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Seeking input/estimates

flystraight

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Hello,

I'm trying to get an idea of cost and direction for a project and hoping to get some input and rough figures.

The project would be flying around numerous objects of the same type and capturing a series of still images. Pilot would need to travel to the location of the objects, follow procedures, and then upload photos and fill in some information.

There would be a volume of these objects, and I'm wondering if it is more economical to hire in-house, hire firm, or hire independents. Would need to be able to scale up/down on the fly.

Most info on cost is about real estate and such, so not the same. Any ideas or ranges of rough costs per flight? For in-house, what are some salary/hourly numbers? Or what are some figures for firms or independents to fly in volume projects?

I'd appreciate any input.

Thank you
 

Fred Garvin

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Depends on the object, the airspace around the object, the difficulty of access, travel expenses, insurance expenses, and more. You don’t really give enough info to go on.....

So, with the info given, I’m gonna say roughly several thousand dollars.
 

flystraight

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Thank you for replies. I realize the lack of info... apologies. In beginning stage of starting to plan a possible program.

Objects: you know those cell towers that look like trees?

Let's say there were 1000 of them. And for each one, we need to:
  • go to location
  • fly a predefined pattern around it, capturing certain shots at different heights and angles.. roughly 20
  • upload shots and fill in form
Access: varies from wide open to nearby vegetation or other obstructions requiring ground shots with handheld camera, and depending on degree, get shots that are possible.

Insurance: required .. lets say 2mill

Images: high-res, proper focus, photo + thermal (dual) need both

For each flight, need pilot and spotter

Scenarios being considered:

1) Purchase all equipment, hire pilot and spotter = 1 team
2) Contract firm(s)
3) Contract independent pilots

Foresee needing to scale team count from 3-12 depending on demand which is a variable.

So with above, if you were tasked with estimating cost of program, cost per flight, how would you proceed?

Thank you again
 

Fred Garvin

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Got ya....that's gonna be out of my league. I'd have to tremendously upgrade my equipment and hire a huge crew. To image 1000 towers, say once a month, that's ~50 towers a day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month. Say, 10 teams. each team does 5 towers a day. Figure your expenses: manpower, bird, batteries, etc...plus travel costs to get the very base cost. Then add in all the other business costs...taxes, maintenance, depreciation, benefits, admin staff, communications equipment, fleet management software subscription, training... that's just off the top of my head. You could easily hit $1m....but like I say, that's way beyond my operation at this point and even what i just laid out is a guess.

Good luck though, sounds like there may be a Golden Opportunity for someone out there!
 
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Dave Pitman

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1) Purchase all equipment, hire pilot and spotter = 1 team
2) Contract firm(s)
3) Contract independent pilots
Assuming you are trying to formulate a business plan, which one of the scenarios you mention above would be the most efficient would depend a great deal on the distance between sites and like @Fred Garvin mentioned, the inspection frequency required. It may be a combination.
 
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KLAX

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A few suggestions on ways to save costs:
  • Skip the extra flight crew personnel unless RISK, or convenience warrant them, or your WAIVERS/AUTHORIZATIONS require them. What are the practical reasons for using a visual observer as 2nd person on flight crew? Is there that much risk? Can you prescribe a VO for specific areas, due to specific risks you cannot mitigate, and go with single person (PIC) for the bulk?

  • Autonomous, pre-programmed, saved/stored flight paths. Can be flown by anyone using the right gear and who has been trained. Saves time, money, batteries. Autonomous flight ops have capability to control location, speed, altitude, attitude, camera angle, image settings, etc. They can be designed, saved, and reflown to give you near-exact imagery each time you fly. If the targets are close enough, you may be able to acquire your data from more than one target in the same flight/same battery (examples: 3rd party FCS. Some even have data presentation layer for customer.)

  • It could be more expensive to use multiple people / contractors if you wind up with bad/poor quality data from a bunch of "manual flights"
    It could also save you money by not being too prescriptive but setting a minimum specification for vehicle type, camera type, image format & resolution type.

