ABOUT US - AEROLOGIX GIS (...as told by Tim Briggs)
While working in Afghanistan in the spring of 2013, a good friend and co-worker was sharing his experiences with a radio controlled helicopter he had converted for video production. We were discussing drones and the feasibility of different drone-based business models. We were both avid Radio-Controlled model builders and flyers and it seemed an intriguing idea. My friend pointed out a fixed-wing UAV from a Canadian vendor that was being offered as a “turn-key” aerial imaging drone. Studying the UAV design and then the requirements for processing the imagery into true GIS imagery revealed it could all be done with a reasonable investment. We were all unsure about the future prospects for continued contract work in Afghanistan. A UAV-based GIS production business seemed like a great idea that would capitalize on so much of what I’d learned working on the overseas programs.
(Note from Tim... I am purposely not publicly identifying the specific Canadian UAV vendor or airframe. In the end their UAV didn't work out for us but apparently they've worked out for others. They continue to be sold. The shortcomings I eventually discovered with that UAV led us to design and build our own UAV, The GeoStar. The Canadian vendor graciously agreed to a return and refund of our UAV purchase)
I researched other UAVs on the market and considered the multi-copter drones that were becoming so popular. A copter would simplify launch and recovery but all the copters seemed limited by either payload or endurance. You could have one but not the other. I also thought it would be hard to keep them in visual range, especially if flown at relatively higher altitudes. I doubted the FAA would allow a small commercial drone to fly beyond line-of-sight and that limitation alone steered me into a larger fixed wing aircraft. The fixed-wing designs seemed to offer better payload and endurance numbers. Plus they were larger and easier to see. Finally, I had been flying fixed wing RC airplanes for over 35 years and was much more familiar with every aspect of building and flying them. I emailed the UAV vendor in Canada and requested the operating specs and capabilities of that aircraft. I got some information back but not the exacting specifics about operating speeds and endurance that I desired. There were some critical parameters I felt were important and the Canadian UAV purported to fulfill most of them. For the asking price and a completed system that was “ready to fly” I decided to go ahead and begin the purchase process before leaving Afghanistan. There was a lead-time for delivery of a completed UAV and I wanted to be ready.
For the rest of my time that spring in Afghanistan, I studied the existing regulations regarding commercial drone operations. I had read that some were attempting to operate UAVs commercially - in ignorance or open defiance of the FAA regulations. There were frequent news reports of the FAA citing and shutting down operators. I did not want to attempt to “fly under the radar” and violate the FAA regulations. On the contrary, if I could get the FAA’s permission and do it legally, it would be a huge advantage for my business and my reputation going forward. My research revealed that in 2013, the only way I could legally operate a UAV and be compensated for my efforts was to contract my services to a government entity. At that time, the FAA was only granting UAV authorizations to “Public” operations – those operations serving a specific set of government functions or government sponsored research through a public university. Proposed operations were reviewed on a case-by-case basis and approval would earn you a “COA” or Certificate of Exemption and Authorization – the FAA’s blessing to operate a specific UAV system in a specific block of airspace.
Communication with the FAA revealed that AeroLogix could indeed get a COA and legally operate a UAV provided we were working on behalf of a state or local government entity and we had the right legal arrangements for the contracted operations. As far as I could tell, few if any commercial drone operators had attempted this. The requirements were daunting and complicated. It would not be a simple matter. It would require the government entity to approve and sponsor the program. But, the prospect of my own business that encompassed so many of my interest and expertise areas continued to inspire me to move forward with the idea.
END USER CONTACT
In mid-May of 2013, I was returning to Minnesota following a 4-month deployment in Afghanistan. In my final weeks in Afghanistan, I had been trying to reach out to actual users of GIS imagery in the different Minnesota State government departments. I was learning that aerial imagery was used in many ways by many different departments. I wanted to see if there was interest in using a drone for some of these operations. I was convinced that the drone could deliver equivalent or superior imagery at a fraction of the cost of a conventional aircraft. I didn’t get a lot of interest or response initially and no one seemed interested in sponsoring a program in their department.
