Call Us Today: 608-260-7468


12 Feb
Drones Terminology Technology
Drones 101: Terminology & Technology

This is the first article in Kestrel’s Drones 101 series.

Industries like transportation, manufacturing, utilities, mining, construction, oil and gas, and agriculture are crucial to our country’s infrastructure, particularly in a rapidly changing global market. Yet these industrial sectors continually face the challenges of an aging workforce and high-risk job tasks, including exposure to moving freight cars, high-voltage transmission lines, and hazmat materials and risks of slips, trips, falls, maiming and premature death.

Emerging Technology

Fortunately, drones are an emerging technology that offers a solution both to the shrinking workforce and as an additional mitigation tactic for various operational safety needs of heavy industries.

What was once a very niche market, drones are emerging into an important new phase: everyday use of drone technology in the workplace. It’s no longer just tech-savvy companies that are using drones. Enterprise-level Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) operations are becoming a big deal in industry. Organizations ranging from municipalities and agriculture companies to the Fortune 500s are getting involved in drone operations.

In another three to five years, it will potentially make business sense for nearly every major industrial company to incorporate UAS technologies into their operations for two reasons:

  1. Drones are effective at both mitigating risks and increasing operational efficiency.
  2. Drones are a tool that can bolster workforce recruitment and retention efforts.

Terminology & Technology

As drones become more popular and the industry continues to grow, newer and more varied versions of them are hitting the market, making it difficult to keep up with the technology and the related terminology.

If you’ve observed or read anything about drones, you may have noticed a few acronyms thrown around, and that can be a little confusing. Some of the most common terminology includes the following:

  • Drone is used to define just about any type of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The term refers to many different types of an unmanned aircraft of various sizes, which are used for multiple functions, ranging from armed forces aircraft to hobbyists taking amateur digital photography.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) refers to the platform, airframe, or body of the craft you are flying. The term can be used interchangeably with drone.
  • Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) includes the vehicle or aircraft, the controller, and the link(s) that connect them. A small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) is a UAS weighing less than 55 pounds at takeoff and landing.

It is best practice to use UAS in formal documents like policies and procedures. If you have a diverse approach that includes both light and heavy drones, then specifying whether a document pertains to sUAS or UAS operations would be optimal, as the regulations vary based on weight, and your operational policies and procedures would need to reflect this.

Types of UAS

While there are variety of drone technologies on the market, the three main types of UAS available in the commercial space are the following:

  1. Multi-rotor UAS is the most popular drone type for both commercial use and for hobbyists. This type of drone is typically less difficult to operate. They offer vertical take-off and landing and the ability to hover, both of which can result in highly detailed data points and targeted insights. Quad-, hexa-, and octo-copters are all available (i.e., 4, 6 or 8 rotors). There are a number of typical use cases of multi-rotor drones, including industrial inspections, aerial mapping, site planning and monitoring, cause finding, resource management, crop spraying and many more.
  1. Fixed-wing UAS function more like an airplane than their multi-rotor counterpart. These drones often resemble small airplanes or mechanical stingrays. They consist of two fixed wings on either side of the craft. This design provides for more efficient aerodynamics and longer flight times (~45-60 min per flight). Fixed-wing have high aerial coverage (up to 2,400 acres per flight) but offer less detailed imagery, are typically unable to hover, and are more suited for covering large areas of land, resulting in large data sets with less detail than you would collect using a multi-rotor or a hybrid UAS. These drones require a suitable runway area for takeoff and landings and are usually able to carry heavier payloads than other types of UAS. Typical uses include beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, photogrammetry and 3D mapping, crop inspections, and other tasks that require significant area coverage.
  1. Hybrid UAS are gaining popularity, as these platforms offer the benefits of a vertical takeoff and landing and the ability to fly quickly in a forward motion to cover larger areas of land, while still having the ability to hover. Hovering allows for close-up inspections and produces more detailed information than a quick fly by. Hybrids range in their load carrying capability. Hybrids can be used in many of the same ways as fixed wings and multi-rotors but are most excitingly known for their use in delivery services and unmanned air taxi applications.


