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Can You Identify the Aircraft?

Can you identify the aircraft associated with these Airborne Sensor Operator crew positions?

The winner or winners will be honored in the May 2019 ASOG newsletter.


Aircraft - A:









Aircraft - B: 









Aircraft - C:








Aircraft - D:





Image Source: Airborne Technologies; Wikicommon – MilborneOne; Wikicommon - 0airborne; Wikicommons – US Navy

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How it Really Happened!

ASOG 2019 Focus Areas: #Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures #Safety

Have you ever had a problem or an accident (small as a sensor malfunctioning to an aircraft incident) that made you think “What Happen?” Well, here’s one method that might help you understand what happened. This method is called the 5-M Model.

The 5-M Model comprises of Man, Machine, Medium, Mission and Management which are five core areas that failing factors of malfunction or incidents may appear in. This model is one of the most common used methods in the aviation industry to examine aviation accidents and incidents. However, besides accident incident investigations, it provides the individual ASO up to managers with a systematic way of focusing and analyzing areas that errors mostly occur within the structure of specific technical problem sets, operations and organizations, for example, analyzing a small problem that took place during a flight etc.

If you’re interested in learning more and how to apply it to your everyday ASO professional kit, read the sources below. After reviewing the material and examples, give it a try and break down a past problem you had and find out what happened.

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Here are some great reasons to pursue an Airborne Sensor Operations job and career:

The Pay – If you’re looking for a great opportunity for fresh out of high school, technical or trade school, an undergraduate or graduate program, second career, and military transition, there is very likely a flavor of Airborne Sensor Operations that is right for you! The field, and therefor pay and benefits is greatly varied, however, you can anywhere from a livable wage (at a minimum) to 6 figures depending on what you bring to the table, and what your risk tolerance is. I will say, if you’re in it mostly for the cash, then you will likely be disappointed. This mentality and others will show through eventually in the profession that is both demanding and team driven, and you’ll likely not hit this success criteria if it is your primary motivator.

The Intrigue – Most people, at the minimum understand that you can put a camera on an aircraft, or in space, or on a boat, and these days a drone, to collect information, or at least a picture. You will be on the forefront of data collection, and the genius of hopefully important and valuable information. It may be something that most people are not familiar with these days you can point to Google Earth, and say you do something similar, or talk about the aircraft that spot hotspots for fire fighting efforts. Unless your acquaintances have lived under a rock for the last 20 years, you can relate your work to them. Also, many of us, cannot talk about work, so if you like to keep things short and mysterious, there’s a ASO job for that!

For the Pride – Airborne Sensor Operations are nearly never an end-in-themselves, there is a reason, and usually a pertinent, timely, and valuable demand is driving the requirement to get information. Rarely mindless, always relevant; there is a true satisfaction to understand the work would you do have value, sometimes economic, sometimes tactical, sometimes strategic, but again always valuable.

For the Schedule – The bane and beauty of most ASO work is the time on/time off schedule. The job is typically demanding, and employers are often balancing either have too many staff with the risk of having some sit out unpaid or having to little and countering attrition. Lots of firms will schedule week on/week off, or when OCONUS, 6 months onsite, then name your time to return. For those looking for high investment in you, a year in, year out schedule may look like one month on, one week off. The firms that will work with you on an individual level or have so strict of policies that both mutually benefit (cost) and lose (opportunity) in step with one another, can be the easiest to work scheduling with. Look for a firm that values resources, your time, and their own time, and you will be set up for a winning opportunity. Think travel, fishing, hiking, exploring, additional training and education, and side hustles, ASO schedules can enable these schedules.

The Travel – There are a few services related, and business-related fields that can support regular, regional, national, and global travel. Almost no other profession will couple travel with time on/time off scheduling for you to take advantage of where you are. Company paid travel can be one of the great beauties to ASO employment. Most firms will allow you to save yourself money by piggy-backing on your work travels and using that as a launching point for your own personal exploration and travel. You’ll typically be paid to go to the work, to the bird, that’s waiting for you.