In my final days overseas, I spent 3-4 days at the Al Udied Airbase in Kuwait awaiting the “MILAIR” flight that took us back to the USA. It was 125 degrees outside and we spent most of our time sitting around inside a tent that was maybe 20 degrees cooler. Fortunately, I had internet access and passed the time searching for and emailing GIS end-users at different levels of government back in Minnesota. I don’t recall how it happened but I discovered that my own Le Sueur County Government had a GIS Coordinator. I learned that most, if not all the counties in Minnesota have a GIS person to work with imagery and other GIS products for activities at the county level. I emailed him with questions about how he used GIS imagery and my ideas for the UAV business. He promptly emailed me back and suggested we meet when I got back to Minnesota.
LE SUEUR COUNTY PROPOSAL
It was in late May 2013 that I returned to Minnesota and established contact with the Le Sueur County GIS Coordinator. He was an Army veteran and interested in my work overseas. We met and he showed me examples of GIS imagery used by the county. I learned that it was indeed very costly to collect GIS imagery and that the county could only afford new imagery every 3-5 years. There were few providers and those that did often had minimum collection sizes and parameters that meant smaller areas or specific projects in the county were left without desired imagery.
I showed him examples of sample UAV imagery that I had been working with overseas and how the UAV could be dispatched to collect smaller areas on demand and at very high photographic resolution. We discussed the applications needed by the county – especially the county ditch network. Many of the agricultural ditches that the county maintained needed a new survey. However, the scope of the requirements had made it unfeasible and too costly for the county to undertake. The AeroLogix system was seen as an affordable solution to survey the ditch network and to collect GIS imagery over other areas of interest.
I explained what would be required by the FAA to make all this happen. It would be the counties’ program but AeroLogix could do all the FAA paperwork and legal filings on behalf of the county. We agreed there would be no cost to the county during a testing phase and AeroLogix would bear all expenses in developing the system. Only when proven safe and capable of producing useful GIS products would the county dispatch the AeroLogix UAV on compensated missions. We would have to brief the County Administrator/Engineer and the County Commissioners on our plans and get their approvals. Ultimately, the County Commissioners would need to approve our contract. The GIS Coordinator seemed to think everyone would be onboard with the program. Indeed, the County Administrator/Engineer was excited at the prospect and would support our plan before the commission. We were on our way!
With Le Sueur County giving us the initial green light on the program, we began the processes to get “AeroLogix GIS” up and running. We thought that we could have a functional system and the FAA’s approval in time to test the system perhaps by late fall of 2013. A number of activities were running in parallel by early June.
-I ordered the Canadian UAV from the vendor.
-I purchased and built out the trailer that would become our mobile Ground Control Station.
-I ordered and began setting up the main processing computers.
-I researched the regulations and queried the FAA about the COA process and legal requirements.
-I worked with my lawyer to draw up a contract that established the correct legal arrangements between AeroLogix and Le Sueur County as required by federal law and the FAA.
By early August, we were ready to brief the Le Sueur County Commissioners about the proposed UAV program. The final contract was nearing completion and would need review by the County Attorney. The GIS Coordinator and I set up a presentation at the weekly Commissioner’s meeting and briefed them on the proposed program and contract. They questioned us both at length and listened to some positive input from the County Administrator/Engineer. They indicated they would generally support the UAV program and our proposed contract, provided concerns were addressed regarding liability, privacy and operational safety.
