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Insitu Celebrates One Million Flight Hours
The ambition of Insitu’s founders was rooted in the commercial market even as it was a fledgling company just emerging in the early 1990s. Our first unmanned aircraft aimed to provide weather data to meteorologists and help commercial fishermen track schools of tuna. Since then we have become the go-to company for unmanned ISR services for defense customers around the globe.Now we are coming full circle by applying the same proven remote sensing capabilities to the commercial market.
We deliver the information that not only gives you a powerful new perspective, but also provide context so you can use it quickly to make decisions that will ultimately change the way you do business for the better.
We are backed by over one million operational flight hours of serving our customers and have put our systems to the test in various commercial operations across the globe. We integrate seamlessly into large enterprise operations to streamline the management of resources used for infrastructure monitoring and enhance safety. We’re there when emergency responders and incident commanders need us as a provider for superior information at a moment’s notice. No matter the need, we find ways to improve operations through fresh and fearless innovation and an unrivaled dedication to our customers that reaches back to the original ambition that drove our founders.
Check out our Success Stories for more details on how we have served our commercial customers and our INEXA product line for more information on how we can provide our customized solutions to streamline your operation.
Challenge: In early September of 2017, wildfires burned nearly 50,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge region — home to Insitu’s headquarters — affecting our employees, neighbors, facilities and communities. Just weeks later, the Mendocino Lake Complex and Central LNU Complex fires broke out in northern California, where wildfires have destroyed more than 160,000 acres in 2017 alone. In both events difficult terrain, smoke and extremely dry and windy conditions taxed the resources of those struggling to contain the fires, prompting emergency responders to call upon government agencies and industry for additional assets to help with the fight.
Solution: Insitu’s Rapid Response Team can quickly dispatch a cross-functional group of operators, analysts and other professionals with INEXA™ Solutions, Insitu’s unmanned aerial systems and information processing capabilities. ScanEagle® supplements manned firefighting fleets by operating during dense smoke and at night, when manned aircraft are grounded due to hazardous flying conditions for pilots. The aircraft’s infrared sensors penetrate smoke and darkness to gather and disseminate geo-referenced still images of points of interest. These images enable Geographic Information System (GIS) specialists to analyze data and provide near-real-time mapping, video and still images of a fire, resulting in heightened emergency response efforts.
Result: The Insitu team responded to the fires in Oregon and California, with ScanEagle assisting firefighters as the sole persistent over watch asset at night. All efforts for air space access were coordinated with the FAA and other government agencies. Our data collection, analysis and integration capabilities produced near-real-time georeferenced maps that helped equip emergency responders identify spot fires, locate fire lines and hotspots and provide video and still images of critical infrastructure, historical structures and more.
In both situations, the information Insitu provided to emergency responders resulted in increased situational awareness and safety as well as supported planning and resource allocation. In one event, incident commanders used ScanEagle’s actionable information to change the fire attack plan in real time when they discovered that the original strategy would have placed firefighters in harm’s way. During another flight, ScanEagle’s full-motion video was able to detect and track a three-mile expansion of the fire over the course of six hours, resulting in better information and emergency response efforts.
Challenge: On August 24, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 storm near Rockport, Texas. By the time the hurricane subsided, Harvey had caused billions of dollars in property damage, displacing tens of thousands of Texans and leaving more than 300,000 without electricity. During the initial days after the storm, emergency responders worked tirelessly to begin the daunting process of assessing the damage from the catastrophic flooding that made Harvey one of the worst weather disasters in U.S. history.
Solution: On August 26, 2107, a team of Insitu personnel traveled to southeastern Texas to help emergency response crews assess post-Harvey damage. The team brought four ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with EO and IR cameras that provided live geospatial aerial imagery of areas affected by the storm.
Result: ScanEagle operations began on August 30 over the Bay of Corpus Christi, where hurricane damage had shut down regular traffic that typically moves $100 million in goods through the waterway each day. The Insitu team located navigational hazards including a ship that had sunk in the bay and provided debris maps and other information to response crews that contributed to the reopening of the Port Of Corpus Christi after six days. Insitu conducted additional flights in Sugar Land and Angleton, Texas, for a total of 17 days of aviation operations in support of emergency response efforts. All efforts for air space access were closely coordinated with the FAA and other government agencies to ensure safe and professional operations. The coupling of our technology with the experience of our operators and flight support teams demonstrated that our aerial data collection solutions are agile, proven and adaptable to the challenging needs of emergency and disaster response situations.