The Complexity and Challenge – Airborne Sensor Operations are always evolving and are notoriously challenging for a variety of reasons. Let it be said, if you are looking for simple work, someone is looking to automate that work and your place in it. Airborne Sensor Operations both embraces the complexity involved with a variety of situations, with an aircraft or platform that has its own eccentricities, with a demand that must be met, typically for stakeholders that need it NOW! Dealing with these challenges, doing this job, will make you a better resource and person for it.

The Enabling Perspective – There are few professions that touch on so many others and have a state of excellence within them. As an ASO, you can develop skills in operations, negotiations, project management, aviation, and a variety of engineering disciplines. Are you an engineering student that does not know which way to jump into a tighter discipline, come into the field with sensors and instrumentation that leverage mechanical, electrical, optical, electro-optical, aeronautical, thermodynamic, damage tolerance, human-machine interfacing, software and control engineering, and many more disciplines. Are you an intel professional that wants to understand source data? A GIS grad that wants some adventure before you take the desk job? How about international affairs that what’s to travel? How about a veteran looking for great work and previous experience, at lower risk? The beauty of ASO as a career choice is that there are many points of entry, many flavors of employment, and usually something for everyone.
Author: Mark Smits, PMP, CGP-G, Geospatial Program Director

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Did you know that Aerial Archaeologist is an Airborne Sensor Operator? Even though their primary job is to study human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains, they’re participating in the discipline of flying, operating remote-sensors and analyzing the collected data, i.e., ASO as a secondary profession.

If you’re interested in learning more or expanding your ASO skills into this sector, checkout some of these sources:

BBC - History - Aerial Archaeology

Aerial Archaeology Research Group (AARG)

Careers in Aerial Archaeology

Drone Archaeology Courses

Archiving Aerial Photography and Remote Sensing Data: A Guide to Good Practice

Aerial archaeology film – Is There An Archaeologist Onboard

Aerial Archaeology


Fly Safe and Happy Hunting!

ASOG Desk Editor (Patrick Ryan)

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Here are six bad reasons to become an ASO:

For the $ - If you’re looking to make the “Big Bucks!” you’re going to be disappointed. On average and across the different industry sectors (Commercial, Public Safety, Defense), sensor operators are paid hourly in smaller firms and a salary in larger organizations. Benefits are rare but usually offered at the larger agencies or companies. Average pay is $20 to $30 an hour, and the average salary for airborne sensor operator jobs is $41,000 to $54,000. However, the average airborne sensor operator hourly wages or salaries can vary greatly due to company, location, industry, experience, and benefits.

For the Reputation – If you’re looking for a profession that everyone from your mother to your kids’ soccer coach knows, go to medical or law school. The only people who will know what you do for a living is your fellow ASOs and aircrew members. If you do decide to become an ASO, anticipate spending 30 min (per person who asks) explaining what you do for a living at your next neighborhood BBQ, even then you’ll leave them either bored or confused.

For the Tributes – If you’re looking to get the credit of being the primary person on the aircrew that makes or breaks the mission, join the “Me, Me Club.” The typical professional ASO is the “unsung invisible hero” who constantly applies his skills beyond odds and gets patent answers of “Thanks!” The real praises come from “You” who knows what is required, how to get it done, and what it means to others!

For the Awesome Schedule – If you’re looking for a routine 9 to 5 Monday through Friday job routine, join the slug commutator world! The nature of this profession is flexibility, on-call and sustaining short, hectic periods of running collection operations and processing data – End!

For the Deluxe Travel – If you’re looking to see the world from the window of a 5-Star hotel or business class airline seat, “Getty-up” an marry into a rich family or play lotto. The average ASO travels via economy class or lives in field encampment conditions. Because of small profit margins of data collection projects, transportation and life-support requirements become a target of scaling, i.e., bare-base.

For the Simplicity – If you’re looking to put “Widget-A into Widget-B” without dealing with technical complications or are not willing to go outside your comfort-zone, become a hermit! ASO’s are the opposite of non-op-tech-thinkers. ASOs are both “cause & effect” thinkers and “tinkers” or “MacGyvers” of technology and data collection & processing! But if you love flying, working with complex systems, seeing the world outside of an office and finding a needle in a hay stack, Then Go for It!