In addition to the drone itself, there are many types of payloads, which is a generic term for the cameras, sensors, or other equipment that can be attached to and carried by drones:

  • Specialized cameras are the most often used payloads for drones.
  • Various cameras offer the ability to gather higher resolution images with greater detail.
  • LiDAR units can be attached to gather data points from any work site, which can then be translated into 3D-modeling efforts to aid in volumetric applications.
  • Thermal/infrared cameras provide heat sensing capability.
  • Gas detection cameras detect fugitive gas leaks at pipelines and tanks.
  • Multispectral and hyperspectral sensors are electromagnetic energy sensors that offer insight into details on resources that would otherwise be invisible to the human eye.
  • Environmental sensors (e.g., chemical sensors) can measure chemical compositions and traces of particular chemical substances, including radioactive particles and particulate matter.

Undoubtedly, the types of drones and the payloads will continue to expand as the market and applicability of drones continues to grow.

Learn more about Kestrel’s UAS Program Management services. Stay tuned for the rest of our Drones 101 series, featuring:

  • Terminology & Technology
  • Applicability
  • Regulations
  • Drone Program Management
  • Top 6 Tips for Managing Your Drone Program
28 Jan
OSHA Recordkeeping
OSHA Final Rule: Electronic Recordkeeping

On January 24, 2019, OSHA published the final rule revising the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses regulation. This rule rescinds the requirements for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically file information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301. These establishments will continue to submit information from their Form 300A.  In short, all covered employers must electronically submit, as follows:

  • Establishments with 250 or more employees that are subject to OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation must electronically submit to OSHA some of the information from the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300), the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A), and the Injury and Illness Incident Report (OSHA Form 301).
  • Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries must electronically submit to OSHA some of the information from the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A).
  • Establishments with fewer than 20 employees at all times during the year do not have to routinely submit information electronically to OSHA.

In the final rule, OSHA emphasized the new rule does not change any employer’s obligation to complete and retain injury and illness records under OSHA’s regulations for recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses.

Additionally, OSHA is amending the regulation to require employers to submit their Employer Identification Number (EIN) electronically as part of their submission to enhance data and further improve worker safety and health.

Post Your OSHA 300A by February 1

Do not forget! The OSHA Form 300A log must be posted every year by February 1, summarizing all injuries from the previous year. The log must be visible from February 1 until April 30, and must be signed by a company executive or authorized representative, indicating that the information is true and accurate.


28 Jan
compliance cartoon
How to Effectively Resource Compliance Obligations

Regulatory enforcement, customer and supply chain audits, and internal risk management initiatives are all driving requirements for managing regulatory compliance obligations. Many companies—especially those that are not large enough for a dedicated team of full-time staff—struggle with how to effectively resource their regulatory compliance needs.

Striking a Balance

Using a combination of in-house and outsourced resources can provide the appropriate balance to manage regulatory obligations and maintain compliance.

Outsourcing provides an entire team of resources with a breadth of knowledge/experience and the capacity to complete specific projects, as needed. At the same time, engaging in-house resources allows the organization to optimize staff duties and ensure that critical know-how is being developed internally to sustain compliance into the future.

Programmatic Approach to Compliance Management

Taking a balanced and programmatic approach that relies on internal and external resources and follows the three phases outlined below allows small to mid-size companies to create standardized compliance management solutions and more efficiently:

  • Identify issues and gaps in regulatory compliance
  • Achieve compliance with current obligations
  • Realize improvements to compliance management
  • Gain the ability to review and continually improve compliance performance

Phase 1: Compliance Assessment

A compliance assessment provides the baseline to improve compliance management and performance in accordance with current business operations and future plans. The assessment should answer the following questions:

  • How complete and robust is the existing compliance management program in comparison with standard industry practice?
  • Does it have the capability to yield consistent and reliable regulatory compliance assurance?
  • What improvements are needed to consistently and reliably achieve compliance and company objectives?

It is important to understand how complete, well-documented, understood, and implemented the current processes and procedures are. Culture, model, processes, and capacity should all be assessed to determine the company’s overall compliance process maturity.

Phase 2: Compliance and Program Improvements

The initial analysis of the assessment forms the basis for developing recommendations and priorities for an action plan to strengthen programs, building on what already exists. The goal of Phase 2 is to begin closing the compliance gaps identified in Phase 1 by implementing corrective actions, including programs, permits, reports, training, etc.

