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So You Want To Be A Drones Pilot?

You’ll Need To Be Trained, Tested & Licensed.

When a tide turns, boy, do things change rapidly! In just a few short years, the FAA has gone from suppressing drone usage to “let’s get some rules in place before someone gets hurt around here!”

To refresh your memory, the change in the FAA’s attitude was due in large part to a 2012 Congressional mandate that the FAA come up with rules to legalize and regulate commercial drone use in the U.S.

As a result, the FAA has not only created new drone regulations, but is now issuing an actual commercial drone license, complete with a knowledge test and an official inclusion into the brotherhood of pilots.  (Refer to the latest Federal Aviation Regulations and Aeronautical Information Manual), 14 CFR Part 107, for details.)

The new regulations remove the need for a sport or private pilot’s license and a Section 333 exemption as prerequisites to fly commercial drones in the U.S. Within the first week of the new regulations, 300,000 drones were registered.

Why so many drones? Why now?

Drones are not new. They’ve been around since almost the beginning of manned flight and have been used militarily since World War II. What makes today’s drones so different and so ubiquitous is new technology.  The modern drone has been propelled into the limelight by several advances, which have led to their proliferation, these include:

  • Lithium batteries powerful enough and light enough to lift their own weight off the ground.
  • Drone stabilization attributed to low-cost MEMS accelerometers and gyroscopes developed used in smartphones and tablets.
  • Small, lightweight, high-torque drone motors developed within the last decade.
  • High-power density switching semiconductors powerful enough to control those motors.

Commercial drone pilot requirements

Like all pilots, commercial drone pilots are responsible for the safe use of their aircraft. For example:

  • They must keep drones within the line of sight so it can remain under constant control
  • They must fly it no higher than 400 feet above the surface
  • They must ensure it is not a danger to anyone or anything on the ground below them or in the air around them.
  • They must adhere to airspace rules, as well as privacy rules.
  • These rules apply to drones 55 lbs. or less flown for commercial use. If you own a drone of that size, you are now required to register it with the FAA. Failure to do so will result in a hefty fine.

Here are some other important regulations for commercial drone flying:

  • Must be flown in Class G airspace
  • Must be flown during daylight hours
  • Must fly at or below 100 mph
  • Must yield right of way to manned aircraft
  • Cannot fly over people
  • Cannot be flown from a moving vehicle

While becoming a commercial drone pilot is nowhere near as demanding as getting a regular pilot license, it does require you meet the following criteria:

  • Must be at least 16 years of age
  • Must pass an aeronautical test at an FAA-approved test center (if you have a valid and current pilot’s license you can satisfy this requirement by taking a part 107 exam online)
  • Must be vetted by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)

Places to train?

With regulation and testing come schools, test prep aids and, of course, costs and fees. If you’re looking for help passing the Part 107 exam, look no further than the usual aviation study-aid sources such as Gleim and Kings Schools. They have complete reviews and complete syllabuses available.

If you’re looking for flight instruction, there are a number of training companies now offering drone lessons to the public. Dart Drones conducts workshops in numerous states across the country.  For several hundred dollars you’ll get some ground school as well as a few hours of practical hands-on flight time. There are also several accredited aviation colleges around the country where drone courses are being offered. However, your should research these carefully as their curriculum is geared towards aircraft sized drones that are much heavier than 55 lb. drones, which will require you earn an Air Transport Pilot’s (ATP) certificate.

Things you can do with your commercial drone license.

We’ve all heard that companies like Google and Amazon want to use autonomous drones to make deliveries. One California start-up, Matternet, is already using GPS-directed drones to deliver medical devices and specimens around the world (notice we did not say in the U.S.; this is because the FAA has not yet ruled on autonomous drone usage in the U.S. and current FAA rules demand drones stay within the line of sight of a designated drone pilot at all times.) For the purpose of this post, we will be focusing commercial drones that are flown by a nearby pilot on the ground.

If you’re wondering what kinds of business can be conducted with a drone or what it takes to run a successful drone business, we suggest you pick up a copy of John D. Dean’s “Become a U.S. Commercial Drone Pilot.” It was written before the licensing law went in effect but no doubt it will soon be updated. Mr. Dean’s but informative book covers many drone business issues, from state laws to insurance needs. It lists hardware and software products you’ll need, as well as other accessories essential to running a drone business. It is a good primer for entrepreneurial drone pilots.