This post is not meant to discourage people from becoming ASOs, just to make it clear that if you're in it for the money, recognition or the 9 to 5 lifestyle, you're in it for the wrong reason! If you truly enjoy combining flying, operating sensors, finding unknows and down-to-earth adventures, there's not a better job on this earth!


ASOG Desk Editor (Patrick)

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ASOG “Supporters” Press Room Review

If you’re interested to see what some of the ASOG’s supporters are up to, walk through their website news rooms and find out. All our supporters have a link to the ASO profession, i.e., sensors, training, flight ops services etc. Check them out!


ASOG Desk Editor (Patrick)

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ASOG Members,

Based on ASOG’s 2019 Focus Areas – Training, are you interested in attending a Basic Sensor Operator Course? In coordination with L-3 WESCAM Training Team (plus, one of their trainers is an ASOGer), "they’ll schedule a course for ASOG members", i.e., a class dedicated to ASOG. If we have 6+ members interested in attending the course, L-3 WESCAM will give a group discount to each individual ASOG member attending, i.e., a member of

If your interested, here’s the soft plan and info:

Time: Late Summer / Early Fall
Location: L3 WESCAM Air Ops Facility in Loveland, Colorado U.S.A. (+ possible hotel discount)
Course Info.: Training & Simulation – In-Flight Course  
Price: TBD based on the level of interest

FYI - Since ASOG began back in 2016, many connections and members have asked the question of where they can get hands-on EO/IR basic operator training without joining the military or other organizations. Well, here’s an opportunity for individual members to leverage group power to add more skills and experience to their resume.

So, if you’re interested, please send me a message (, and I’ll add you to the list. Also, if you know of someone who would be interested, please have them join ASOG at “Sign-Up.” 

Thank you, everyone!

ASOG Desk Editor - Patrick

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One of the areas the group recommended as a 2019 ASOG Focus Area is “Lessons Learned.” Here’s a good article in the Point of Beginning (POB) regarding hard-learned lessons in Drone Photogrammetry. I think the main points are relevant to many aspects of the ASO job (manned & unmanned), i.e., airmanship, sensor ops to data processing. If you come across a good Lessons Learned article, post or video, send it to me and I’ll get it on the net.

Hard-Learned Lessons in Drone Photogrammetry

February 25, 2019
Logan Campbell and Daniel Katz

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It’s great to see ASOG Supporters like Aero Enterprise add new knowledge and capabilities to the aerial remote-sensing industry and the importance of the ASO profession. Aero Enterprise received Horizon2020 EU Funding to innovate with ‘disrupting technology’ solutions for the inspection of vertical objects, in particular wind turbines with unmanned aerial systems. If you want to know more or just say Congrats, checkout their press release link.

Aero Enterprise receives Horizon 2020 EU Funding

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#Training, #Trending ASO Technology

As you might have notice, ASOG is sticking to the 2019 Focus Areas. One of our members wanted us to share his trip report in-regard-to #aso, #aviation, #training, #simulation, #trending.

“I recently visited Momentum Aerospace Group (MAG) and Radiance Technologies at their Huntsville offices. Radiance Technologies makes the Operator Procedural Trainer (OPT | GPT) using MetaVR software. MAG bought several OPT’s to train their Sensor Operators (SO). The US Army also uses the OPT to train their SO’s.
MetaVR was able to show MAG leadership some impressive geospecific terrain and the detail it provides for a realistic sim experience. I was able to talk with Matt Schleich, Director of Manned Aviation, and SO Instructors: Chris Smith, Daniel Kang, and Jeremy Long. I received good feedback on how they use the OPT.
Wes Hawkins, Radiance Technologies- Intelligence Systems Operations, introduced me to his team. The OPT is a great tool; it cuts actual flight training time down, which is an awesome cost benefit, as it reduces maintenance on the aircraft. It allows the SO to be trained at various levels, from beginner to advanced. Coordinating a JTAC on the ground, then other attack aircraft to all be available and fly on the same day, weather permitting, is a challenge. Working a scenario in a sim allows for all that to occur with ease.”

