The NATE Drone Initiative


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I wanted to give you an update on the NATE Unmanned Aerial Systems Committee. I was lucky enough to attend a meeting at NATE Unite with this group and it was open to all who wanted to go and got up at 6:30AM in New Orleans to attend. That’s right, it was at 6:30AM, in New Orleans in a conference room. I am an early riser so it was not big deal for me, but some people had a hard time making it. You know who you are!

IMG_3480 IMG_3479I would like to thank Todd Schlekeway for arranging this and for all the committee members for being so open with the information as well as listening to the input of the crowd. He did a great job of pulling this together.

A good crowd showed up, especially for 6:30AM, I believe there were more than 30 people there all working to make sure  that the drone initiative would move ahead.

First, some history. The committee was formed back in October of 2015 and consisted of:

  • Greg Emerick (Sentera; Licensed Pilot)
  • Jim Goldwater (Bob Lawrence & Associates)
  • John Paul Jones (Tower & Turbine Technologies, LLC; Licensed Pilot)
  • Phil Larsen (HAZON Solutions; UAV Pilot and Student Pilot)
  • Jimmy Miller (MillerCo, Inc.; Licensed Pilot)
  • Todd Schlekeway (NATE)

So this early morning meeting was to inform the public the progress of the committee. The meeting opened up lighthearted enough with introductions and someone said they just wanted to know what a drone was, you know who you are!

The one thing that I realized is that the committee is looking at this mostly from a pilots perspective, which is very important, but let me ask you, when the lights go out on the tower, a clear FAA violation, who issues the fine? That’s right, the FCC. Just think about it.

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This is something they are addressing with the FAA. The FAA is currently overwhelmed by all of the applications and registrations and complaints around drones. They are everywhere and not everyone likes them. The key thing is to make sure that the tower industry uses drones responsibly and legally. Professionalism will be a big part of drone usage.

While I was told that the FAA is on board, the want to move ahead, but they don’t have the manpower to do anything at this time.

Todd called up a document that is being created by the committee to outline what NATE believes the policy should be for the tower industry.

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They talked about how they are going to focus their message around training and education. Everyone already knows the value of drones, the reduced number of climbs, the real-time video, the pictures, the GPS information that can be grabbed. We all know the obvious benefits. What more people don’t’ know, outside of the committee members, are the rules! That’s right, there are so many rules that the drone pilots need to follow when using a drone for business. Education is the key to making drone usage safe and professional.

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I want to congratulate NATE for doing a great job with the progression of drones in this industry. I believe that the carriers, tower owners, and tower crews will all benefit from the usage of drones in wireless work. I am hoping that we can make this happen on a wide scale. I think that once the FCC points out to the FAA how valuable drones will be in the tower industry for site inspections and OSHA points out the value in safety audits then the FAA will push the tower industry to the front of the pack for the drone decision-making.

Be smart, be safe, and pay attention! Keep the faith!

See ya!

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