The accessory that lifts most drones out of hobby status to business status is on board video. Equipped with a digital still or video camera, your business drone becomes a platform for all kinds of aerial photography.  Here are a few sample markets for these services include:

  1. The real estate industry now relies on aerial footage from drones to help sell expensive suburban properties; drone operations are far less costly than helicopters or fixed wing aircraft.
  2. Construction firms are using drones to keep a record of progress made on projects; well-edited drone’s footage can also be used to promote the project.
  3. The agricultural industry is using camera-equipped drones to monitor crops; to check for temperature and humidity changes; to track other atmospheric metrics that impact crops.
  4. Ranchers use drones to patrol land boarders and keep tabs on herds.
  5. Drones are used for 2- and 3-dimensional mapping; drones can build aerial surveys and volume measurements much more quickly and efficiently than traditional means of creating surveys and maps.
  6. Event promoters are using aerial footage for sporting events and concerts
  7. Engineering firms and utilities use drones to inspect high tension wires and search for breeches after a storm; to inspect pipelines and transmission cables; to inspect towers and bridges
  8. Media companies are using drone to capture aerial footage of live news stories

These are just some of the ways people are making their commercial drone license work for them. It does not include all of the emergency service, police or fire departments which are now pressing drones into service for their needs.

No doubt, the use of drones will increase with time. Imagination combined with a strong profit motive will continue to create more commercial uses for drones in the U.S.  The good news is commercial drones are now looked upon as aircraft and not as a hobby toy.  Like all aircraft they need regulating to keep our skies and people below them safe.  For those of us who are already pilots, this is the sensible thing to do. For those of us who aren’t pilots, it is the only way to safely embrace the new drone age.

By |February 4th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |2 Comments

IP Tracking — The Brave New World Of Digital Marketing.

Today, almost every digital device we use has an IP address. What is an IP address? It stands for Internet Protocol Address and it’s what computers and other digital devices use to introduce themselves to each other. Think of it as a door knock that leads to an invitation to come in and enter. Computers, cell phones, cars, even your EZ-Pass tag has an IP address.

The good news for marketers is that once your IP address has connected with another address (i.e. you visit Amazon’s website) you have given permission to speak with one another, which means the party you’re visiting (i.e. Amazon) can then connect with you at a later time and send you information as well. This return information is usually in the form of a “cookie,” which contains encrypted data that remains on your computer or phone until you or some IT person deliberately removes it.

For business, this is a marketing boon, allowing companies to keep track of potential customers interested in their wares and services – all of which is be done automatically via IP tracking.

What information can you get from an IP address?

There are actually two kinds of IP addresses – static and dynamic. Static simply means you are using the same address over and over (i.e. your home computer or your personal smart phone). Dynamic means you are sharing an IP address with a number of customers within your Internet Service Providers (ISP) area. Sometimes public uses computers in a library or in an internet café will share a dynamic address.

Whether static or dynamic, the minute you visit a website the IP address you’re originating from can be captured. The website will keep a record of the time, date and data it collects from your address. A “cookie” will be sent to your computer for future reference.

Limited information is freely available the moment a connection is made. For example, because IP addresses come in batches representing certain global regions, a fair amount of geographical information is immediately known. Cross reference this information with other demographic information available and you can develop a composite profile of the visitor and the particular region they’re living in.

It can get personal… to a point.

If your company utilizes IP tracking software, you can gather quite a lot of pertinent information. The moment someone visits a website, IP tracking software identifies the IP address of the visitor and reports what pages they visited on your site, how long they stayed and whether they filled in any contact or registration forms. The “cookie” sent to their computer, phone or device will begin to track their preferences. The IP tracking software will start to compile data captured from the same IP address as he or she visits other websites, noting preferences such as shopping habits, reading preference and other interests.

Some IP Lead tracking software can collect information from both organic, as well as paid search platforms, such as Google AdWords, providing more customer data, which can assist your company in finding richer, more promising prospects.

All this information provides a detailed dossier of a prospect’s demographic, preferences, purchasing history and even psychographic information. The IP tracking software can also determine email addresses and phone numbers associated with the IP address as well.

Once captured, the information can be used to target online advertising on websites the prospect visits and/or send emails with sales information to prospects who are already predisposed to a particular company’s products or services.

IP tracking and the law.

Each country around the globe has its own privacy laws, which govern the use of personal information gathered over the internet. In the UK for example, there is a Data Protection Act, which regulates what is and is not a breach of privacy. In many countries in Europe, IP addresses can be considered personal data, so care should be taken by anyone doing international business and gathering prospect information over the internet overseas.