UAV FLIGHT TRAINING – QUESTIONABLE PERFORMANCE
In August 2013, as our contract was being finalized, the UAV was nearly completed by the Canadian vendor. I was concerned about flying it without any training and contacted the vendor about doing some flight training with them up in Canada. They agreed and I arranged a trip to their facility. For the training, we flew one of their test UAVs on a very windy, gusty day and without the full load of batteries and camera. I was able to hand launch it into the strong winds and I got about 3 flights in. I was flying it manually like an RC plane and then we’d try the different Autopilot modes. I thought it flew OK and under Autopilot control, it performed pretty well. But, I was concerned by a few things I was seeing. It felt “heavy” when I flew it and it seemed to fly a lot faster than I expected. I had imagined an aerial imaging platform to be slow and steady. This UAV seemed fast and “squirrely.” The strong and gusty winds did make it hard to evaluate its flight characteristics. I was assured they were performing well for other users and all would be well when fully loaded with the camera and batteries. Nevertheless, in over 35 years of RC flying, I have flown many kinds of RC planes from trainers to scale planes and 3-D aerobatic planes. I didn’t have a “warm and fuzzy” feeling about how this one flew. I left with mixed feelings about my new UAV. It would be delivered by late-August.
CONTRACT APPROVAL – WE ARE ON OUR WAY!
Our contract was configured to address the Commissioner’s concerns and we submitted it for review to the County Attorney. All was well and the contract went before the board in the first week of September, 2013. We presented again about the contract details, our FAA requirements and operations plan. The Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the contract and the UAV program! Le Sueur County suddenly became the first county in Minnesota to have its own UAV program! I immediately contacted the FAA to begin the COA process. We hadn’t been able to start anything with the FAA until we had the contract in place. The first steps with the FAA would involve the legal aspects of our operations. My communications over the summer with the FAA indicated a 60-90 day process to get an approved COA. We had high hopes to get approval in time to perhaps do some aerial imaging by mid to late November.
UAV TESTING – FALSE START
Just prior to our contract approval, our UAV had arrived from Canada. When it arrived, it looked nicely finished and I pored over all the systems to get familiar with the design and how it all functioned. I had asked the FAA if under the circumstances, I could fly it simply as an RC plane for pilot training. They said yes and I began planning to test fly it in an open area in Le Sueur County. I waited for a calm day and went out to the flying field. I loaded a single battery and no camera – the same and lightest possible configuration we flew in Canada. The GIS Coordinator from the county came out to witness the maiden flight. Expectations were high and felt like we were on a roll with our recent contract approval.
I was planning to hand launch the UAV as I had done in Canada and many, many times before over the years with a variety of RC planes. Taking a deep breath and throttling up to max power, I ran with the plane held high and then tossed it into the air as fast as I could. It was a perfect hand launch in terms of the “toss” - the velocity and trajectory were good. But, the UAV did not accelerate and climb out. It immediately stalled, the left wing dropped and it crashed into the ground - never getting close to flying. I might as well have been hurling a 2x4. The nose was damaged and so was the motor and propeller. I was shocked and embarrassed. Without a strong headwind to launch into, the plane was too heavy to hand launch even at the minimum weight. The motor just didn’t have enough power. I was immediately concerned that there was no way this thing would fly with the camera and more batteries – at least not the way I was planning to operate.
I contacted the vendor immediately and told them what happened. They admitted that in calm winds, others had suffered a similar experience. They were preparing to offer a catapult system to launch these UAVs. I was promised the first catapult they produced. I repaired the UAV and awaited the catapult launching system. Many UAVs used a catapult to launch and I still liked a lot of the features of this UAV. I thought it had a great camera/lens combination. I wasn’t giving up on it yet. It would be some time before we had the FAA’s approval to fly actual aerial imaging missions for the county so I had some time to evaluate the UAV design and await the catapult.
FAA COA PROCESS PART ONE – LEGAL WRANGLINGS AND GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
In early September 2013, we began the FAA authorization or “COA” process as soon as our contract was approved with Le Sueur County. We were assigned a central point of contact that would be our coordinator through the COA process. He was based in the FAA’s Western Service Center in Washington State. To his credit, our POC was normally very responsive to our queries and maintained good communications with us throughout the process. However, other departments within the FAA were not always responsive to us or him. Our POC advised that the first step in the process was to obtain approval from the FAA Legal Department in two areas:
-That our operation and contract arrangements met the federal law requirements of a “public aircraft operation” and;
-That Le Sueur County was officially established as a “Political Subdivision” of the State of Minnesota. Under federal law definitions, “Public Aircraft” were those operated by a State Government or an official “Political Subdivision” of the state government. A COA would only be granted to Le Sueur County if it met that criteria.
