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Gears Up With Rigo Gonzalez, Chief Pilot

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By: Nissrine Hajbane, Director of Marketing & Customer Engagement 

Chief Pilots, such as Rigo Gonzalez, are the foundation of a successful flight department. Through expertise gathered in the field coupled with a background in business, they are able to efficiently manage and lead a team of pilots. In this interview, you will come to grasp what a typical work-week looks like for a Chief Pilot and how effective communication plays a fundamental role in pilots achieving departmental objectives. Due to his experience in various facets in the aviation industry, Rigo has garnered attributes required of any valuable leader. These attributes are in turn what he looks for when hiring pilots, leading to a strong team and a cohesive effort to foster safety. Rigo also discusses his goals to reduce turnover and promote an environment of togetherness and company pride for the flight department.

Describe a typical work-week for a Chief Pilot?

One of the things I like most about my job is the variety of tasks encountered throughout any given work week. As Chief Pilot for our flight department, I handle staffing and administrative duties, crew scheduling and training, regulations compliance, departmental forecast budgeting, travel accounting, fleet management, and basic human resources issues. Currently, ControlCam operates a fleet of 10 aircraft and staffs 16 full time pilots who operate in 49 states with occasional missions in Puerto Rico and Canada. Our deliverable product relies on our flight department being properly staffed and our aircraft being in a continuous state of readiness requiring constant communication, organization, planning, and ultimately measured improvisation when weather or maintenance issues arise.

In your opinion, what are the most valuable attributes a Chief Pilot must possess to succeed in the Aviation industry?

The most effective tool at my disposal as Chief Pilot is clear and concise communication. I oversee pilots who, due to the nature of our work, are rarely in the office. As a result I do not find micromanaging to be an effective or efficient managerial style. To me, time spent micromanaging is much better spent communicating to our crews the relationship between their responsibilities and the operations in the office. Moreover, it is my responsibility to foster a work culture where pilots voluntarily hone their craft and autonomously strive to improve mission safety and efficiency.  This is accomplished by taking the time to invest in our people providing them with an understanding of the big picture and allowing our crews to be proactive to situations instead of reactive giving me more time to invest in evolving our flight department safety programs and meeting future office and customer demands. Aside from this, as the name implies, Chief Pilots must be strong leaders in both the office and the cockpit. I actively identify and mentor out unhealthy attitudes and habits before they become contagious and continuously strive to embody safety and precision in my flying as an example to our pilots. It does me no good to sit behind my desk saying, “This is how I want you to fly the airplane” without having a mastery of the procedures myself. It is my belief that this helps ensure respect and compliance from the flight crew.

What do you look for when hiring a pilot?

There are a few major things I like to see before feeling like I have a suitable candidate. Like most aviation jobs flight experience is pretty high on the list followed by education and what I refer to as intangibles. Each of these categories is more or less evenly tallied together in a metric for my new-hire decision. Simply put, what we do is challenging; we survey at 1500ft everywhere there is cable television in all four seasons. When we have a trip going to Colorado or Montana in the dead of winter, handing the keys to a 300 hour pilot fresh out of a Florida flight school is not what I would consider fair or safe. The intangibles like attitude, aviation related extra curriculars, references, self-confidence, communication skills and so on round out my decisions. One of my favorite interview questions is, “What are 3 attributes you feel like all pilots should possess to be successful in aviation?” Obviously this is an open ended question with no solid answer but it gives me meaningful insight into where a candidates head is regarding their career.

How challenging is it to manage 16 pilots while tending to your duties as Chief Pilot?

Most of it is staying focused and utilizing my time wisely but I don’t really see it as a challenge. I have worked my way from Junior Pilot to Chief Pilot with ControlCam so it wasn’t too long ago that I was in their shoes fielding all the same questions and concerns to my Chief Pilot at the time. I really strive to maintain great working relationships with my crew so overall it’s a welcome part of the job for me.

Chief Pilots, among other things, are supposed to mitigate risk and raise safety awareness, but what is one of your other priorities this year as chief pilot?

Unfortunately, most aerial survey companies are viewed by pilots only as stepping stones to bigger and better careers. At ControlCam we strive to have a sense of family, competitive pay, high quality of life on the road, and reliable equipment for our flight crews. Because of this, one of the things I would like to see most from our flight department this year is the steady transition from a place where pilots need to work to a place where pilots want to work. This does a few things for us, the biggest of which is reducing the valuable time and money I spend on recruiting, interviewing, and training new employees. As it is with many companies, having a core group of veteran employees that are completely familiar with your scope of work, who communicate well together, and who enjoy coming in every day only makes a manager’s work week that much smoother.