By Tony LaCorte, Sr. Manager, Commercial Aviation & Training
First, some background: Insitu recently held the grand opening for its office in Starkville near Mississippi State University (MSU) to house some of the activities being carried out by our Commercial Business Unit. Now, some of you may be asking questions like “what does Mississippi have to do with Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)?” or “What impact will Insitu have on MSU and the surrounding community?” or even “How on earth does Insitu intend to impact the UAS industry from a place many locals refer to as ‘Stark-Vegas’?”
Hopefully this article can provide a few answers to those questions.
Insitu is committed to working with our partners to continuously pioneer and innovate solutions for the safe integration of UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS). Therefore, as Insitu continues to pursue commercial operations in the NAS, it is only logical that we combine the progress we have made in the UAS industry with the lessons learned from the corollary fields within academia. MSU has become the nation’s hub for research that will help the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) integrate unmanned aircraft into the domestic airspace safely and efficiently. MSU manages the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) program, which is comprised of 23 of the world’s leading research institutions and more than 100leading industry/government partners. The mission of ASSURE is to provide the FAA with the research they need to quickly, safely and efficiently integrate UAS into our NAS. Having an engaged and positive relationship with ASSURE gives us the opportunity to provide industry knowledge using our more than one million hours of flight experience to help shape the future of the UAS industry and create a safe environment for all air operators to fly.
I was surprised when I first arrived and noticed the extent to which the university had been involved with all types of unmanned vehicles and more so when I continuously overheard the excitement and curiosity surrounding UAS in discussions within the community. One of my first experiences with MSU was observing the Geosciences Department using small UAS to monitor hybrid cotton crops right outside my office window. The department also manages a fleet of marine UAVs for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that are used off the gulf coast. What’s most impressive is the excitement of the students who participate in the projects that the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory conducts throughout the year, which include support at the Stennis Space Center and contracted government tests off of the gulf coast.
Currently, Insitu is leveraging its newly formed relationships with MSU to test key technologies aimed at facilitating the safe integration of UAS into the NAS. These technologies not only focus on Insitu’s commitment to custodianship of the NAS and its overall safety, but more importantly how we continue to live Insitu’s Why, or our purpose, by “pioneering and innovating in all that we do so that we positively impact people’s lives and change the course of history”. Our goal is to develop and implement technologies that guarantee the safe separation of manned and unmanned flights by detecting and avoiding.
The presence of UAS in Mississippi is more than just the efforts aligned with university studies and ASSURE. Recently MSU was awarded a contract with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It will essentially support homeland security operations and training by providing UAS flight and exercise support facilities aimed at evaluation of unmanned systems in a variety of applications and scenarios. As we continue to grow our relationship with MSU and the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory, we will collaborate to utilize these test sites and other opportunities within the state to test our new technologies, perform aircraft certifications, and conduct the necessary training to make our commercial team successful.
Insitu’s presence in Mississippi allows us to carry on with our pioneering spirit. The collaboration between Insitu, ASSURE and MSU has limitless possibilities. When I think of our Why statement, I always gravitate to the part that speaks to positively impacting people’s lives. Here in Mississippi, I continuously see the excitement that is generated in the general and aviation communities and by our company just being present. I hope that the exposure to unmanned systems design, development and operations that we provide here in Starkville will inspire some within the community to pursue careers in STEM. It may also quite possibly trigger others who may not have made a decision on which path they would take after college, to seek careers in UAS aviation. We have an exciting opportunity to leverage the fearless and fresh ideas from rising MSU students who seek opportunities as interns or full-time employment as we continue to grow as a company. We also have a unique opportunity to combine Insitu’s industry experience with the academic research that has been accomplished to make a resounding and positive impact on the overall safety of the NAS. I am excited to help Insitu inspire a culture of safety, community and growth in the Starkville area moving forward.