Case study: Fulfilling a complex government contract with the help of Event 38.
Our client, a highly experienced drone service contractor, won a contract from the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) to provide a fixed-wing drone to monitor forest fires. The required outcome of the contract was an on-call team who could get a drone in the sky within 48 hours and begin capturing real-time information for firefighting crews.
Our client chose a specific EO/IR camera that would deliver live video feed to an on-the-ground situation room. However, they had a few specific needs to consider:
- EO/IR cameras can be very heavy. Our client needed a drone that could carry the payload at high altitudes in hot, humid, and windy conditions.
- In a live fire monitoring situation, the drone would need to fly in shared airspace to manned aircraft without compromising anyone’s safety. This requires specific functionality from the autopilot and ground control systems so a drone pilot can remain cognizant of altitudes and nearby aircraft.
At this stage, our client realized their original plan to use a VTOL multirotor aircraft would not suit the needs of the DOI. They needed a custom solution. So they reached out to Event 38.
Expanded capacity for a drone service contractor
Event 38 and the client worked together over many months. Event 38’s engineers spearheaded key developments throughout the project:
The Event 38 team selected and integrated the avionics and power system for the aircraft. This included the payload, data links, power plant, motors, generator, and power management system.
The Event 38 team designed custom software operations for the drone, including the autopilot, payload, and ground control programs, and failsafes to meet DOI requirements. Event 38 also created custom simulation software to allow pilots to gain experience with the software before flying the aircraft for the first time.
Event 38 was responsible for flight testing and aircraft tuning. We took an iterative approach to system testing and integration. Our first step was to solidify the flight tuning of the vertical control system, which immensely mitigated risk by allowing us to recover from any undesired situation. Flight testing and training was completed without the loss of a single aircraft.
Pilots completed two days of ground school, led by Event 38, before they flew the aircraft. All pilots were already FAA certified, which meant we could move forward right away with operating the aircraft through simulation software. Once the pilots were comfortable with the simulation program, they proceed to hands-on field training.
While building the aircraft, Event 38 created a comprehensive knowledge base for our clients. This included maintenance manuals, wiring diagrams, and aircraft operation procedures.
During the testing and design process, Event 38 guided the client on setting up a manufacturing environment. We taught them the general principles of building an aircraft and the potential pitfalls to look out for. We also helped them choose, source, and install equipment and get the process up and running. The client is now manufacturing and flying the aircraft independently and no longer needs ongoing guidance from Event 38.
Event 38 secured certifications on behalf of our client, including a NASA airworthiness certificate and Depart of Interior (DOI) carding. We conducted test flights to a variety of specifications, including:
- Beyond visual line of sight.
- High altitude.
- Overweight aircraft over 55 pounds.
We also helped individual pilots secure the necessary certification to fly this type of aircraft in fires.
How our client benefited from working with Event 38
Working with Event 38 in a consulting capacity yielded several key benefits for our client:
Faster turnaround on the project. Had our client decided to hire an additional employee instead of a consultant, the project would have been delayed by the onboarding process and other logistics. The Event 38 team was able to get up to speed and start work on the project right away, which reduced the overall timeline.
Breadth of experience. The Event 38 team has nearly a decade of experience in building drones and developing software for unmanned aircraft. By working with just two Event 38 UAS experts, our client was able to substantially grow the project team’s knowledge base. Without Event 38, they may have had to hire more specialists to focus on specific project stages.
Higher revenues. The DOI contract was outside the scope of our client’s usual skillset, which is why they hired Event 38 to consult. We functioned as an extension of their team, which expanded their capabilities. The result was the successful completion of a complex contract.