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Unmanned Aerial Systems – commonly known as drones – have quickly become an extremely valuable information gathering tool in environmental matters.  MGKF owns a drone, and we are pleased to offer in-house drone capabilities to our clients.  This exciting technology allows for timely collection of critical site data and near real-time imagery that, until just a few years ago, was either impossible to collect or prohibitively expensive for all but the largest projects.  These new capabilities allow us to provide our clients with a unique resource to address many common and emerging legal and technical challenges faced by a broad range of industries. 

Our FAA-certified pilot has experience operating our drone, which is fully insured and equipped with state-of-the-art obstacle avoidance and other safety systems.  Our team stays current on the rapidly evolving legal framework for commercial drone use and privacy laws at the federal, state, and local levels.  We have also implemented a rigorous internal pre-flight screening procedure to identify and mitigate operational risks and to evaluate the protection of sensitive information to the fullest possible extent.  If you would like to discuss MGKF’s in-house drone capabilities, please contact our in-house technical consultant and remote pilot Will Hitchcock at 484-430-2356, or attorney Tom Duncan at 484-430-2358.

Below is a compilation of some of MGKF’s recent drone footage: 

The Drone
Our DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is equipped with a 4k resolution camera and a variable 2x optical zoom lens which are capable of producing stunningly detailed videos, still images, and time-lapse photography.  The drone is capable of fully autonomous flight following pre-programmed flight paths and can track moving targets while automatically detecting and avoiding obstacles.  Dual-mode GPS, proximity sensors, and first person-view remote operation allow for precision flying and the collection of accurate site measurements and flight data.

Drone Uses

  • Site InspectionsFor our clients who own or operate complex industrial facilities or other large sites, detailed audits and site inspections are often necessary to understand the environmental aspects of the operation.  Our team of technical consultants routinely perform these inspections to assist our attorneys and clients in legal matters.  Use of the drone in these matters may enhance site inspections by expanding coverage and conserving resources, as well allowing remote observation of areas that may be unsafe or difficult to access due to heights, hazardous materials, steep slopes, heavy vegetation, fence lines, property boundaries, or other physical access restrictions. 

  • Property Evaluations Many of our clients are in the business of brownfields redevelopment, which involves purchasing historically-impacted properties and remediating them for new industrial, commercial, residential, or mixed uses.  MGKF frequently assists in the environmental due diligence phase of these transactions as well as the demolition, remediation, and construction phases of these projects, all of which may present critical-path environmental and legal challenges to our clients.  The drone allows for timely evaluation of the current layout and physical features of a property rather than relying on frequently outdated, low resolution satellite imagery.  The drone allows for monitoring of impacts and progress of demolition, remediation, and construction phases from a unique vantage point that provide a valuable supplement to the more typical ground level view.  The drone can be used to perform rapid inspections of pavement, roofing, drainage features, stormwater BMPs, and other property characteristics, while requiring less resources and less risk than traditional methods.  Third-party software solutions allow the imagery captured by the drone to be used to generate detailed 3D models and measurements of physical structures and property.  The drone can also be used to generate highly impactful photographs and videos that are valuable for agency interactions, property marketing, or communicating with the public.

  • Change Monitoring The unique vantage point provided by the drone allows the operator to document the evolution of a site, project, or natural feature over time, from precisely the same location or flight path if necessary.  Determining the time or duration of an event is frequently a critical element of environmental monitoring and assessment.  Changes in coastlines, river basins, wetlands, forests, conservation areas, mining operations, construction projects, and disposal areas are just a few examples of applications where the drone can provide rapid data collection at a fraction of the cost and risk associated with other aerial platforms.

  • Linear Projects Linear projects, such as pipeline construction and rail line maintenance, present unique challenges to environmental managers who must frequently visit difficult-to-access areas or rough terrain.  Often, vegetation may need to be cleared and heavy off-road vehicles utilized to inspect remote areas of a linear project.  The drone allows for a rapid assessment of physical features such as potential habitats, certain ecological receptors, wetlands, and other waterbodies, with a far lighter touch on the environment and at a significantly lower cost than other aerial platforms.