Past Member Spotlight 2020
Sean works with SC DHEC and has been a certificated pilot and part of DHEC’s drone initiative since 2017. As with all others working in DHEC’s drone program, his drone-related work is voluntary and in addition to his primary job duties as ePermitting project leader (the Department’s undertaking of utilizing one system to generate/track/maintain all permitting activities). Sean has participated in many of DHEC’s UAS group initiatives but has been instrumental in the Department’s recent development of a replacement flight request and tracking system. Due to IT concerns, the UAS group lost its ability for DHEC project managers to easily request drone flights to support their project needs. Through Sean’s extensive knowledge of Microsoft’s Forms and Power Apps software (and a willingness to help where ever and whenever he can), he was able to very quickly create a much improved and versatile flight request and tracking system; a system that has a potential to grow with the UAS group’s needs. Through Sean’s outstanding customer service attitude, DHEC can continue carrying out drone flight/mission requests with very little inconvenience and delay to the internal project manager customer.
Ben Jones is a GIS Analyst with Richland County, SC. Ben began flying drones in 2014 and became licensed with the FAA Part 107 program in 2017. Ben is part of a larger group of licensed pilots at the County that collect data for many different departments including public information, economic development, transportation, utilities and others. While Ben acknowledges flying drones can be “fun”, his primary interest is in data collection, data processing and automated flights. Working as a certified Pix4D Mapper, one of his primary duties is coordinating periodic drone flights at Richland County's Construction and Debris (C&D) landfill. These flights produce highly accurate topographic and digital surface models (DSMs) for regulatory reporting requirements and are certified by a 3rd party engineering firm. These landfill topographic surveys are faster and more accurate than traditional land surveying techniques. Ben is always looking for opportunities to save Richland County time and money with drone technology.
Roy Jeffcoat is an early adopter of drone technology at the SCDOT and very worthy candidate for the SCiDUC Member Spotlight. Roy's formal education is in information technology and has years of field experience inspecting bridges. This is a prefect background to identify where drones can be used to improve current processes. Roy is a continual innovator and has a history of using equipment to improve the capabilities of his team. Drones are the latest example where he is using a new tool to improve documentation (still and video imagery), improve inspection techniques and create 3D models. Using any new technology takes an investment of time; however, Roy’s dedication is now yielding significant dividends. He is an excellent example of what process improvement is all about and it’s the Board’s honor to recognize him as October’s Member Spotlight recipient. Well done Roy! Keep up the great work.
Dawn Miller is an Assistant General Counsel for SC DHEC and has been an invaluable resource during the initial development of DHEC’s procedures and policies. In addition to her regular full case load, she voluntarily accepts the challenges posed by keeping the UAS group at DHEC between the lines set by the FAA, the State and the Agency. Dawn is very supportive of the UAS group and the use of the technology as a tool for DHEC to better serve its customers. She was also one of the first SCiDUC members, has attended all of the group’s quarterly meetings and served on the By-laws committee (with the sunset of this committee she is now serving in the Policy Group). Dawn has become the ‘go to’ person for the UAS group at DHEC because of her extensive knowledge of drone law/regulation and her very thorough approach to assessing internal policy and reviewing documents. We are very thankful to have Dawn on our team!
Michelle is the longtime photographer and videographer for the SC Forestry Commission, and she was one of the first state agency personnel in South Carolina to have completed her Part 107 licensure, with the help of her mentor Sam Anderson, who is the agency's chief pilot. Michelle has become an advanced UAS operator and has used her talents to enhance the Forestry Commission's communications by incorporating drone footage into many of the agency's project and outreach efforts.