After some back and forth with our POC and others at the FAA, we determined that a letter from the county attorney that described the AeroLogix/County relationship and referenced our contract would suffice for the first requirement. The “Political Subdivision” status certification would be trickier. This would require either an official letter from the Minnesota Attorney General, certifying the legal status of Le Sueur County or a letter from the Le Sueur County Attorney with references to existing Minnesota Law Statutes that establish the specific status of Le Sueur County. We chose the latter option. My attorney researched Minnesota statutes and found the necessary references. We prepared all the documentation and got the County Attorney’s endorsement on all the paperwork. Our legal package was submitted to FAA Legal on September 23rd, 2013. We were told the approval process would be 3-4 weeks if everything was in order. We received immediate confirmation that our package was received and would be reviewed. We were not allowed to begin submitting any of the technical or operational COA documents until FAA Legal had completed its certification of our legal package.
I had received some guidance from our POC about the COA documentation requirements. I began preparing those documents based on the Canadian UAV and our envisioned operations. There was very little guidance on content or format - which was frustrating because I wanted to avoid “back and forth” with the FAA during our application process. My experience thus far had demonstrated that communications with different departments at the FAA were often very slow to non-existent. “Back and forth” would add weeks if not months to the process. I was told there would be 17 online sections to complete and 12 individual documents to prepare describing our system, our procedures, airspace etc.. I approached it with the mindset that I would be as detailed as possible to avoid “back and forth” with the FAA. I had done a lot of technical writing in and out of the military and felt I could create good documents that were easily understood by people with different levels of understanding.
In late September, 2013 there was a government shutdown looming due to a Congressional budget standoff. We weren’t sure how it might affect our application process. We hadn’t heard from FAA Legal since September 24th when they confirmed receipt of our package. I reached out via email to the Legal point of contact multiple times, with no response until finally we received an automatic reply that our POC and the Legal Department had been furloughed until the government shutdown was over. The shutdown would last through mid-October. Even after the shutdown was over, we received no information from FAA Legal despite repeated attempts. Our POC was reaching out to them and we were reaching out directly. As October turned to November, with no word from FAA legal, a COA approval looked less and less likely in 2013. I was growing frustrated with the FAA and the lack of any response to email or phone calls to the Legal Department. Was there a problem? Did we need to correct something? Was it simply delayed due to the shutdown? In the end, we would be in the dark for over 3 months with no response or information from FAA Legal.
CANADIAN UAV CATAPULT and ENGINEERING EVALUATION - OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 2013
I hadn’t attempted another flight with the UAV since the single failed attempt in September. As I waited for the catapult to arrive, I did some analysis of “the numbers” on the Canadian UAV. I tried to keep in mind it had a purpose that was very different from sport flying or aerobatics. Unfortunately, the numbers weren’t adding up to what I had in mind. It might have flown OK but my “gut” was telling me otherwise. The sobering reality was that my new business was centered on this UAV flying a certain way and I wasn’t feeling that it could achieve that.
As we waited through the government shutdown and then into November of 2013 with no word from FAA Legal, the UAV catapult system arrived from Canada. It was a bungee powered affair made from aluminum square stock. I put it all together in my garage and set the UAV into it. I had immediate concerns. The UAV would ride in a metal cage up the catapult. I didn’t like how it sat in the cage and feared there could be damage upon release. I felt it needed a different mechanism to hold the UAV and release it cleanly. Frustrated, I called the vendor and explained what I was seeing. They seemed to think it would be OK and not cause any damage. I disagreed, but they had nothing else to offer me.