  • Airspace: Don't cheat. You may need airspace authorizations for some locations. Easy to request. Usually good for two years, and should be able to get all towers by one airport into one request.

  • Time = Money: Should be straight-forward to build a spreadsheet or database of your tower locations and include the metadata that your pilots will need (airspace classification, laanc info, FAA max altitude, driving directions & on-foot approach paths for each target, preferred launch/recovery locations, known risks for each (water, snakes, fence, grumpy neighbor, risky wind area, obstructions, life-flight helo corridor, etc.)
 
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Dave Pitman

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@KLAX Just some comments.

Utilities or gov't entities almost always want a VO. Whether or not the difficulty, or lack thereof requires it is irrelevant to them.

Also, the nature of the type of tower the OP is talking about usually means that the facility is located in a somewhat public sensitive setting. It is unlikely that these type of towers would be close to each other. Whether they are 10's of miles apart or 100's or 1000's of miles apart is the question.

Canned, automated flights are fine. In fact, most passenger airlines make use of that model daily. BUT, the PIC must be able to do it all by hand if required. And use that knowlege to oversee the automated flight ops. Sending a newly minted 107 out with a per-programmed flight into a neighborhood around sensitive equipment can become serious liability in a heartbeat.

A few suggestions on ways to save costs:
  • Skip the extra flight crew personnel unless RISK, or convenience warrant them, or your WAIVERS/AUTHORIZATIONS require them. What are the practical reasons for using a visual observer as 2nd person on flight crew? Is there that much risk? Can you prescribe a VO for specific areas, due to specific risks you cannot mitigate, and go with single person (PIC) for the bulk?

  • Autonomous, pre-programmed, saved/stored flight paths. Can be flown by anyone using the right gear and who has been trained. Saves time, money, batteries. Autonomous flight ops have capability to control location, speed, altitude, attitude, camera angle, image settings, etc. They can be designed, saved, and reflown to give you near-exact imagery each time you fly. If the targets are close enough, you may be able to acquire your data from more than one target in the same flight/same battery (examples: 3rd party FCS. Some even have data presentation layer for customer.)

  • It could be more expensive to use multiple people / contractors if you wind up with bad/poor quality data from a bunch of "manual flights"
    It could also save you money by not being too prescriptive but setting a minimum specification for vehicle type, camera type, image format & resolution type.

  • Airspace: Don't cheat. You may need airspace authorizations for some locations. Easy to request. Usually good for two years, and should be able to get all towers by one airport into one request.

  • Time = Money: Should be straight-forward to build a spreadsheet or database of your tower locations and include the metadata that your pilots will need (airspace classification, laanc info, FAA max altitude, driving directions & on-foot approach paths for each target, preferred launch/recovery locations, known risks for each (water, snakes, fence, grumpy neighbor, risky wind area, obstructions, life-flight helo corridor, etc.)
 

R.Perry

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I think it would be very difficult to come up with a standard blueprint for cell tower inspections. First they may be located in restricted air space requiring a wavier, they may be located in very remote areas requiring access to private property. You may have ten towers in class G airspace that are easy to access and no restrictions, then you may have cell towers around a major airport where getting a waiver may be next to impossible. You said you want both standard and thermal cameras, now we are talking some money here.
There are companies that can put together those kinds of teams, but they don't come cheap. For instance Multivista charges $800.00 dollars a day for drone and pilot, no thermal, that's extra, and that's with a 5 mil liability policy.
In my area some guys were using a drone for power line inspection, problem was one of the local eagles had a nest seated on the structure, didn't appreciate the drone, it crashed.
Most importantly is to find good pilots that have good common sense and some decent experience, uTube is filled with video were the pilots have neither.
Autonomous flights are great, but they do not eliminate the need for an experienced pilot. I have flown many autonomous flights and had a few go south very quickly, they are not a magic wand.
 

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