Scott Shaffer has been with the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) for over 20 years. His area of expertise is in Engineering Software (CADD) and unmanned aerial systems (UAS). Scott is also the SCDOT’s drone coordinator and is directly responsible for the many successes of the program. He has facilitated the use of drones in a wide range of applications that include inspections, aerial surveying, site documentation, traffic monitoring and public relations. Scott also actively engages in UAS research within the department. Last year, Scott participated in a study to use drones to inspect bridges. One of the experiments involved live-streaming UAS video to an inspector off-site to test the viability of triage inspecting during emergencies. Most recently, Scott and his team were successful in obtaining federal funds through a highly competitive grant to create an innovative UAS training program. The training program includes a 6-week course taught through Clemson University. The course provides SCDOT employees the opportunity to earn their Part 107 remote pilot certificate, learn to create 3-D maps and models, file LAANC ATC authorizations, submit Part 107 waivers and other innovative software applications. The program also teaches flight training through a combination of in-person and cutting-edge computer simulation. Thank you Scott for everything you are doing to promote drone technology at the SCDOT.
Sallie Williams is one of the first to receive Part 107 certification in the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC’s) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Workgroup. Like all the members of DHEC’s workgroup, her involvement and support are strictly voluntary and is in addition to days already packed with regular job duties in the Department’s Underground Storage Tank program. With an adventurous attitude and a desire to expand her knowledge and skills, she is dedicated to seeing the drone program within DHEC flourish.
In addition to being an accomplished pilot, Sallie seems to thoroughly enjoy the outreach and education aspects of the unmanned aerial system (UAS) program. She volunteered to be on the outreach workgroup within DHEC’s UAS program (as well as on SCiDUC’s outreach group). Sallie created the first template agency Power Point presentation that would be used to introduce staff and management to the then very new UAS technology. Additionally, her creativity and marketing skills were put to use in creating DHEC’s first UAS brochure.
With the recent acquisition of Land and Waste Management program’s first UAV, a Phantom4 RTK., she is the lead on implementing this improved capability to support all DHEC, environmental protection activities.
Sallie can be counted upon to volunteer to support a mission as PIC, crew or support regardless of how challenging it might be and to do so with a successful and safe outcome. She is creative and generates a product that is both useful and enlightening for DHEC’s internal clients. Sallie is also heavily involved in working with new agency pilots to develop their skills and knowledge.
From DHEC's UAS toddler stage, Sallie has been a leader and ambassdor for UAS technology within the agency.
Dr. Michael E. Hodgson
Michael Hodgson is a professor of Geography at the University of South Carolina. He currently teaches GIScience courses such as LiDARgrammetry and GIS-Based Modeling. In 2019 he established the first Drone class at UofSC - Introduction to Drones for Airborne Spatial Data. In addition to his research and teaching at the UofSC he has taught GIScience courses at the University of Colorado, Salzburg University (Austria) and the University of Padova (Italy) and flying drones in these EU countries. Prior to his tenure at the University of South Carolina he was Team Leader at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories and Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado. Over the last thirty years he has chaired 38 graduate committees (7 PhD, and 31 MS) and served an additional 134 graduate committees (61 PhD and 68 MS). His research has received funding from National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, NASA, Department of Homeland Security, the National Biological Survey, National Marine Fisheries, Sea Grant, The Nature Conservancy, State of North Carolina, State of South Carolina, and collaborative universities and counties. One of his recent research foci is in the use of sUAS imagery for modeling and monitoring geomorphic activity along stream channels in the USA and Italy. He operates a number of small drones flying with a Remote Pilot Certificate. ---- Congratulations Michael!!!
Alex Kostik - Anderson County Stormwater
Alex Kostik is a Stormwater Inspector with Anderson County Public Works. He has been a Part 107 remote pilot for the past two years. Anderson County’s uses UAS to support pre-development site mapping, non-permitted land disturbance documentation and construction site inspections. Alex has integrated UAS technology to improve compliance inspections reports on a multitude of sites and projects. Alex is originally from Southwest Pennsylvania. He has a bachelor’s degree in Fisheries/Wildlife Resources Management and a master’s degree in Geoenvironmetal Studies. Well done Alex!
Drew Vartenisian - SCDOT
For this quarter, Drew Vartenisian with the SCDOT is being recognized for volunteering his time and expertise in collaboration with Clemson University to evaluate how drones can be used to support bridge inspections. The work has been submitted to a peer-reviewed scholarly journal where he was acknowledge for his participation in the research. He is a part 107 certified drone pilot and is currently participating in a federally funded research project where flight skills and 3D modeling techniques are taught. Congratulations Drew!