtain an FAA "Part 107" license is that the pilot maintain a "visual line of sight" with the aircraft and the passing of an internet knowledge test. No actual field demonstration of the pilot's ability is required.
Senior Erlandsen engineer Dave Dormier said use of the drone would save the company "four to five days of field time," which in turn allows the company to add more and more jobs to its calendar without having to overtax its work force.
Redell reports that after a mere 10 minutes of flight, the drone can obtain 1 million bits of data on whatever the target may be. Farmer's fields, huge or small parking lots, new housing developments, power line surveys, dam repairs, the list goes on and on as to the applicability of the machine.
"Erlandsen likes to keep on the cutting edge and at the forefront of technology," said surveyor Jesse Redell, the pilot.
The company's deployment of robotics and GPS is also meant to save money, but it did require a major investment. Redell and Dormier expect the drone to last about five years before it is replaced by another state-of-the-art drone.
The men say their Lidar model is the only one operating as a topography tool in the entire North Central Washington region and are hoping to attract clients based on increased topographic accuracy as well as savings from requiring fewer man hours per job.
LiDARUSA, headquartered in Somerville, Alabama is where some of the technical training took place for Redell as part of the $200k price tag. With each flight he sharpens his piloting skills and simultaneously becomes more valuable to prospective clients.
Erlandsen has worked with all the local public utility districts and just about every municipality between Leavenworth and Brewster. The company is hoping to be called upon to survey all the tough jobs that humans fear to tread and, using drone abilities. Okanogan County and other rugged areas have already called upon it to perform and the job got done.
Redell said in one instance, the drone was tasked with calculating the distance between the tree tops and the overhead power lines to make sure the lines were not in danger of being interfered with by mother nature.
"That type of job could not be easily done by men on the ground," Redell said. Another cost efficiency aspect of this new tech is the luxury of not having to hire a helicopter or small plane to do a job that can be done by pilot Redell and his drone.
"We don't charge a set fee to use the drone. The charges are based on the job the clients wants us to get done," Redell concluded.
According to the Erlandsen website, "Mobile mapping is the process of collecting geospatial data with an array of vehicle mounted equipment including lidar scanners, GPS receivers and 360° cameras. The data produced by this process includes geo-referenced, time‐stamped point clouds and panoramic imagery that can be used to create accurate survey and GIS data products.
"We are one of only a few firms in the Northwest that owns and operates mobile lidar technology, and the only firm in the Northwest with the depth of experience and expertise in applying mobile lidar to a variety of projects including GIS asset inventory, highway mapping, and clear zone evaluations."
The smaller drone employed by the company can also help farmers and orchardists with thermal imaging of their crops to see what areas need more or less water or fertilizer and help them assess overall plant health.
After every job is completed, Redell simply removes the memory chip from the drone and inserts it into his computer once back at home base.
The company is also training another employee to become a certified pilot so the two can work together. "One pilot can fly the drone while the other can operate the camera and other functions," Redell said, noting that it was enough of a task to handle the drone by itself and much easier when two pilots are used.
For more information on how its high tech drone can help map out your future, call Erlandsen at 800-732-7442 or 509-884-2562.

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