The anxiety was ramping up in me about the UAV and catapult. It was the foundation of the business and HAD to work. In my mind, the UAV performance was questionable, the catapult was not right and yet I had a contract with the county and begun the process with the FAA. I’d been devoting all my time and lots of money to this business and had no income for months. I was feeling desperate and needed to resolve these issues around the UAV. I needed “professional help.”
I decided to contact CRI, the company I contract with for the Army programs overseas. I’d been keeping the CRI owner, Nathan Crawford in the loop about my business venture and he had offered his help. When I spoke to him about my situation, he invited me to bring the UAV and catapult to the CRI facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan. CRI has an engineering staff and very talented specialists in composites and metalwork. Nathan graciously made his entire staff and facility available to me at no cost. I am deeply indebted to Nathan and his staff at CRI. Shortly after Thanksgiving and still with no word from FAA Legal, I loaded up my trailer and rolled off to Michigan.
At CRI, I assembled the UAV and catapult in a big open bay area. The engineering staff all gathered around and inspected everything. Everyone had concerned looks on their faces about the catapult. Nathan the owner commented, “You know who we need here is “Composite Ed.” Ed Whyte was a silver haired gent in his 70s that made composite structures for CRI. His work was legendary for its quality and consistent light weight. I had briefly met Ed on a few occasions in the past. We thought that Ed could perhaps make a better arrangement for retaining and releasing the UAV from the catapult. Nathan also commented that Ed had built and flown competition RC sailplanes since the 1970s. I would later learn that at one point, Ed owned a major model aircraft manufacturing company that delivered many contest winning designs for thermal endurance sailplanes. Ed was the expert we really needed. A phone call from Nathan and Ed was on his way to CRI.
Ed arrived and gave the UAV and catapult system the once-over. He looked concerned and kept shaking his head. He picked up the UAV and looked carefully at the entire structure. A more concerned look and more head shaking. We discussed the mission profile of the UAV and how everything was supposed to work. Ed said that he could certainly craft a better system to retain and launch the UAV from the catapult but he wasn’t sure the UAV would fly like we wanted it to. I told him about flying the one in Canada, about my failed attempt in September and my concerns about the numbers I was seeing. He was not surprised. We decided to do a thorough evaluation of the UAV in terms of weight, power and aerodynamics. We spent an entire day making exacting measurements and calculations. Ed concluded that the Canadian UAV would fly but would have a very narrow operating speed range and it would have to fly a lot faster than I wanted. Calculating the power consumption did not deliver the endurance numbers or reserve capacity I had hoped for either. It was simply not the right combination of airframe and power scheme for the weight and application. The Canadian UAV would simply not work for AeroLogix GIS. I would never attempt to fly it again.
All was not lost. Ed offered a solution. He would build me an airframe to the exacting specs I desired. I went over to Ed’s workshop and we discussed a “clean sheet” design. Ed’s shop was immaculately clean and organized. He was well equipped with shop tools and supplies. He also had a variety of wings and models in storage there. As we discussed different requirements, he’d pull out a fiberglass fuselage or set of wings and we’d discuss the merits of one design over the other. We talked airplanes and design ideas into the evening hours that day. We really hit it off with our shared love of model airplanes. Ed’s enthusiasm and absolute confidence that he could build whatever I wanted were comforting. We settled on a set of parameters that started with the camera size, the desired collecting airspeed and the endurance. Based on those basic requirements, we knew it would be a larger airplane than the Canadian UAV. Ed said he’d work out the details and get back to me with the final design.
The next day, I packed everything up and started back to Minnesota. On the long drive back, I called the UAV vendor in Canada. I explained the situation and asked if I could return the UAV for a refund. In the end, they would agree to a refund and I got most of my money back.