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ASPRS Standards

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By: David Lundeen, CTO

In November 2014, the ASPRS released updated standards for geospatial data accuracy. TheASPRS Positional Accuracy Standards for Digital Geospatial Data replaces the ASPRS Accuracy Standards for Large-Scale Maps standard that was released in 1990. The new standard is more comprehensive and is more suitable for modern mapping capabilities.

The 2014 standard is fundamentally different than the 1990 standard. Instead of being based on map resolution, the accuracy requirements for each class of map are based on RMSE values for various measurements.

The chart below[1], taken from the 1990 guidelines, summarizes the horizontal accuracy requirements for a Class 1 map.

When the 1990 standard was released, scale was the primary indicator of map resolution. A number of factors contributed to the common use of scale. Map scale is based on film camera functionality and design. Aerial film cameras typically used the same size film (9 x 9 inches) and had the same focal length (6 inches)[2]. Traditional image processing standards and flying altitudes, combined with standard camera design, made it natural to use scale to indicate map resolution. Map accuracy standards were based on scale because scale was a universally important map attribute.

Most modern remote sensing projects use Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) to indicate map resolution.  GSD is based on the sensor focal length, sensor pixel size, and height above ground. Modern digital mapping technology makes it practical to use GSD as an indicator of map resolution.

Unlike the previous standard however, the 2014 standard does not base accuracy requirements on map resolution. Instead, the requirements are based on RMSE thresholds. The 2014 standard documentation includes an appendix with charts that relate GSD and scale to the new standards, but the accuracy requirements are independent of map resolution.

The new standard defines accuracy standards for a number of components that are used in producing geospatial data. Among other things, it includes accuracy requirements for aerial triangulation and seamlines, as well as the more typical horizontal and vertical accuracy requirements. Currently there are no accuracy standards applicable to oblique images.

Calculation of horizontal accuracy requirements, defined by RMSE thresholds, is summarized in the table[3] below.

The RMSEx and RMSEy values must be less than or equal to the RMSE that defines the class. The radial RMSE must be less than or equal to the RMSE multiplied by 1.414. A new standard, specifying seamline accuracy, requires the seamlines to be mismatched by no more than the RMSE multiplied by 2.

For example, if the horizontal accuracy class is 10cm, the RMSE for x and y values must be no more than 10. The radial RMSE must be no more than 14.14, and seamline mismatches must be no more than 20 cm. Use of an RMSE threshold to define accuracy classes makes it easy to determine accuracy requirements for any class.

Vertical accuracy of elevation data is also categorized by RMSE. Vertical accuracy class names are based directly on the required RMSE.  For example, a 6 cm vertical accuracy class would require a product with an RMSEz of no greater than 6 cm. The accuracy assessment is based on the type of terrain. Vertical accuracy of areas of non-vegetated terrain would be assessed as RMSEz while vertical accuracy of areas of vegetated terrain would be assessed as a 95thpercentile value.

Horizontal accuracy requirements for elevation data depend on how the data is acquired.  For elevation data acquired through photogrammetric processes, the horizontal accuracy requirements are dictated by the horizontal accuracy requirements of the final product. For Lidar acquired elevation data, a calculation that takes into account altitude, GNSS error, IMU error, and other factors is used to determine the class requirements.

The new standard includes guidelines for the accuracy of aerial triangulation. In general, the AT RMSEx and RMSEy must be less than or equal to ½ the map RMSEx and RMSEy. The AT RMSEzvalue can be twice the AT RMSEx or RMSEy values (equal to the map RMSEx and RMSEy values).

The new standard documentation includes recommendations for the use of each class. Table B5 on page A14 identifies Class I as suitable for high accuracy work, Class II as suitable for standard mapping work, and Class III for products that don’t require a high degree of accuracy. The recommendations will make it easier for data suppliers and customers to agree on project specifications.

The addition of AT and seamline specifications are valuable additions. AT accuracy specifications are good indicators of the quality of intermediate processing steps. That makes it easier to identify problems before the product is complete. Seamline specifications are valuable because now there is a shared standard instead of reliance on individual assessment.

The 2014 standards are more comprehensive than the previous standards and remove subjectivity from several important areas of map production. Basing the standards on RMSE thresholds instead of map resolution simplifies defining project requirements and removes assumptions about mapping technology. The addition of aerial triangulation accuracy specifications makes it easier to assess product quality in the intermediate steps. Seamline specifications are useful because now there is a shared standard instead of reliance on arbitrary standards. The 2014 standards will bring significant benefits to the GIS community.

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How Technology is Changing the Way Pilots Aviate for the Better and for the Worse

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By: Rigo Gonzalez, Chief Pilot

Few industries, if any, have escaped the evolution of technology throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. From its humble beginnings in 1903, the powered aviation industry has undergone a series of rebirths as technology improved flight and design characteristics, cockpit automation, efficiency, and safety.  These changes marked a steady decrease in aviation accidents over the last few decades, solidifying its place as the safest means of travel today. While seemingly a desired trend, the emergence of autopilot, technologically advanced aircraft, and fully equipped glass cockpits have caused a spike in accidents resulting from an over-reliance on automation and an under-utilization of traditional hand flying and pilotage skills.

