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New Horizons

The Expanding Role of Drones

Cargill’s Calvin Rieb sees a robust future for unmanned aircraft in business aviation.

Calvin Rieb didn’t set out to become a drone technology expert when he first entered the aviation sector and joined the U.S. Army, eventually piloting UH-60 helicopters and C-12 airplanes. But as his career progressed – including tours of duty in the Middle East and taking on additional roles of safety and logistics officer – so too did unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), which Rieb first saw deployed while in the military.

“In fact, my first experience with drones was trying to dodge them on the battlefield,” he jokes.

Today, Rieb leads the drone program at Cargill, where he’s responsible for organizational oversight, strategy, education, guidance and execution of the company’s deployment, adoption and management of drone technology.

“We essentially operate drones no differently than we operate our business aircraft, following those same mature principles in a tailored manner,” Rieb says.

“For example, our emergency response plan is co-located in one manual to address events for both our business aircraft and drone operations, and we participate as one joint safety committee assessing events, risks and hazards that touch all aspects of both operations.”

“I see drone technology complementing and adding an additional capability to the business aviation sector.”

Cargill is a leader in utilizing UAS, including operations as unique as flying drones inside salt mines. Company drone operators and equipment can ride aboard Cargill’s business aircraft to assist in assessments after natural disasters.

“I see new [drone] use cases and concepts pop up almost weekly,” Rieb says. “Drones have become excellent at gathering data from a multitude of sensor array options.”

He predicts drones will continue maturing beyond routine data collection to task performance such as: air medical supply transportation, firefighting, aerial agricultural spraying, aerial-washing applications and much more.

He also touts the improved safety environment for the workforce and financial savings of using drones.

Overall, “I see drone technology complementing and adding an additional capability to the business aviation sector,” says Rieb.

For flight departments wanting to learn more, Rieb recommends appointing an “innovation manager” as a department drone expert to follow new developments – similar to departments having a safety or compliance manager. For individuals, Rieb suggests attending remotely piloted aircraft forums and events, going to NBAA-BACE, getting a Part 107 certificate and acquiring a small drone.

CALVIN RIEB is Cargill’s global, remotely operated systems leader, a position he has held for nearly four years. He has served as Argus International vice president, helicopter & unmanned services. He is an Army veteran, serving as a helicopter and airplane pilot in the Army and National Guard. Rieb is a member of NBAA’s Emerging Technologies Committee and a former HAI Safety Committee member.

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