Thanksgiving 2013 came and went with still no word from FAA legal. They were completely unresponsive to our POC or my own direct requests for a simple status update. Over two months had passed and we were still completely in the dark. I began making contact with my Congressman, Tim Walz’s office. Rep. Walz is a big advocate for veterans and also sits on the House Transportation Committee. They were ready to go to bat for me. I remember being worried that if I took that route, there would be some kind of retribution by the FAA for making a stink with a Congressman. We had some time as all hope for anything else happening in 2013 was gone and the new airplane by Ed Whyte was being designed. I told Rep. Walz’s office to stand by to see if things could be resolved without their involvement.
Ed Whyte had been busy designing the new plane we had dubbed the “GeoStar.” We went through a few variations as the design evolved. Ed would send me images of his plans and we’d discuss the details over the phone. As Christmas 2013 neared, we were close to the final design and Ed thought he could have it built within 1-2 months.
With no prospect of income from the new business for many months, I decided to make another contract trip to Afghanistan. I’d leave in January 2014 and return in early May. My hope was to work through the FAA COA process from Afghanistan and have everything approved by the time I got back.
I was sent to work as a Sensor Operation/Technician at our operation at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Bagram lies some 30 miles north of Kabul. The winter months of 2014 had lots of poor weather conditions and we had many “down days” with no flight operations. I had plenty of time to prepare paperwork for our FAA COA. About one week before my January arrival in Afghanistan, we suddenly received word that the legal process was complete and our legal package had been approved. No explanation was offered for the delay and lack of communication. What had been advertised as a 3-4 week process had taken over 3 months. We were cleared to begin the COA application process.
As Ed Whyte had completed the design plans and begun crafting the new “GeoStar”, I was updating the COA paperwork to reflect the new design. My goal was to complete the COA process and have the FAA approval in place upon my return to Minnesota in May. The FAA was still advertising a 60-90 day approval process. I had completed most of the paperwork by late January. Once all sections of a COA application are completed and all documents are uploaded, you “commit” the COA case and the approval process begins.
ED ON ICE – COMMITTING OUR CASE
By late January, I was close to “committing our case” and received some tragic news from Ed Whyte. He had slipped and fallen on some ice while trying to shovel his driveway. He had hurt his back in the process and wasn’t able to work much on the GeoStar. I told him that we had until May to get it done – over 3 months. He thought he could finish it by then and was “doctoring” for his back. I finished the COA application documents and committed our case. The process had begun with the FAA and I hoped Ed would recover. He really wanted to build the GeoStar and see this project through to completion.
By mid-February 2014, I was hoping that Ed would be feeling better. In speaking with him, he related how badly he had injured in back. Recovery was slow and hadn’t been able to work much on the GeoStar. It was frustrating for him and I was becoming concerned. A week or so later, I received some tragic news. Ed’s fall had not been simple case of slipping on ice. Some testing revealed that he had suffered a seizure. Further testing revealed a non-cancerous tumor in his brain. Being in otherwise good health, his prognosis was actually quite good for a removal of the tumor and return to normal. But, Ed wouldn’t be in any condition to build out the GeoStar. AeroLogix would need a new UAV.
A NEW DESIGN
I immediately contacted the FAA and put our COA application on hold. I explained the situation and that I’d be submitting an updated design. It had completed the first of 5 phases so it wasn’t too far along yet. I began scouring the internet for an available UAV that could carry the camera I wanted and give me up to 1 hour of flight time collecting at about 40 MPH. I searched for days and found a few “turn-key” systems out there but they were very expensive and couldn’t meet all my design goals. None that I could find could carry the camera I wanted internally. I quickly realized that I would have to design and build my own UAV. All the components were out there and commercially available.
There are certain parameters and constraints within an aerial imaging system that are inter-related. The camera’s sensor and lens configuration and shooting capabilities, the UAV endurance, the collection speed and altitude etc… Fly faster and your camera needs to shoot at a faster rate to get the desired overlap between images but then you also need faster shutter speeds to avoid blurring. That would possibly force you to open up your lens to a wider aperture which affects image contrast and depth of field. Fly higher and you can shoot slower but now you get less detailed imagery. Fly faster, you generally get less endurance but cover an area quicker. There has to be a reasonable balance between all these parameters to achieve quality aerial imagery and a reasonable collection area size. Also, someone like the FAA might also dictate how high or low you can fly and perhaps other requirements so many things play into the overall design. One change in the parameters can change everything.
