MGA Grad Helps Company Get Approval to Fly UAVs

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Monday, April 6, 2015 5:40 PM
Categories: Pressroom | School of Aviation

Macon, GA

A recent Middle Georgia State graduate was instrumental in getting the Federal Aviation Administration to grant its first authorization to a private company in Georgia - Vision Services Group (VSG) - to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for commercial purposes.

Michael Mendez graduated from Middle Georgia State in 2014 with a bachelor of science in business administration in the logistics management track, focusing on aviation. Michael also earned an FAA pilot and instrument pilot certificate for rotorcraft at Middle Georgia State. While a student, he interned with the School of Aviation's Institute for Applied Aerospace Research as an assistant to Rick Krontz, the institute's director, and Chad Dennis, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) program director. One of Mendez's duties as an intern was to obtain FAA approval for the UAS research flights operations.

After graduation, when he went to work full time for VSG, he used that experience to apply for what's called an FAA Section 333 exemption on behalf of the company so it could use unmanned aerial systems to collect data for agricultural and forestry related businesses.

"Generally the FAA has given authorization to higher education institutions and other public agencies for research purposes," Dennis said. "Now it's beginning to grant these Section 333 exemptions to allow businesses to fly UAVs for commercial purposes. The exemption awarded to Vision Services Group is the first awarded to a Georgia company. It's an impressive accomplishment for Michael and reflects well the experience he gained at Middle Georgia State."

Dennis said the FAA has granted a little more than 60 exemptions so far. Among the prominent national companies to receive exemptions are Amazon and State Farm.

Mendez, 29, said many companies spend as much as $20,000 for a legal writing professional to help petition for an exemption, so he's proud he was able to use his experience to help his employer. "I feel great about it," he said.

According to its Linked In profile, VSG was formed in 2013 in Atlanta after recognizing the enormous demand for a professional, experienced company to provide aerial imaging solutions across multiple industries, including agriculture, forestry, surveying and research.

Mendez is a UAV operator for VSG. He pilots the aircraft and is responsible for its airworthiness. He is also the FAA liaison and lead platform development researcher and is responsible for researching and implementing projects designed to decrease operating costs and increase safety.

"He is highly sought after in the UAS field," Dennis said. "I expect to see more great things out of this young man."