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Department of Conservation Seeks Assistance With Drone Services

The department’s Geologic Energy Management Division is looking to enhance its drone-related responses to incidents within its oversight, including spills and emergencies.

An oil pump against a blue sky.
The state department charged with fostering the wise use and conservation of energy, land and mineral resources wants to hear from companies capable of assisting it in drone services.

In an invitation for bid (IFB) released Sept. 19, the California Department of Conservation (DOC) indicates its Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), one of five divisions within the department, needs a consultant to help with commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) remote pilot certification, and UAS operations and photogrammetry courses. Per the DOC’s website, CalGEM has oversight of oil, natural gas and geothermal industries and works to help the state reach its climate change and clean energy goals. It also uses science and sound engineering practices to regulate drilling, operation and closure of energy resource wells. The requirements include but are not limited to the following:

  • DOC needs the pilot certification along with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exam preparation so that staff may properly operate a CalGEM drone, to do well site, facility, pipeline and lease inspections. CalGEM needs a UAS operations and photogrammetry course for staff with current FAA certification, to enhance its incident response skills and to investigate spills or incident-related emergencies — a significant part of its regulatory responsibilities. Drones from CalGEM are now being used to boost the efficiency and safety of the division’s field inspections, investigations and emergency response when it enforces state statute. Training objectives are for staff to learn to lawfully operate a drone and to prepare for FAA drone pilot certification. For staff that already has FAA certification, the goal is for them to get higher-level UAS operations and photogrammetry skills to monitor incidents or emergencies and to do investigations by drone.
  • The services needed focus on two tasks. The contractor selected must provide an in-person, instructor-led, 16-hour commercial UAS/drone remote pilot certification course to prepare staff to become FAA-certified drone pilots. The course must have eight to 15 attendees and be done at CalGEM offices in Bakersfield, Ventura and Long Beach. The course should cover areas including applicable UAS regulations; UAS airspace classification, operating requirements and flight restrictions; aviation weather sources and effects of weather on UAS; emergency procedures and protocols; real life scenario training; and privacy and legal issues. The contractor must also provide an in-person, instructor-led, 32-hour advanced drone course teaching staff UAS operations and photogrammetry skills to adequately monitor an incident or emergency, and to do investigations with a drone. The course must be for 10 attendees at CalGEM’s Bakersfield and Long Beach offices.
  • Bidders must have instructors with a minimum of five years’ teaching and practical field experience in mapping and modeling and structure inspections; and instructors with at least five years’ experience with a variety of forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera capabilities, as well as current FAA certification. Instructors must also be a FLIR (small UAS) sUAS Level 1 certified thermographer, and the company must have experience with public safety programs.
  • The amount allocated for the contract is $150,000, and the department intends to award one service contract for the IFB. Written questions are due at 11 a.m. Tuesday, with responses coming at 11 a.m. Thursday. Bids are due by 5 p.m. Oct. 3. This will be a two-year agreement starting Oct. 1 or upon approval by the California Department of General Services, whichever is later, and running through Sept. 31, 2025.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.