Lockheed Martin's Stalker UAS and ground control station (Photo: Precision)
Avionics recently spoke with representatives from Precision, a company that provides unmanned aircraft system (UAS) services to government agencies. Precision’s team has operated UAS for the Department of the Interior (DOI) since 2018, focusing primarily on “wildfire mapping, search and rescue, Hot Spot Detection, Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) in the Lower 48, Alaska and Hawaii,” shared Emma Ballantyne, Contracts & Programs, Precision.
An advantage of the services Precision performs is the ability to fly at night or when manned aircraft would not have enough visibility. For wildfire mapping, it is particularly important to monitor the fire consistently. Ballantyne explained, “Gathering data at night also maintains a good operational pace when our maps are ready for manned assets and decision makers first thing in the morning.”
In New Mexico and Arizona, Precision has supported both the DOI and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for the past month. The company has previously deployed overseas with the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and other Department of Defense agencies, providing a range of UAS for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance flights.
During Precision’s deployments in the Middle East in 2018 and 2019, they operated both the Lockheed Martin Stalker and the Aerovel Flexrotor with success, said Ballantyne. “Precision has had an excellent relationship with Lockheed Martin and Skunk Works” since 2014, she added, noting that they have frequently contracted Precision for conducting training and payload integrations in addition to other services.
In February, Precision provided flight operations support to Lockheed Martin for the Stalker VXE UAS in performing an endurance flight that set a world record for its weight category. The aircraft, which had been modified with an external wing-mounted fuel tank, flew for more than 39 hours. Precision joined other partners in supporting Lockheed Martin for this demonstration, including Edge Autonomy, Adaptive Energy, and Composite Technology Development Inc.
According to Ballantyne, this achievement “pushed the boundaries of endurance for the Stalker further than we previously thought possible, especially for a VTOL configuration of that size.” She noted that these kinds of successes are beneficial for the industry as a whole.
Pictured is Precision's hangar. The company's fleet performs services such as wildfire mapping and surveillance missions. (Photo: Precision)
Precision’s unmanned fleet includes, in addition to the Stalker and the Aerovel Flexrotor, SpektreWorks’ Cobalt-CR and Cobalt 110-G VTOL (vertical take-off and landing), as well as the Precision Divergent and Precision UAS-X.
Precision has the ability to deploy internationally within 48 hours’ notice, shared Ballantyne. Operating as a small business enables them to provide quick reaction services. 95% of the company’s UAS operators have a military background, she stated, so they “understand the mission sets from firsthand experience, [are] highly skilled and require low oversight, have advanced situational awareness and experience in signature reduction, proactively anticipate mission needs, and are prepared to react to a multitude of situations at any given time.”
Matt Parker, Precision’s president, is a participant in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Advanced Aviation Advisory Committee, previously known as the Drone Advisory Committee. Parker was first appointed to the FAA’s committee in January 2021 to advise the agency on strategies for integrating UAS into the national airspace. He remarked in a statement to Avionics that he is “encouraged by the regulatory environment that is currently in place allowing companies to certify their aircraft and certify their operations with Part 135.” The current regulations bring standards for maintenance and operation of unmanned aircraft in line with the standards in place for manned aviation, he explained.
Parker added that the regulatory onus is on manufacturers “to build aircraft that are certified to be added to a company’s Part 135 certificate for operational use.”