Phase 2 answers the following questions:

  • What needs to be done to address gaps and attain compliance?
  • What improvements are required to existing programs?
  • What resources are required to sustain compliance?

Phase 3: Ongoing Program Management

The goal of Phase 3 is to improve program processes to eliminate compliance gaps and transition the company from outsourced compliance into compliance process improvement/program development and implementation. This is done by managing the eight functions of compliance—identifying what’s needed, who does it, and when it is due. Ongoing maintenance support may include periodic audits, training, management review assistance, Information Systems (IS) support, and other ongoing compliance activities.

Case Study

For one Kestrel client, business growth has increased at a rate prompting proactive management of the company’s regulatory and compliance obligations. Following a Right-Sized Compliance approach, Kestrel assessed the company’s current compliance status and programs/processes/procedures against regulatory requirements. This initial assessment provided the critical information needed for the Kestrel team to help guide the company’s ongoing compliance improvements.

Coming out of the onsite assessment, Kestrel identified opportunities for improvement. Using industry standard program templates, in combination with operation-specific customization, Kestrel created programs to meet the identified improvement from the assessment. Kestrel then provided onsite training sessions and is working with the company to develop a prioritized action plan for ongoing compliance management.

Using the appropriate methods, processes, and technology tools, Kestrel’s programmatic approach is allowing this company to implement EHS programs that are designed to sustain ongoing compliance, achieve continual improvements, and manage compliance with efficiency through this time of accelerated growth.

Making the Connection

Kestrel’s experience suggests that the connection between management and compliance needs to be well synchronized, with reliable and effective regulatory compliance commonly being an outcome of consistent and reliable program implementation. This connection is especially important to avoid recurring compliance issues.

Following a programmatic approach allows companies to realize improvements to their compliance management and:

  • Organize requirements into documented programs that outline procedures, roles/responsibilities, training requirements, etc.
  • Support management efforts with technology tools that create efficiencies and improved data management
  • Conduct the ongoing monitoring and management that are vital to remain in compliance
  • Gain the inherent capacity, capability, and maturity to comply, review, and continually improve compliance performance


25 Jan
Compliance Assurance
Compliance Assurance Review

An audit provides a snapshot in time of a company’s compliance status. An essential component of any compliance program—health and safety, environmental, food safety—an audit captures compliance status and provides the opportunity to identify and correct potential business losses. But what about sustaining ongoing compliance beyond that one point in time? How does a company know if it has the processes in place to ensure ongoing compliance?

Creating a Path to Compliance AssuranceBusiness Process Improvement

A compliance assurance review looks beyond the “point-in-time” compliance to critically evaluate how the company manages compliance programs, processes, and activities, with compliance assurance as the ultimate goal. It can also be used as a process improvement tool, while ensuring compliance with all requirements applicable to the company.

This type of review is ideal for companies that already have a management system in place or strive to approach compliance with health and safety, environmental, or food safety requirements under a management system framework.

Setting the Scope

The scope of the review is tailored to a company’s needs. It can be approached by:

  • Compliance program/topic where the company has had routine compliance failures
  • Compliance program/topic that presents a high risk to the company
  • Compliance program/topic that spans across multiple facilities that report to a central function
  • Location/product line/project where the company is looking to streamline a process while still ensuring compliance with multiple legal and other requirements

While each program, project, or location may differ in breadth of regulatory requirements, enforcement priorities, size, complexity, operational control responsibilities, etc., all compliance assurance reviews progress through a standard process that ties back to the management system.

Continual Compliance Improvements

Through a compliance assurance review, the company will define and understand:

  • Compliance requirements and where regulated activities occur throughout the organization
  • Current company programs and processes used to manage those activities and the associated level of program/process maturity
  • Deficiencies in compliance program management and opportunities for improvement
  • How to feed review recommendations back into elements of the management system to create a roadmap for sustaining and continually improving compliance
15 Jan
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
OSHA: Using Drones for Inspections

What was once a very niche market, drones are emerging into an important new phase: everyday use of drone technology in the workplace. It’s no longer just tech-savvy companies that are using drones. Enterprise-level drone operations are becoming a big deal—and not just in industry. During 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reportedly used drones to conduct at least nine inspections of employer facilities.

