78th OSS SUAS Office ensures safe drone operations at Robins

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  • By Joseph Mather
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


VIDEO | 03:22 | 78th OSS sUAS ensures safe drone operations at Robins

The 78th Operations Support Squadron Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office provides oversight for all drone operations at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

Tom Geraldsen, 78th OSS sUAS program manager, said this office provides a focal point for the people of Robins AFB for anything drone related.

“The sUAS office is Robins oversite office for sUAS operations within the confines of the base perimeter,” Geraldsen said. “This office ensures any sUAS programs are complying with Air Force and Robins established guidance in order to ensure the safe integration with manned aircraft flights.”

The mission of OSS is to support flying operations of all types aircraft, including drones, at Robins.

“We use the sUAS program to provide aerial photography and surveying to organizations that would otherwise not have access because of the unique restrictions associated with military installations,” said Maj. Jesse Burdette, 78th OSS director of operation.

This benefits the base to have a sUAS management office, according to Burdette.

“Standing up this office has positioned us ahead of the power curve of a technology for which the uses and benefits are still emerging,” he said. “As more units want to use this new technology to support their mission, they will use it in ways we haven’t thought of yet,”

The office currently has two drones they operate to keep up-to-date site maps of the base facilities.

“The first one is a small fixed-wing drone. It’s used in conjunction with the 778th Civil Engineer Group GeoBase office to produce highly accurate survey missions and high-resolution overhead photos.

“The second is one a small quadcopter,” he continued. “It’s used for roof inspections, aerial photography and videography, and base full-spectrum readiness exercises.”

Lt. Col. Mark Struska, 78th Operations Support Squadron commander, said the sUAS program office is the only reason drone technology can be used at Robins.

“The sUAS office provides the structure that allows innovators across the base to imagine and implement emerging sUAS technologies into their own mission sets, he said. “It also merges those ideas safely with other missions that operate in the airspace around Robins.”

Geraldsen said recreational drone usage is not allowed on the base.

“All sUAS flights proposed must be routed through this office for 78th ABW commander approval,” he said. “Individuals wishing to fly drones for commercial use outside of the base perimeter are required to work through the Federal Aviation Administration sUAS office for permissions.”

Struska said the base continues to develop innovative ways to leverage SUAS technology.

“Our experts are here to help grow these mission ideas into successfully integrated mission enhancements,” he said. “They will make sure each mission has the structure and permissions necessary to operate on Robins.

“Our sUAS experts have already done the hardest work and will happily guide any professional on Robins who wants to explore or use this technology,” he continued. “If our experts get involved early, they will make it much easier for new users to reach their goals.”

Struska said he is excited to be a part of a program at the forefront of “extraordinary change.”

“This technology can be applied in so many ways, many of which haven’t even been imagined or explored yet,” he said. “It will enhance the mission at Robins, and it’s a privilege to be a part of something with so much transformational potential.”