Let it be clear that I am not denouncing the implementation of cockpit technology and automation. During the last 12 years I have flown both categories of today’s aircraft throughout the majority of the Contiguous United States. The traditional style of flying is what most pilots of yesteryear are familiar with – stick and rudder hand flying, paper navigational charts, and navigational aids that do not utilize GPS.  It wasn’t until after completion of my Flight Instructor rating that I even saw an autopilot and GPS in an airplane let alone the recent advent of tablet apps which geo-reference your aircraft directly onto approach plates and navigation charts. All of these systems greatly assist pilots, easing mental workload and fatigue, increasing situational awareness and allowing the pilot in command to monitor the flight, reacting when circumstances dictate. But what happens when these systems fail, malfunction, or the pilot becomes complacent, confused, or overly reliant on their operation?

In the last 35 years there have been 42 accidents in which the NTSB has found[1] the probable accident cause to be failure to monitor automated flight. In past months and years we have been able to see firsthand what happens when autopilot is overly relied on or misunderstood. Take Asiana Flight 214 which crashed off the coast of San Francisco last year. What should have been a normal approach to landing on a sunny day instead resulted in 49 serious injuries, three passenger’s death, and the destruction of an aircraft costing hundreds of millions. All because the pilots, emphases on the plural, didn’t understand the functions of the selected autopilot mode. A study by the NTSB[2] concluded that 31 of 37 major accidents in a 12 year span when automation was introduced into commercial aviation were a direct result of inadequate monitoring during automated flight. The issue does not solely rest with big commercial jets either. As more general aviation aircraft become outfitted with 21st century cockpits, pilots, flight instructors, and students must be as comfortable flying WITHOUT automation as they are with it. The idea being that in the rare event of automation failure under the worst of circumstances, we as pilots fulfill the obligation to our families and passengers to arrive safely every time. One of the ways to help deter this is for aviators to have a comprehensive understanding of what is happening ‘behind the instrument panel’ in regards to their automation systems. As a pilot, if your understanding and appreciation of the auto pilot system is “when I push this button the airplane flies straight and level” you are sorely missing the point.

As an ambassador for Crew Resource Management, I believe pilots should utilize the 21st century cockpit, as it allows them to better focus on the overall safety of the aircraft and persons aboard, especially in inclement weather. That being said I still believe decisions to fly should have nothing to do with the aircraft having automation or not, or in other words, pilots must never rely solely on cockpit automation to get them through any set of circumstances.


[1] http://www.ntsb.gov/news/speeches/rsumwalt/Documents/Sumwalt_20150116.pdf

[2] http://libraryonline.erau.edu/online-full-text/ntsb/safety-studies/SS94-01.pdf

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Weather Predictions of Yesterday and Today

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by: Bradley Verdesca, Production Staff

Go ahead and take a quick look outside at the sky for me. Was it the same as it was 24 hours ago? How about 2 hours ago? Now, can you tell me what the weather will be in the future? This is a question that scientists have spent centuries trying to answer. Some questions have been answered through pattern recognition with no help from technology at all. For example, many scientists agree that prehistoric sites like Stonehenge in England and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico were constructed based on solar and lunar patterns. Publications like the farmers almanac use past weather patterns to provide seasonal weather predictions. Sure, they can tell you when the longest days will occur or possibly which week  will be the hottest this year, but tools like these are nearly useless when trying to predict conditions such as temperature inversion layers for the greater southeastern region or what day in the week a flash flood will occur.

The biggest advancements in our daily weather predictions have come from the help of mathematicians and their use of complex algorithms. 200 years ago in 1814 a French mathematician named Pierre-Simon Laplace hypothesized that the movement of every particle in the atmosphere is predictable as long as meteorologist knew the position of every particle. In theory, the laws of physics that govern these particles is fairly simple, unfortunately, the number of particles in the Earth’s atmosphere is estimated to be around 100 tredecillion. A one followed by 44 zeros, like this:

100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000![1]

A man by the name of Edward Lorenz, in light of Laplace’s postulation of prediction based on current conditions, was going about his career as a meteorologist in the late 50’s when he discovered even more about forecasting. Through research by himself and his team he found two things. First, weather is nonlinear, meaning that it abides by exponential rather than by arithmetic relationships. This means that even a slight change at input can have a dramatic effect on what the algorithm spits out.  Second, it’s dynamic. Meaning its behavior at one point in time influences its behavior in the future. This is the start of a branch of mathematics called Chaos theory which is described in Lorenzs’ breakthrough paper in 1972 titled “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?”[2] As you can see, predicting the future is, well, complicated.

