VirtualAirBoss Seeds a New Crop of Drone Maintenance Experts at Northland Community and Technical College in Minnesota

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SmartC2, distributor of VirtualAirBoss™ aviation operations software, announces an alliance with Northland Community and Technical College (Northland, or NCTC) in Thief River Falls, MN, to enhance the education of students enrolled in courses leading toward certification in UAS maintenance and repair, imagery analysis, and geospatial intelligence.

The visionary educators at Northland understand the enormous role that Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) can and will play in everyday life, especially in precision agriculture. Northland has already obtained an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) that enables them to fly UAS for various reasons, e.g., to capture and analyze aerial images for crop health evaluation, yield prediction, insect infestation, and soil conditions.

Northland received a Minnesota Department of Agriculture grant which focuses on the processing of digital imagery into usable products for precision agriculture. The project includes processes such as making ortho-mosaics (stitching together imagery to make a composite image) or analytics for comparing visual data to help make predictions or trends. These technical proficiencies are then driven back into the college programs. The Imagery Analysis and Geospatial Intelligence programs provide education on the process of handling, storing, and analyzing imagery captured by various sensors for a wide range of industries and application. All of this data can be managed and stored in their VirtualAirBoss.

“We are so pleased to be working with the VirtualAirBoss software for our UAS operations,” says Jon Beck, UAS Instructor and Program Manager. “We just started using it and already we see a lot of promise in how it automates so many UAS operational and accountability processes. The ability to auto-tabulate hours and flights ensures accuracy in tracking and accountability, and saves everyone a lot of time. It’s much more efficient than the pen and paper method we use now!”

The VirtualAirBoss integration with NASA’s UTM (unmanned traffic management) system makes it quick and easy for UAS flights to register and receive clearance for their planned flight path. In the VirtualAirBoss, “two clicks of the mouse and a geo-fence appears around the UAS flight path [on the aeronautical map] in this beta test,” says Jon Beck.

The Northland UAS department that educates UAS maintenance experts has separate tracks to maintain both small and large UAS, and over time they are planning to use the VirtualAirBoss for both of these courses. According to Zack Nicklin, UAS Instructor and pilot, “the VirtualAirBoss is so quick and easy to use. It used to take quite some time to complete our monthly COA reporting from paper notes. With VirtualAirBoss it takes maybe 5 to 10 minutes to tabulate the hours, flights and performance we need to send the FAA. And we can easily get other reports with any information we need on multiple aircraft, different industries like ag and forestry, sliced anyway we want it.”

Stuart Rudolph, inventor of the VirtualAirBoss and President of SmartC2 says, “We appreciate the Northland team’s expertise. Their quick adoption of the VirtualAirBoss technology for their multiple aircraft is proof that the VirtualAirBoss is easy to use, and easily customizable for most aviation operations.” He continues, “No one likes to do the paperwork that is required, and VirtualAirBoss automates reporting and makes it a natural part of the workflow.”