Learn the value of using a drone and doing it legally Harry Siemens with Matthew Johnson, M3 Aerial Productions

By Harry Siemens – M3 Aerial Productions uses Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to provide various aerial services and UAV Pilot Ground School Courses from Vancouver, Edmonton, and Winnipeg, all the way to Halifax, and everywhere in between!  

Matthew Johnson, president, and owner of M3 Aerial said they currently hold active Transport Canada SFOC’s (Special Flight Operations Certificates) for drone operations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, all three Territories, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada.

Johnson started off focusing on services, mostly for agricultural imaging such as crop health and elevation.

“In 2016, in November, we launched our UAV ground school course and 162 pilots have come through our program since February of 2017, ” he said. “Transport Canada requires that anybody who’s will use a drone for any work or research whether flying your crops, or crop scouting, or if you’re doing some crop health analysis using the near infrared and NDVI algorithm, anything like that, it requires UAV ground school training.”

Johnson’s course is two full days, 16 hours in person with an online component, a path that will walk the course participant through the process from A to Z of everything needed to know; everything that Transport Canada says a drone pilot needs to know. Also, the experience that Johnson has gathered over the years to help the participant avoid the hard knocks and fast-track the operation to collect, process, analyze, and deal with the data overall.

“Whereas a lot of other training options focus 100 per cent on what Transport Canada says you need to know, and just leave the rest up to you, where we feel that the data collection is really what people want to know, and so we tell you what you need to know, and what you want to know,” he said. “Within the last couple of years, drones are becoming more mainstream. Farmers and agronomists are incorporating them into their operations, but there are a lot of drones that are sitting collecting dust on people’s shelves because the data collection part of using drones is the most important piece of getting the value out of them. If you’re just going up to take a couple of pictures here and there, yeah, there’s value in that.”

Johnson said there is a tremendous amount of value for a farmer in getting an aerial perspective on his crops.

“Collecting data, mapping, analyzing, and making some management decisions about what sort of products you’re going to apply, how much, and when, these decisions can manifest in real savings that you can create yourself by just getting the experience and using the equipment to its full potential,” he said.

When asked to explain which category are farmers getting into, there’s a mixture. Some guys have tried using drones, and one of the significant bottlenecks in rural areas of using drones is the data ends up being too much to process.

“A lot of data processing companies rely on internet upload speeds to get the data up to a website, so that the website can process it for you, to get the end product,” he said. “However,  to do that, you need to have a good upload speed, and that just doesn’t exist in a lot of rural communities, and then the other option is processing it on your computer, which is also very resource intensive. I think a lot of people have run into that problem, and give up thinking that there’s no solution.”

To help tackle this problem M3 Aerial created a spin-off company called Snail Mail Data for farmers and agronomists in rural communities who are collecting data and can’t process it. They can put it in the mail in specialized envelopes he sends them and return for processing and upload it for accessing online.

To help farmers and serious drone users to take the course, Johnson adds value by showing the benefit of how to collect, handle, process the data, and how to make the drone work for each course participant. It’s a tremendous tool, and it’s not a toy. People often see them as toys, but they can provide a huge amount of value.