OSHA’s drones were most frequently used following accidents at worksites that were considered too dangerous for OSHA inspectors to enter—a common and important benefit of the drone technology. However, is likely that OSHA’s use of drones will quickly expand to include more routine facility reviews, as drones have the ability to provide OSHA inspectors a detailed view of a facility, expanding the areas that can be easily viewed and reducing the time required to conduct an inspection on the ground.

Employers must currently grant OSHA permission to conduct facility inspections with drones, and there are many implications industry must consider in giving this permission. Read the full article in EHS Today to learn more.

07 Jan
drone oil & gas inspection
How to Succeed with & Scale a Drone Program

Talk about starting an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) (a/k/a “drone”) program is happening at companies of all sizes, but establishing the right foundations to ensure these kinds of programs don’t fail is far less pervasive. At DJI AirWorks 2018, Kestrel Consultant, Industrial UAS Programs, Rachel Mulholland’s presentation, “Bringing Your Drone Program to Scale: Lessons Learned from Going Big” laid out what it means to achieve success and avoid failure with the technology.

Commercial UAV News recently caught up with Rachel to further discuss her presentation, which focused on UAS applications for infrastructure, explored why UAS programs fail, and detailed the foundations of a successful drone program. In the published interview, she details some of her lessons learned from out in the field, what it means to deal with positive and negative assumptions people have about the technology, why it is so important to have a UAS Program Operations Manual, and much more.

Read the full interview in Commercial UAV News, and learn more about Kestrel’s UAS Program Management services.

20 Nov
MWFPA Annual Meeting Drone Presentation
Talk Drones with Kestrel at the MWFPA Convention

The Midwest Food Products Association’s Annual Convention brings together leaders in the food processing industry to discuss trends, view new technologies, share expertise, and network with professionals in different companies and disciplines.

MWFPA Annual Convention
November 27-29, 2018
Kalahari Resort | Wisconsin Dells, WI

Kestrel Presentation: Bringing Your Drone Program to Scale
Wednesday, November 28 at 9:30 a.m.
Jack Anderson, Kestrel Management Chief Engineer

This year, Kestrel Management will be talking about the growing applicability of drones and best practices from our experience managing industrial-scale drone programs. Kestrel’s presentation will discuss how unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technology (a/k/a drones) can be applied across various industries. We will cover some of the risks and opportunities associated with building an industrial drone program and share lessons learned from our experiences. We’ll address common questions, including the following:

  • What does it take to build an industrial drone program?
  • How can UAS technology fit into your current business model?
  • What challenges can occur when you introduce drones to your business operations?
  • How do you ensure you operate in compliance with FAA regulations?

Join us at the MWFPA Annual Convention and get the information and resources you need to meet the ongoing challenges of customer demands.

15 Nov
5 key questions predictive analytics
5 Questions to Implement Predictive Analytics

How much data does your company generate associated with your business operations? What do you do with that data? Are you using it to inform your business decisions and, potentially, to avoid future risks?

Predictive Analytics and Safety

Predictive analytics is a field that focuses on analyzing large data sets to identify patterns and predict outcomes to help guide decision-making. Many leading companies currently use predictive analytics to identify marketing and sales opportunities. However, the potential benefits of analyzing data in other areas—particularly safety—are considerable.

For example, safety and incident data can be used to predict when and where incidents are likely to occur. Appropriate data analysis strategies can also identify the key factors that contribute to incident risk, thereby allowing companies to proactively address those factors to avoid future incidents.

Key Questions

Many companies already have large amounts of data they are gathering. The key is figuring out how to use that data intelligently to guide future business decision-making. Here are five key questions to guide you in integrating predictive analytics into your operations.

  1. What are you interested in predicting? What risks are you trying to mitigate?

Defining your desired result not only helps to focus the project, it narrows brainstorming of risk factors and data sources. This can—and should—be continually referenced throughout the project to ensure your work is designed appropriately to meet the defined objectives.

