Recently, Skyward has had the chance to work closely with Moss, a national construction management company. Last week, Skyward and Moss co-paneled a webinar hosted by ENR titled Pilots & Executives: Building a Harmonious Drone Program from the Ground Up.

Why the recent collaboration? Because in 2019, Skyward’s Professional Services team helped Moss launch its drone program with Skyward’s Quick-Start Package. We created this package because we’ve found that many companies looking to launch drone operations may not know where to start. Even if they own drones and have certified pilots, developing a program that can scale up, remain safe, and comply with federal regulations and company policies comes with additional challenges.

The Quick-Start Package bundles the hardware, software, tools, and training an enterprise needs to start a successful, scalable drone program. As a result, we’ve been able to help companies launch safer, compliant drone operations. We’ve helped major enterprises stand up successful drone programs with dozens of pilots and fleets of aircraft.

Here’s how we did it.

Meet Moss, a major construction company

Moss is an Engineering and News Report Top 100 Contractor with an impressive portfolio of projects across the U.S.

Employees at Moss realized that drones could be valuable tools on the job site. But Moss’s safety management knew they needed to set standards for safety and compliance before implementing any new tool. That’s why Moss reached out to Skyward to help them set up their drone program.

Skyward used a five-step process to help Moss get their program off the ground:

1) Standard Operating Procedures

We started with the essentials. The Quick-Start Package includes Take Flight, Skyward’s comprehensive set of expertly validated policies and procedures. Skyward’s Professional Services team worked with Moss’s safety and executive personnel to customize Take Flight to the company’s needs. We integrated Moss’s corporate policies into the general operating manual, set training standards, and established risk mitigation strategies.

After working together on Take Flight, Scott Gerard, VP of Environmental, Health & Safety at Moss, let me know how pleased he was with Take Flight’s customization.

“It was about as ‘Moss-ified’ of a package as we could have hoped for,” Scott said. “My gut feeling is that if it had been anybody else, I would’ve gotten a boilerplated package three or four hundred pages long, and 50% of it wouldn’t have applied to what we were doing. But it appears to me that Skyward’s team combed through it pretty carefully based on our needs and what our missions were going to look like.”

2) Certification

The next step was to certify Moss’s drone pilots. Since they would be flying drones commercially in the U.S., that meant Part 107 training.

Skyward provided Moss’s pilots-in-training with access to Drone Pilot Ground School, our partner in online training. This complete course prepared Moss’s pilots for the FAA’s aeronautical knowledge test. Every pilot passed the test and got their Remote Pilot Certificates to become licensed drone pilots.

Moss’s drone pilots loved the certification prep course. Ben Fritzsche, Assistant Project Manager at Moss, told me how helpful it was.

“The online training itself was beyond awesome,” Ben said. “I was extremely well prepared for that test and didn’t have a single issue. And I knew that if I did have any questions, I could reach out to Skyward.”

3) Drones and equipment

Skyward furnished Moss with what they needed to get drones into the air. This included:

  • Commercial-grade drones
  • Best in class tablets and controllers
  • Extra batteries
  • Essential accessories
  • Hard cases for easy storage and transportation

Being able to provide Moss with drones kits meant that we were able to keep training consistent and get them fully prepared with the aircraft they’d be using in the field.

4) In-person classroom training

This is where Quick-Start really shines. I flew down to Moss’s Fort Lauderdale headquarters with five other Skyward team members. There, we met with a team of nearly 20 Moss employees for three days of in-person training.

We began with classroom-style instruction. Between us, we covered topics like:

  • Overview of drone aircraft
  • Hardware best practices
  • Standard operating procedures and FAA compliance
  • Safety culture
  • Airspace and weather
  • Emergency preparation
  • Simulated real-world operations

And that’s just a sample of all the material we covered. We also covered flight planning, airspace access, and reporting through Skyward’s Aviation Management Platform — and a dozen other topics. Of course, the learning was augmented by great questions from our trainees. These questions let us address concerns specific to Moss’s program.

Ben Fritzsche told me the classroom sessions were a big help.

“You could tell there was a lot of information to cover,” Ben said. “I thought the Skyward team did a really good job steering us through the course, deciding what was important, and making sure we came out of there as comfortable and confident as we could be.”

5) Hands-on flight training exercises

Classroom sessions are great, but field training quickly takes pilots to the next level. That’s why we spent much of the second and third days in a nearby field getting real fly-time. Moss’s pilots took to the sky and flew sample missions under the supervision of Skyward experts. They strictly followed Moss’s standard operating procedures and the concepts we’d been going over in the classroom sessions. It was a safe environment to build drone pilot skills and put operational practices to the test. And it helped the pilots get up to speed much faster.

“There’s nothing like hands-on,” Scott said. “I can read it in a book, I can watch it in a video, I can use the simulator in the classroom, but there’s nothing like going out to the field and flying practice missions under the watchful eye of the instructor pilots from Skyward. Our team had real instructors that have real life experience in front of them, telling them what to do, what to expect, and what to watch out for.”

Results

Following the training, Moss began to deploy drones in the field. While their drone ops are still in the early stages, they’re quickly building a strong program and starting to see results.

Here are just a few of the use cases they are using or developing today:

  • Photogrammetry – extracting 3D data from 2D images
  • Leak inspections
  • Solar array inspections
  • Aerial surveillance during demolitions
  • 3D construction mapping to compare actual construction progress to 3D planning models
  • Videography for promotion
  • Photography showing the view from an office window or balcony that hasn’t yet been constructed
  • Pre-slab pour inspections
  • Post-tensioning layout verification

According to Scott, drones are catching the interest of others at Moss.

“I probably had six additional Moss people come to me and ask, ‘How can I become a pilot to fly missions for my group or on my job? How do I get the Skyward training? If I go get my Part 107 certificate, can I get involved?’” said Scott.

With Skyward’s training and support, Moss is off to a great start. And Skyward continues to provide software and ongoing support to Moss.

“The Skyward app itself is phenomenal,” said Ben. “When I came out of the coursework I was really comfortable with the questions, but there was still some trepidation on my part that I might break an FAA rule. Skyward’s software with LAANC integration gives me a lot of confidence.”

Want to learn more about Moss and Skyward?

Download Skyward’s case study featuring Moss, and watch a recording of the webinar.

Ready to kickstart your drone program? Visit Skyward’s Quick-Start page to get started.

Skyward Drones in Construction eBook