In the United States, on the other hand, there is no singular law that regulates the internet, but there are both state laws and federal regulations, which limit the kind of information you can gather on individuals.

On a federal level, the U.S. tends to regulate by sector (i.e. banking, finance, healthcare etc.) It goes without saying that personal health records cannot be gathered on individuals by nature of the HIPAA laws and financial privacy is protected by law in the U.S.

For general marketing purposes, however, the U.S. tends to be fairly liberal, with the exception of California, which has a strong consumer identity protection regulation (please consult https://www.huntonprivacyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2011/04/DDP2015_United States.pdf for specifics.)

As long as consumers visit legitimate websites, the information they pass along via IP Address is pretty much fair game, provided the data is not used to disparage the visiting prospects, or is used to sell illegal or illicit materials to them.

What a marketer cannot and should not do is try to reverse engineer the process by creating phishing schemes to capture personal information. This is the behavior of scammers and illegal businesses. IP tracking, on the other hand, is perfectly legal and very effective marketing and sales tool.

More and more business is conducted on the web.

The Wall Street Journal report in mid 2016 that 51% of purchases are now made online, the tide has obvious turned and consumers have embraced online buying. Just as significant, 90% of business-to-business transactions begin with a web search, making it easier than ever to identify potential prospects.

Given the current attitudes in the U.S. for capturing information and leads over the web, the case for utilizing IP tracking software or service is a smart marketing decision for any legitimate business from Macys to your local pizza parlor. As long as the system is not abused or used to cause harassment of any kind to individuals, the idea of IP tracking seems both prudent and reasonably ethical.

Aviation Marketing Consulting Blog Named to Feedspot Top 50 Aviation Blogs

The Aviation Marketing Consulting’s Blog has been chosen as one of the Top 50 Aviation Blogs by Feedspot.

Blogs are ranked based on the following criteria:

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

Feedspot lets you read all your favorite blogs in one place. Check out the complete list here:  http://blog.feedspot.com/aviation_blogs/

Programmatic Advertising. The 21st Century Marketing Trend, You Never Heard Of

Back in the day, marketers would spend weeks, sometimes months, deciding where to place their ad messages. They had armies of media researchers on the case, giving them statistical data about audiences for specific TV shows or magazines.  When decisions were finally made and it came time to buy, the marketer simply called upon a human in their ad agency’s media department to place an order for a 30 second spot on the evening news or a two-page spread in a news weekly.

Well folks, those days are as gone as dodo birds and piston-engine airliners. Today, many online display and banner ad placements are bid on and purchased in nanoseconds by robots (or to be more quaint about it, by computers) talking to each other. It’s called Programmatic Advertising. And its new to aviation marketing.

The good news? The robots don’t do lunch and the advertisers don’t have to pay for it. The bad news? It’s the fastest growth engine in the marketing game and many advertisers and their marketing agencies know as much about how it works as they do about ADS-B.

How prevalent is programmatic ad buying? According to Ad Week, “In 2015, $14.88 billion worth of U.S. ads, fully 55 percent of digital display ads, were purchased programmatically. In total, 52 percent of all non-search digital ad transactions were programmatic.”

What exactly is programmatic advertising and why should you care?

In case you’ve not been paying attention for the past twenty years, the marketing game has gone from macro to micro-targeting. Today’s target audience comes down to one individual checking out your website, or your competitor’s home page. In the blink of an eye, a program can access that web visitor and break him or her down to age, gender, buying habits, and interest level in your product − even whether the viewer’s desire to purchase is imminent.

If you’re looking for the secret ingredient in this process, it’s called Artificial Intelligence. By nature, it’s the stuff robots are made of. Artificial Intelligence spreads its wide net across the internet, eventually narrowing down users who fit the demographic and psychographic of your target. It’s not looking for lots of people. It’s looking for the right ones.

The program then passes the information on to the marketer’s computers or robots and asks if the marketer wants to bid on placing their display ad in front of the prospect. The marketer’s robot considers what the buying service robot has to provide about the prospect, and decides in a split second to bid or pass on the opportunity. If it’s a bid (and there should be no surprise here), the higher the bid, the better the chance of securing the space. This is called “Real-time bidding” and the whole process happens in less than the time it takes to form a thought.