Danial Horgan

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Here’s another source of information for professional ASOs, especially if you’re in the aerial fire fighting sector. The Air Attack magazine is a relatively new magazine that highlights current events and trends. The most current issue (link below) has several articles related to accidents and the growing trend of leveraging sensors. Besides publishing Air Attack, the publisher also produces “Heliops” and “Heliops Frontline,” i.e., information that links with the type of work Airborne Sensor Operators do.

FYI - I’ve added this site to the ASOG Link Libaray: Aerial Fire Fighting – News & Articles shelf.

Air Attack Magazine


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From an ASOG perspective, there’s not enough recognition or support for specific ASOs across the aerial remote-sensing spectrum (commercial, public safety, defense). However, the Airborne Public Safety Association (APSA) does. They’re currently calling out for nominations regarding several awards and scholarships. One of the awards is for a Tactical Flight Officer (a.k.a ASO). If you know of a TFO who went “Above & Beyond”, review the requirements on the APSA homepage (click the link below) and nominate that individual.

Airborne Public Safety Association

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Is this New Platform a Game Changer?

Since our group is growing with many subject-matter-experts, it would be fun to do an informal group eval of new technology trends (plus, it’s part of our 2019 Focus Areas, “New Equipment & Systems - Trends). So, the first one for 2019…is NG Firebird a Game Changer?

ASOG Desk Editor

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Is my pilot safe? – Part 2 and 3

Here’ s Part 2 and 3 of Douglas Glover (Aviation Photographer) series on “Is my pilot safe?” It’s a great read regarding Airborne Sensor Operator CRM best practices and lessons learned, i.e., across all sectors manned/unmanned, commercial, public safety and defense. Is there anything you can add?

Is my pilot safe? - Part 2

Is my pilot Safe? - Part 3


ASOG Desk Editor

Image: Wikicommons (U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Bradley Sapp)


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Education vs. Experience

OK, I'm about to open a can of worms. Education or Experience? Perhaps a bit of background on why this has percolated to the top of my things to complain about. While continuing on my ever widening job search for something Sensor Op related, I have perused many a job posting where there is a requirement for a post secondary education along with experience, and this has led me to ask why. 

Lets look at my own example. I have no post secondary education. There are no letters after my name, yet I have 30 years experience in Sensor Operation, mission planning, mission management, instruction, standards and aviation in general. When does one outstrip the other? When can one say that education is worth more than experience OR vice versa? Don't get me wrong theres lots of other things going against me getting suitable employment in a field that I have loved for the past three decades, most notably of which is that I have three extra decades worth of life under my belt, which in a lot of situations would enable me hors de combat in the job competitivness department. I understand that most employers want someone who can work for them quite possibly for an entire career and I dont qualify on that count, so the needs of a company who wants someone for the long haul means that their experience levels are much lower than "us of a certain age", therefore the shortfall has to be made up with education, right? Or does it?

While I begrudge no one a career as an ASO, as I loved it for every one of those 30 years, we have to look at the way a lot of businesses run these days. A lot of companies are looking to change the demographic of their workforce in the future. The emphasis has begun to move away from "career" workers and start shifting towards contract or term workers. What employers are looking for then is someone who can parachute in, grab a desk (or hammer, wrench, torch or workstation) and do the job with a minimum of fuss or training. As the labor market constricts, as I see it, older workers will have more say in choosing the kind of  jobs they do, when, and how they work.

This blog doesn't even cover that argument that us old guys are taking jobs away from the youngsters while we should be off enjoying our retirement. There's a whole 'nother discussion to be had  about that which I won't cover here. Suffice to say that people want to stay in the workforce for two major reasons. The mental engagement and the income. People are living longer, healthier lives, still want to contribute to society and don't want to outlive their money. Sixty is the new fifty and all that.......