  1. How do you plan to use the predictions to improve operations? What is your goal of implementing a predictive analytics project?

Thinking beyond the project to overall operational improvements provides bigger picture insights into the business outcomes desired. This helps when identifying the format results should be in to maximize their utility in the field and/or for management. In addition, it helps to ensure that the work focuses on those variables that can be controlled to improve operations. Static variables that can’t be changed mean risks cannot be mitigated.

  1. Do you currently collect any data related to this?

Understanding your current data will help determine whether additional data collection efforts are needed. You should be able to describe the characteristics of data you have, if any, for the outcome you want to predict (e.g., digital vs. paper/scanned, quantitative vs. qualitative, accuracy, gathered regularly, precision). The benefits and limitations associated with each of these characteristics will be discussed in a future article.

  1. What are some risk factors for the desired outcome? What are some things that may increase or decrease the likelihood that your outcome will happen?

These factors are the variables you will use for prediction in the model. It is valuable to brainstorm with all relevant subject matter experts (i.e., management, operations, engineering, third-parties, as appropriate) to get a complete picture. After brainstorming, narrow risk factors based on availability/quality of data, whether the risk factor can be managed/controlled, and a subjective evaluation of risk factor strength. The modeling process will ultimately suggest which of the risk factors significantly contribute to the outcome.

  1. What data do you have, if any, for the risk factors you identified?

Again, you need to understand and be able to describe your current data to determine whether it is sufficient to meet your desired outcomes. Using data that have already been gathered can expedite the modeling process, but only if those data are appropriate in format and content to the process you want to predict. If they aren’t appropriate, using these data in modeling can result in time delays or misleading model results.

The versatility of predictive analytics can be applied to help companies analyze a wide variety of problems when the data and desired project outcomes and business/operational improvements are well-defined. With predictive analytics, companies gain the capacity to:

  • Explore and investigate past performance
  • Gain the insights needed to turn vast amounts of data into relevant and actionable information
  • Create statistically valid models to facilitate data-driven decisions


18 Oct
drug testing
OSHA Clarifies Position on Incentive Programs

OSHA has issued a memorandum to clarify the agency’s position regarding workplace incentive programs and drug testing. OSHA’s rule prohibiting employer retaliation against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses does not prohibit workplace safety incentive programs or post-incident drug testing. The Department believes that these safety incentive programs and/or post-incident drug testing is done to promote workplace safety and health. Action taken under a safety incentive program or post-incident drug testing policy would violate OSHA’s anti-retaliation rule if the employer took the action to penalize an employee for reporting a work-related injury or illness rather than for the legitimate purpose of promoting workplace safety and health. For more information, see the memorandum

10 Oct
AirWorks 2018
Kestrel to Present at AirWorks 2018

The AirWorks 2018 Conference is focused on the growing commercial drone industry and how developers, partners, and operators can work to reshape the global economy with drones. This year, Kestrel Management will be teaming with Union Pacific Railroad to talk about our experience and lessons learned from managing industrial-scale drone programs.

AirWorks 2018
October 30 – November 1, 2018
Dallas, Texas
register now

Kestrel Presentation: Bringing Your Drone Program to Scale: Lessons Learned from Going Big

Thursday, November 1 at 11:00 a.m.
Rachel Mulholland, Kestrel Management Consultant, Industrial UAS Programs
Edward Adelman, Union Pacific Railroad, General Director of Safety

This presentation will discuss the risks and opportunities associated with building an industrial drone program and share some of the lessons learned from our experience. We’ll discuss common questions, including the following:

  • What does it take to build an industrial drone program?
  • How can UAS technology fit into your current business model?
  • What challenges can occur with fleets of certified remote pilots and unmanned vehicles?
  • How do you ensure you operate in compliance with FAA regulations?
  • What are some common pitfalls to avoid and best practices to incorporate into your program?

Why You Should Attend

If you currently have a drone program or are looking to implement one, this event is for you!

  • Attend sessions focused on the industry track most relevant to your business: construction, energy, agriculture, public safety, infrastructure
  • Network with companies that are on the forefront of enterprise drone adoption
  • Get a preview of the latest drone technologies
  • Receive hands-on training from experienced industry leaders and instructors

register now