Forbes has estimated RTB (Real-time bidding) “will accelerate at a rate of 59% compound annual rate through 2016, making it the fastest growing segment in digital advertising.”

Wait a second! People don’t buy from ads at first sight!

It’s true!  Just because you’re interested in a product, that doesn’t mean you’re going to buy it immediately. Still, if you’re part of a certain market segment, your interest level may be heightened and your buying predisposition is certainly greater. Most pilots would love to own a jet, but few can afford one, and those that can are usually not impulse buyers.

Why jump at a prospect if they’re not going to buy right now?

To answer this, let’s go back to Marketing 101 and talk about customer needs. We all need things for a multitude of personal reasons. When you’re in the buying mode, the need becomes more urgent. For example, if you’re looking for a new aviation headset, you’re probably a pilot, so you’re already set apart from the general population. If you’ve checked out a few manufacturers’ websites, compared prices on Sporty’s, Pilot Shop, Aircraft Spruce or even Amazon or EBay − the robots are watching your every move! They’re even watching the number of times you’ve checked these sites in the past. In other words, they’re sizing you up as a potential buyer. The more the algorithm sizes the customer up, the richer the information it passes on. Capturing that user at the moment he or she is on a particular site goes to the highest bidder.

Naturally, for high-ticket items like an aircraft purchase, your ad needs multiple exposures to make a sale. The good news for the advertiser (or the advertiser’s robot, to be precise) is that it is bidding on a prospect that has demonstrated a high interest in the advertiser’s product and is most likely ready to make a purchase.

Think about it. How many times have you opened your browser and found a display ad for a product you’ve been researching on the web? Too often, right? Well, you probably fit the profile a marketer is looking for and one which its marketing robots are on the lookout for.

Are there limitations to programmatic advertising?

While the robots are very good at keeping track of people surfing on their desktops, they have a bit of a problem capturing your every move when you’re using your cell phone. This is because cell phone cookies (little files about your usage left in your computer) are not as uniform or as robust as they are on larger computers. This limitation won’t be around long given the speed at which technology adjusts to marketplace roadblocks.

Brave New Marketing Worlds.

Programmatic Advertising is here to stay. Big marketers were early adaptors, but it seems the word is spreading to all marketers. The reasoning is simple. If the target prospect is a fertile find, the chances of turning a marketing message into a sale are greater. If more marketing messages create sales, your return on investment goes way up. That’s a win-win for everyone except those humans who used to be media buyers. Brave new world? Certainly, but we humans have a tendency to adapt.

Have Cell Phone Will Travel… On Private Jet Charter, Naturally.

The Digital Age for Air Travel Has Arrived. Buying a Ticket (even an e-ticket) is So Old School.

Today you can simply go to an app on your cell phone and book a seat on a private jet or charter the entire jet for a flight, if you like. It’s all part of the digital explosion that links service providers with frequent fliers any time of day, any day of the year.

Before you go downloading the apps – these services are not for everyone, many require hefty membership fees and the price of flying on a private jet is usually much more than a first class airline ticket. The advantages, of course, are speed, privacy and convenience. Flying privately eliminates long security lines, airport traffic delays – even the possibility of lost or stolen luggage.

Private jets give you door-to-door service with access to thousands more airports across the world than commercial airlines fly to. All you have to do is find out which service offers the best deal for you and your needs.

So Who Are You Gonna Call?

The number of air  has ballooned in the past several years.  No two have the same pricing structure or membership costs.  Most do not own or operate aircraft, but provide access to those who do. Here are some of the most notable charter booking services, their websites and a comparison of their offerings:

JetSuite is a California-based private jet charter company, which does not require private membership, though you can request SuiteKey membership if you like with a pre-paid account. Their fleet consists of Embraer Phenom 100s and Cessna Citations. Unlike many Jet charter companies, they offer guaranteed online pricing to more than 2,000 airports. They also offer WiFi-enabled flights throughout North America. Jet Suite offers customized itineraries for those in their membership program as well as empty leg flights with special “next-day” deals. What’s an empty leg? It’s the transport leg the aircraft needs to fly to begin or end a charter flight. Rather than fly the jet empty, you  can hitch a ride, often for a fraction of the operating cost of the charter flight. Empty-leg deals are the most economical because you’re basically flying to a destination the jet charter has to bring the jet to anyway. JetSuite advertises seats starting at $99.

