Monitoring Ship Emissions at the Port of Los Angeles

It was a beautiful day at the Port of Los Angeles today – clear, warm and a light breeze. We were there to support the Danish company,, demonstrate their emission monitoring system for dignitaries in politics and environmental monitoring. Their system mounts on a DJI M600 drone and when flown in the plume of a ship’s smokestack can monitor emissions.  (Think of it as a smog check for large ships — but without ever having to board the ship!)

Getting the permit to fly at the Port of Los Angeles took many long hours of applications and insurance paperwork, but in the end we are now qualified to fly missions at the Port of Los Angeles. Now that we’re qualified, we just need to submit a request and pay for the Port Police escort!

Currently ship emissions are mostly unmonitored — meaning that the emissions laws for the United States and State of California are not enforced. This solution can change that in a very non-invasive way!


The sensor mounted on the M600 drone — you can see the small white tube protruding from one of the arms if you look closely.  The drone is lined-up with the plume from CSUMA Golden Bear ship.


The California State University Maritime Academy (CSUMA) Golden Bear ship was the host for the demonstration and a terrific lunch reception.


Guests of and ADEPT get briefed on the technology and watch the demonstration from our 65inch TV monitor inside the command center van.

Drone ‘Over-Watch’ at the 1st Annual Beachlife Festival

It was a great weekend… we arrived back from the AUVSI XPONENTIAL Conference in cool Chicago to 75-80 degree sunny weather in Redondo Beach.

Via Flying Lion’s contract with Redondo Beach Police Department, we provided aerial ‘over-watch’ for the first annual Beachlife Festival. Supporting the Redondo Beach Police, Fire and Public Works department — the Flying Lion team had at least one drone in the air for all 27 hours of the festival. Drones remained over the perimeter of the Festival to avoid flights over people.  This helped monitor medical emergencies, traffic and police activities.

In addition to over-watch support, we had a technology team that was able to detect and monitor non-sanctioned drones in the area. This allowed the Police to contact pilots to have them avoid the Festival area to ensure a fully safe environment for Festival attendees.

Here’s a photo of the command post:

Flying Lion drone and Police Command Centers support the Beachlife Festival.


Photo from within the 1st Annual Beachlife Festival in Redondo Beach.

My Business Partner and friend Barry Brennan (Flying Lion) won the 2019 AUVSI XCELLENCE AWARD!

This year’s AUVSI XPONENTIAL conference was terrific. Besides visiting with some amazing vendors and seeing new/old friends, the big news is that my business partner and friend Barry Brennan of Flying Lion just won the 2019 AUVSI XCELLENCE AWARD for Training and Education!

And yes, I can take a little credit since I nominated him… but he really deserved it for creating a very unique community college program which includes Part 107 test prep, flight training and 120 hours of externship “on the job” training.

auvsixcellence auvsixpo


Barry Brennan received 2019 AUVSI XCELLENCE AWARD from AUVSI President & CEO Brian Wayne


Fellow Flying Lion instructor Yvonne Watkins and I pose with award winner Barry Brennan (Founder of Flying Lion.)


We arrived in Chicago (L. to R) – Barry Brennan (Founder of Flying Lion), Yvonne Watkins (Instructor, Flying Lion), and Steven Katz (Instructor, Flying Lion)



Great (but Hot) Day Capturing Images to Map 1,200 Acres for Cut/Fill Analysis!

Terrific job Adrian in piloting today! He took the lead as the remote pilot in command on a large 1,200 acre image capture. It was close to 90+ degrees today (and when you are on a pile of dirt with no vegetation it felt even hotter!)  Our client will be using the data to do a cut/fill analysis of this very large site.

The capture was successful but there were two casualties — Our iPad overheated and the screen broke and the adhesive on Adrian’s shoes failed and started flapping around. So what do you do when this happens??? You just pull the soles off the shoes and keep working!!!

Great job in this hot and difficult location.


Steven and Adrian after a successful 1200 acre mapping capture!


In the middle of the job, the adhesive on Adrian’s shoes failed from the heat outside and on the dirt… so what do you do???  You just pull them off and keep working!


Adrian at the top of the hill while mapping 1200 acres.

Beverly Hills – Construction: Documenting Rebar Before Concrete Pour

It was a cool and windy afternoon today in Beverly Hills documenting the construction of a high-end “private residence” property. It made flying a little more technical — with the takeoff zone on the ground level (supported by JJ) and a Visual Observer/Pilot positioned at the top of the new 11th floor. (See picture of how our operating areas were setup.)

Why the urgency in flying today??? Because we were helping to document the rebar and other utilities which will be buried when the concrete is poured tomorrow.

