Jason Smith has flown more than 60 missions with a single drone since the 2017 creation of Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems program. Along the way, he has cataloged a wealth of footage for documentation, 3D mapping, tracking and volumetric calculations.
As Business Report details in a new feature, Smith, DEQ’s UAS manager, says the program is limited only by the agency’s ability to invest in new hardware and software. If all goes well in the next year or two, drones could be taking air samples in real time, detecting leaks, tracking oil spills and responding to emergencies, among other tasks.
A self-taught drone pilot, Smith is one of five at DEQ currently holding an FAA pilot’s license. “I began flying a little $20 toy in my garage. I would fly around with the door closed and hover it in front of a box fan … and try not to destroy anything.”
He worked his way up from there, gradually increasing the size of his investment as his confidence grew.
Smith now conducts most of the advanced UAS flights for DEQ, while the regional pilots primarily provide documentation for emergency response activities. Read the full story about DEQ and Smith’s work to grow the department’s capabilities.