JetMe is the Priceline of charter jet online services. Their non-member app allows you to name your own price. Of course, they will provide suggested prices, too. Once you pick your price range, JetMe puts you in contact with the charter broker or operator to work out the final pricing with them. How likely are you to get the flight you want for the price you bid? That depends on how low the bid. The lower the big, the lower your chances of snagging a jet.

Fly anywhere, anytime, All is takes is an app, a membership fee and a healthy bank account.

Fly anywhere, anytime,
All it takes is an app, a membership fee and a
healthy bank account.

JetSmarter is a membership traveler service that allows users to book a private jet from a mobile app. JetSmarter claims to have access to the largest private jet marketplace in the world – 3,000 aircraft according to founder Sergey Petrossov. Your choice of aircraft ranges from King Air turboprops to Boeing 767s.

Membership is roughly $3,000 to join and around $9,000 per year. You can book a whole jet to take you just about anywhere. You can also select a service they call JetShuttle, which allows you to search for a flight that is already scheduled and may have spare seats available. The app becomes most economical when you book a seat on an empty leg.

Beacon was centered in the Northeast with a one-time $1,000 initiation fee and a $2,000 a month usage fee. Despite its white glove services, Beacon fell prey to regulatory and overhead costs it could not overcome. Beacon closed shop in April 2016. We mention it only to remind you that not all of these services succeed.  They are subject to regulations and to costs, which could cripple their chances of success.

BlackJet is a Florida-based service that is actually backed by original backers of Uber. The service requires a $5000 annual membership fee but it does allow you to purchase a seat rather than the entire plane. Of course, that seat could run you $6000 but that’s still cheaper than a whole plane. In the past several months, BlackJet has been grounded and restarted again. Much of this is due to financing problems. Whether it survives or goes the way of Beacon remains to be seen.

Blue Star Jets is a booking service that claims access to over 5,000 planes worldwide and operates in an Uber-fashion. They offer one-click reservations and a 24/7 customer service organization – they say they can book you anywhere across the globe in just 15 minutes.

imgresPrivateFly lets users see competitive quotes and aircraft, so they can comparison shop and the ability to choose both aircraft, as well as airports. PrivateFly claims to be a global booking service and the fastest growing private aviation company in Europe. The company claims they can get you in the air within one hour.

SkyJet is a New York based charter service that charges by the hour. About $3000 for a light jet, $4000 to $4500 for a mid-size jet and about $7000 for a large cabin jet. SkyJet does not offer long-term commitments and has been known to provide empty-leg seats.

Surf Air is a California based service that owns its own fleet of aircraft. You can purchase unlimited flights from $1950 a month – fly as much as you want but must make two reservations at a time.  Surf Air also provides Group Memberships for companies. Some days they launch as many 90 flights. Surf Air operates single-engine Pilatus PC-12 turboprops and is mostly a West Coast based operator.

Victor is booking service that is Uber-like, but worldwide. Use its one-touch mobile booking app, and as many as 7,000 jets are at your disposal. They claim they can get you airborne in a couple of hours. You also get real-time pricing and price comparisons to help you make an informed decision. Victor is based in London and allows you to book any size aircraft from a turboprop to a full-size Boeing or Airbus.

Wheels Up is a private aviation start-up that sells memberships and on-demand flights. It has two kinds of membership programs: Individual/Family and Corporate. Individual Family members pay an initiation fee of about $17,500 and fly at an hourly rate of about $4000 an hour.  Corporate membership starts at around $30,000. Wheels Up guarantees pricing and flies King Air 350 and Cessna Citation Excel aircraft.

Note: You should be aware that with some booking services, there may be addition fees that are not included in the price, such as airport fees or landing fees, which are separate from your negotiated price. Best to read the fine print before boarding.

The Last Word: Choose Your Options Wisely.

You can still choose to go direct to tried and true jet charter companies like NetJets and Avjet for your private aircraft needs. They tend to have programs that essentially make you a fractional owner in their fleet.  They, too, offer online and phone booking, but you are flying them exclusively. Their prices are usually fixed and you will be booking their aircraft, not just a seat.

In the end, it comes down to need, budget and availability. Choosing a mobile booking service may be right for you, becoming part of a jet charter service may serve your needs better. The truth is there are lots of options out there – more than we have covered here.  Some of them are global, some are regional. Do your homework and crunch your numbers and you can turn your cell phone into your own personal airline. Otherwise, do what the remaining 99% of us do, book a flight, drive to the airport and grit your teeth.