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Recent FAA Regulations Creating Opportunities for Louisiana Engineering Firm SJB Group

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued new rules regarding the commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), better known as drones. Previously, the FAA prohibited most commercial use of drones without special authorization. SJB Group is leveraging these new rules to launch a new service offering to complement their land surveying capabilities.

The new rules include regulations on the sUAS's weight, speed, and altitude; time of use; and location of the operator in relation to the sUAS. However, the most significant change came to the operator qualifications. Previously, a commercial operator was required to have a pilot license or certificate and had to acquire an exemption certificate for commercial use. This exemption took six months to process and contained nearly 30 flight restrictions. The operator now must either hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a sUAS rating or be directly supervised by someone with this certification. Pilots may also still operate them but must take a FAA training course specific to operating a sUAS. These new rules make leveraging this technology much easier to incorporate into business services.

Though the rules will not be in effect until August 2016, SJB Group plans to incorporate drone scanning into its surveying service portfolio. The firm recently hired a licensed pilot and joined the Louisiana Pelican Chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Wilfred Barry, President of SJB Group, said, "Our firm is always looking into technology investments that allow us to provide our clients better, faster, and more accurate data and deliverables. Scanning with drones does just that. And along with our existing 3D laser scanning services, it seemed like a great compliment." Drone scanning captures X, Y, and Z point cloud data information and layers it over high-resolution digital aerial images. These images have a variety of uses, such as mapping, subsidence studies, site development planning, transportation improvements, plant inventories or modeling, above ground utility lines, etc. Not only do drones accurately collect information quickly, but they also keep SJB Group's field crews safer by reducing or eliminating the time spent in potentially dangerous conditions, such as busy roadways.

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