I had come up with certain goals for the photo collection methodology of the AeroLogix GIS system. In much of the Midwest, the land is parceled up into perfect 1 square mile areas or 640 acres. With this in mind, I set my goal for AeroLogix GIS as 1 square mile of area per collection flight imaged at 1 inch of resolution. Flown at a reasonably slow speed of 30-40 MPH, I calculated that 1 square mile of area could be collected in about 20-30 minutes. 30 minutes was not unreasonable for a larger electric powered UAV but the FAA was also requiring a battery reserve equivalent to 30 minutes flight time. One hour of endurance under electric power was certainly possible but it would require the right airplane.
AEROLOGIX GEOSTAR UAV DESIGN
I had decided that I would modify an existing model airplane to create the “new” GeoStar. I needed an airframe with “room to grow” in terms of the weight it could carry. I also wanted to mount everything internally. An aerodynamically “clean” airframe is more efficient. Also, I didn’t have the means to manufacture pods or other external features. Mounting everything internally would simplify construction. As I started adding up weights and evaluating prospective models, the field quickly narrowed. Ed Whyte had recommended at least a 3.5 meter sailplane wing to achieve our design goals. The only models out there that could work were sailplanes.
(Coming soon.... Designing the GeoStar UAV)
ABOUT US - TIM BRIGGS - FOUNDER/PRESIDENT
Minneapolis native Tim Briggs graduated from Benilde St. Margaret’s High School in 1982 and entered the US Navy later that same year. With a lifelong interest in aviation and electronics, he pursued training and qualification as a Naval Aircrewman/Electronic Sensor Operator. From 1983-1999 he flew operationally from aircraft carriers in the Lockheed S-3 Viking supporting naval operations around the world.
1999-2002 he was assigned to fly in the land-based P-3 Orion aircraft, participating in counter-narcotics operations, maritime patrol and overland operations in Bosnia and Kosovo. Ultimately, his Navy career would span over 22 years and he would amass over 4000 hours of flight time operating some of the military’s most advanced airborne sensor systems.
Aerial Imagery and Terrain Modeling
FAA Approved Unmanned Aircraft Technology
Retiring from the Navy in 2005 as a Chief Petty Officer, Tim returned to Minnesota and worked in the civilian sector until late 2006 when he was recruited to work as a contract Sensor Operator/Technician for an Army airborne surveillance program underway in Iraq known as Constant Hawk. The program produced Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) imagery products for the Army. Working as an Airborne Sensor Operator, technician, data processor and deployed team leader, he would make periodic deployments to Iraq from 2007-2010.
The success of Constant Hawk Iraq led to a similar program for Afghanistan using both digital GIS imagery and LIDAR platforms. Periodic deployments to Afghanistan began in the fall of 2010 and continue through 2016. When not deployed overseas, Tim has worked closely with leading national laboratories and defense contractors in the design, test and ongoing development of these systems.
ABOUT US - AEROLOGIX CONSULTING INC
Tim Briggs originally launched AeroLogix Consulting Inc. in 2007 as an airborne sensors and aviation consulting service. In 2013, he began developing a proprietary GIS imagery production system known as AeroLogix GIS. Using an advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) collection platform of his own design, the AeroLogix GIS system produces cost-effective high-resolution GIS imagery and terrain modeling products compatible with end-user GIS and CAD programs. AeroLogix won a contract with Le Sueur County, MN and in late August 2014, was awarded Minnesota’s first FAA Public Use Certificate of Exemption and Authorization for public UAV operations. Operations commenced in September 2014 and continue into 2015.