Utilizing FAA Nighttime Waiver for LiDAR Data Acquisition
Author: Fred Depuy, COO
“Clear” …. Those were the last words I heard before watching our UAS LiDAR Sensor entering the airspace under our FAA night waiver. It was a real thrill to watch our UAS Operation Team flying at night. The mission was to complete a UAS LiDAR data acquisition of a 50-acre pond during low tide for a future bridge design project.
At 5 pm on a cold day in November, you couldn’t actually see the salt pond, other than its reflections, but you could certainly see the UAS Platform as it moved through the night sky illuminated by two bright white LED lights. The white lights fastened to the aircraft frame ensured the crew could maintain a line of sight and orientation of the aircraft. What really made the project exciting was how the team followed our standard operating procedures, operational execution, and reliable data collection regardless of whether it was a daytime or nighttime operation. They simply stuck to their training, trust in each other, knew their equipment and followed the pre-flight, flight and post-flight routine.
The field operation consisted of 3 flights in 3 different locations to cover the entire area of interest. Each time the aircraft landed, it was like watching a Nascar Pit Crew as they ensured the calibration of the sensor, reviewed the data collection, swapped out the batteries and carefully transported the equipment to the next location. The flight altitude was governed by a 200’ ceiling by FAA regulations eliminating the ability to fly at a higher altitude and reduce the number of flights and physical movement. This made perfect sense, safety FIRST, period.
Since the project site was near a Class D airport and just outside of the city limits, there was a lot of manned-aircraft traffic in the airspace. Needless-to-say, the ground and flight team managed to keep the data collection timeframe within the constraints of the low tide with sub 30 F temperatures. Respect.
Watching the professionalism and experience of our UAS teams over the last several years has been a real treat. It’s no easy task in what is required from them, especially, in having to be the forerunners in this space. But they do it with consistency in the adherence to aviation safety standards and the reliability in achieving what our clients expect. Kudos.
Contact us for your next LiDAR acquisition and data processing project.