The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation requires UAS operators to undergo extensive PennDOT training in addition to attaining the FAA’s Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate.

Woolpert had numerous surveying, mapping and geospatial professionals complete the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) training. The training is part of PennDOT’s certification process, along with attaining a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), for contractors who use drones on state projects. Woolpert became the first provider approved.

Woolpert Chief Scientist Qassim Abdullah, Geospatial Practice Leader Tom Ruschkewicz and UAS Technology Manager Aaron Lawrence were among those who attended the training.

Lawrence, who was one of the first in the country to earn his Part 107 license in 2016, is now a certified PennDOT UAS operator.

Abdullah, a certified photogrammetrist and licensed professional surveyor and mapper, is an adjunct professor at Penn State University who has taught multiple courses on UAS capabilities.

Ruschkewicz has decades of transportation surveying and geospatial experience and is very active in the state of Pennsylvania.

“As we continue to enhance our service offerings in Pennsylvania, we found the training extremely valuable in gaining a better understanding of how PennDOT wants to use UAS and the expectations they have for safe and successful operations,” Ruschkewicz said.

“Woolpert is leading the way within the geospatial industry for best practices and product quality assurance when it comes to using UAS for PennDOT and other transportation agencies,” added Abdullah, who also has written several articles on bridging the gap between the professional mapping community and UAS operators.

Lawrence said this certification is an example of the multiple state and national efforts underway to safely integrate UAS into national airspace. It also illustrates the variety of measures being taken by individual state agencies to ensure UAS safety for third-party operators, workers and the public.

“The commercial use of drones is moving in the right direction, as evidenced by the many required UAS qualifications,” Lawrence said. “We hope to see these safety and proficiency standards become universal; however, it is important to understand that each state has its own regional and environmental concerns. In the meantime, we at Woolpert will continue to ensure our staff is proficient in UAS applications in general and in those specific to each agency’s needs. It’s what we do.”

Woolpert was the first surveying and mapping firm to be approved by the FAA to fly UAS commercially in designated airspace through its Section 333 exemption in 2014. Since then, the international architecture, engineering and geospatial (AEG) firm has supported a wide variety of projects utilizing UAS, has invested in numerous UAS platforms and employs 18 FAA Part 107 certified pilots.