To ensure a safe flight, we had a “Split Operating Area.” — this helped maintain visual line-of-sight and ensured we avoided the crane in the middle of the property.

The crane operator shared that his equipment recorded wind gusts of 26mph. Our Phantom 4 Pro v2 handled the wind beautifully and resulted in a terrific capture.

This 360 degree panorama which captured both the progress of the project and the beautiful/clear day. In the distance you can see the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, Downtown LA, and even snow on the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.

#IloveLA #dronemapping #constructionprogress


Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Count Cars

We’ve been experimenting with a new car counting Artificial Intelligence (AI) feature one of our software partners has in beta testing — and it is really impressive! Check out the video link below to see the feature in action.

We’re also working with another partner who has a system which can be trained to recognize almost any object… and automatically count the objects. Here are some applications we’ve thought might benefit from this technology…
– Counting people in a crowd (without flying over the crowd)
– Counting animals
– Counting of autos, buses, cars, or train cars
– Traffic surveys counting moving cars in video or real-time
– And, by adding additional technology, reading trailer ID numbers on the top of trucks or trailers

Do you have a crazy idea??? If so, please send us a note.

Here’s a video of artificial intelligence counting in action:



Here’s a screenshot from the video if you don’t want to watch the 2 minute video:

Beautiful (and Successful) Day in Playa Vista – Flying in LAX “Zero Grid”

The Sky Ladder Drones team was treated to a beautiful day in Playa Vista today. You could see from the Pacific to Getty Center to Hollywood Sign/Observatory to Snow Capped Mountains. We had 3 teams flying at one point… on two different jobs. It was great having some new people (welcome to Miguel and Edgar) who came out to start learning about commercial drone operations and mapping. And Jordan and JJ were our videography team for the day. And special thanks to my partner, Barry Brennan from Flying Lion who helped keep everything organized and provided us with the very comfortable command post van.


Barry, Edgar, Miguel and Steven pose between flights.

Steven, Barry, Jordan and JJ take a “drone-selfie” with the Ballona Freshwater Marsh in the background.



Playa Vista Mapping – Approval from LAX Received to Fly in Restricted “Zero Grid” Airspace

We just got approval to fly in LAX restricted airspace (aka “Zero Grid”) to support a mapping project of Ballona Marsh and Teale Creek in Playa Vista. Planned for this Friday.


Great Press!!! Sky Ladder Drones included in Santa Monica College Article

Through our close partnership with Flying Lion, Inc. who provides training programs at community colleges and law enforcement agencies – Sky Ladder Drones was included in an article by Santa Monica College Extension. They published the article in their Spring 2019 Class Catalog (page 5) about our Point Dume Club Mapping project and how two extern students (Adrian and JJ) participated in this operation.

The partnership with Flying Lion benefits both organizations — Flying Lion provides professional, well training  students who need externship hours… and Sky Ladder Drones is able to provide “real world” commercial operations where they can take their theoretical education and turn it into practical skills.

Here is a link to Santa Monica College’s article. Flying Lion’s Commercial Drone Pilot Training courses have been taught at four different Southern California community colleges.

Spring 2019 – Santa Monica College Class Catalog (see page 5)


Article on Santa Monica College Externship Students  (see page 5)


Irvine, CA: Onsite Testing of the New DJI Phantom 4-RTK Drone & Propeller AeroPoints

We were onsite in Irvine to test out the new DJI Phantom 4-RTK drone and RTK base station. This was truly a collaboration: Site access from the customer, drone borrowed from one partner, Propeller Aeropoints from another partner and services from our team at Sky Ladder Drones. Also, the site already has fixed ground control points (GCPs.)

We flew multiple test flights — including having the DJI base station RTK on and RTK off. Also, we flew both our DJI Phantom 4 Pro and Phantom 4 Pro v2 drones.

Also, thanks to our friends at Propeller — they are processing one flight with their new PPK Processing. If we can get results with similar accuracy as using the bulky and cumbersome DJI RTK base station with only a single Propeller Aeropoint, it could significantly streamline our client’s capture workflow. Also the GCPs are difficult to maintain on a active work site — so eliminating (or minimizing) the GCPs would also save a lot of time and money. The customer is doing cut/fill analysis on the site to measure the amount of dirt movement completed, and what is still required. So accuracy is critically important.

We’ll keep you informed as the results come in…


Setup with the Phantom 4-RTK & DJI D-RTK 2 Mobile Station (aka “Base Station”)

Close-up of DJI D-RTK 2 Mobile Station in field

Propeller AeroPoint placed over a known point (for testing of Propeller’s new PPK Processing) – 10 AeroPoints were placed strategically for GCP/checkpoints.

Level on the DJI D-RTK 2 Mobile Station (I thought it would be a cool photo to share)