Today’s technology is miles ahead of where we were in 1972. In 2008 the National Center for Atmospheric Research installed a supercomputer named Bluefire in their research facility in Boulder, CO. This computer has a peak speed of more than 76 teraflops[3]. But that isn’t enough. On January 5, 2015, NOAA announced that their computers will undergo significant upgrades this year and by October of this year each of their supercomputers will have a peak capacity of 2.5 petaflops for a total capacity of 5 petaflops or 5 thousand trillion floating point operations per second[4]. In basic terms this will help improve accuracy as well as increase amount of days out it can predict for smaller regions.

As stated above, the accuracy of inputs can greatly affect the accuracy of the outputs made by our forecasting models. The era of Big Data is upon us and can positively influence our forecasting methods. For example, Samsung has a thermometer (temperature), barometer (pressure), and hygrometer (humidity) built into their Galaxy S4 phone[5]. While not as accurate as a weather observation system like those found at airports, the large number of readings have the possibility of creating or confirming prediction trends made by NOAA and the NWS.

Just this month there was a satellite launched from Cape Canaveral by Space X that will continue the advancement of weather prediction. Named the Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite, this remote sensing technology will better track soil moisture levels. NASA says “The amount of water that evaporates from the land surface into the atmosphere depends on the soil moisture. Soil moisture information is key to understanding the flows of water and heat energy between the surface and atmosphere that impact weather and climate.”[6]

Even with all of our recent advancements our prediction of weather can still be wrong. Recently, experts predicted a record snowstorm for the city of New York. Some even forbode of snow upwards of 2 feet causing massive delays and possibly shutting down the city. In the end most people saw around 6 inches of powder. When we are planning our flights we need to use the best available information and a lot of luck to get the best imagery possible.

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Interview with Paige Parker, VP of Sales

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By: Nissrine Hajbane, Marketing & Customer Engagement Specialist

Paige Parker is ControlCam’s VP of Sales. I was able to sit down with this young professional and discuss her ambition and passion for sales. The interview brought to light a number of informative details about her background as well as her objectives. Throughout the article, any individual pursuing a career in sales is able to gain insight to how one can perfect their craft to become a better sales person. Paige also shares her plans to grow the sales department at ControlCam to be able to reach every region in the United States and meet their aerial imagery needs.

Why did you choose sales? How did you realize that this is the career choice for you?

My father was a salesman and small business owner. Growing up, he instilled within me key values that are needed to be a successful business professional. In college, I had a passion to learn about meteorology, geography, and earth science which led me to major in GIS with a minor in CIS. While I was a student, I also worked about 30-40 hours per week at a department store as a sales associate. During my college years, I built a repertoire of technical skills and even sales techniques, but it was not until I started working for Lewis Graham at GeoCue Corporation that I truly learned about sales in the GIS industry. From there, I grew a passion for a career in sales, and was fortunate enough to do sales on an international platform. At ControlCam I have been able to utilize all of the skills I have acquired over the years, and use them on a level which truly has kept my passion for sales in GIS kindled.

What makes you passionate about selling?

I have always enjoyed creating and building relationships with people. I believe that is what life is all about. In my opinion, GIS technology is a vital part of many of today’s industries. I view sales in the GIS industry as an opportunity to truly help organizations better their everyday workflows. I do not see myself as “selling” to someone, but rather “helping” someone. In essence, I believe in helping people which is the fire that lights my passion for selling in the industry.

What kind of sacrifices have you had to make to be successful?

I had to move 10 hours from my home, when I took my current job as Vice President of Sales at ControlCam. During the transition, I slept on a floor without furniture my first week of work. A snow storm had delayed the moving company that had all of my things. Needless to say, it has been hard leaving home, but it has been worth it.

How does a salesperson perfect their craft?

I believe talent can only go so far. I think it requires “tenacity” of constantly trying new things such as adding on to your pitch, rehearsing and practicing your presentations. I have never been able to “wing” anything, and have it turn out well. I believe it takes hard work to perfect your craft by constantly practicing, learning, and never becoming comfortable.

What is the latest sales book/article you read and what elements did you put into practice?

I just finished a leadership book written by John C. Maxwell called “Everyone Communicates, but Few Connect”. What was nice about this book is that it includes feedback from his fans about connecting with your audience. He emphasizes making your connection about your customer not your company. I thoroughly enjoyed his selfless view points on what it takes to truly connect with people while on the job, whether with colleagues or customers.

Can you give any insight to anyone who is considering a career in sales?

If that someone loves to meet people, build relationships, be a servant to others, and travel, then sales is probably the career choice for you.

Lastly, what are you goals to grow ControlCam’s sales department?

I have developed a sales plan that will allow for organic growth within the company. The set-up will allow the sales staff to truly penetrate each region in the US and meet every market segment needed. It also allows room for growth among our staff members as well.