So the kids have longevity on their side and us seasoned guys don't, which brings me back to my initial point of Education vs. Experience. What do we bring to the fight then? There's a lot to be said for age. While the young guy has the benefit of post secondary education which may or may not be in a related field, I have the added perk of being out there in the work force and have lived life. Sort of a "been there, done that" perk that the kids dont have in their pocket. Most of us also have the ability to use critical thinking, have strong decision making skills, a good work ethic and outside the box thinking skills. We also tend to be highly trained, self-managed, short on ego and willing to put in a full day’s work. Most of us are also ready and willing to work part time instead of full time.  Throw in efficient, organized, honest, punctual and dedicated and you give employers a lot of options. Put all this into a box and label it "life experience". 

Now I'm not saying that younger and more educated people than I arent all of what I described in the previous paragraph, in fact a lot of them have all of the attributed I described, which then brings me back to does the employer want education or does he want experience in a worker? 

It would seem from looking at job posts that companies are lookng for education, and that something I like to call "education creep" is rearing it head. Much like mission creep that all of us who have a military background lived and loathed, education creep is moving the goalposts ever farther to the side of requiring higher and higher education. I have noticed job posts that have a requirement of a baccalaureate degree and an "it would be nice" listing of a post graduate level degree like a masters.  It seems we are over-qualifying the needs that an ASO required to do their job.  Like I said I lived this in the military. When I was a youngster most day to day decisions could be made by a corporal or a lieutenant. those very same decisions now require a Sgt-Major or a full Colonel.

In other words, decisions made today take someone with more experience than education. Kinda seems like a circular argument doesn't it?

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Job Announcement: Sensor Operator (USA)

Outstanding…the networking side of ASOG is starting to kick-in. We just got another direct request from an ASOG connection to highlight a Sensor Operator job with Woolpert Inc in the USA. In a nut-shell, this position is primarily responsible for flight planning, sensor operation, data processing and reporting for airborne mapping missions. The chosen individual will be a core member of Woolpert’s field and R&D operations team and as such must be willing to travel, both domestically and internationally. Take a look at the job requirement and engage them directly.

Sensor Operator, Geospatial Technicians, SENSO02098

Cheers Mates!

ASOG Career Center (Patrick)

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Chief Airborne Sensor Operator

Airborne Technologies, a global aerospace system engineering, and geospatial services industry leader, is seeking a Chief Airborne Sensor Operator in Wiener Neustadt, Austria facility to be part of our highly successful flight crew and geo-data-acquisition team. The chosen candidate will have the chance to work for one of the fastest growing aerospace companies in Europe and with the latest remote sensing technology. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to train in a variety of skill-set areas, including GPS surveying, airborne trajectory processing and remote sensing utilizing aerial film, digital imaging, and LiDAR sensors and help lead a highly motivated group of aerial data acquisition professionals.

Job Description:

• Airborne Technologies is seeking a full-time “Chief Airborne Sensor Operator” for geo-data acquisition operations in the European region or abroad.
• Frequent travel and working on-board single and twin-engine aircraft.
• Additional duties include flight operations/crew management, training, project development engineering, sensor management/maintenance and data processing support.

Job Responsibilities:

• Flight and sensor planning
• Sensor Installation, testing & maintenance
• Flight & crew management
• Collection management
• Sensor Operations
• Quality Control (QC) of acquired data
• Processing, exploitation, and dissemination of acquired data
• Training & mentoring

Required Qualifications:

• EU Citizen or EU work permit.
• English (fluent); German (Basic).
• Technical education or background in the field of GIS or Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering or Computer Science.

Desired Qualifications:

• Higher education in Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering or Computer Science.
• 100 flight hours as an Aerial Survey, Mapping or Photography Aircrew Member/Airborne Sensor Operator.
• Experience in managing and conducting operations internationally.
• Valid flight medical exam certificate.

Desired Skills & Attributes:

• Subject-matter expertise
• Systems & sensors knowledge
• Aeronautical knowledge
• Analytical methodologies
• Critical-thinking skills
• Customer-service ethic
• Communication skills
• Information sharing and collaboration abilities
• Information handling and processing skills
• Computer and technical literacy
• Objectivity, integrity, and intellectual honesty

Additional Information:

• We provide training depending on your qualifications and experience.
• Your annual gross salary will be based on applicable collective agreement and your qualifications.

If you’re looking for a new challenge and taking on more responsibility in your career, Airborne Technology has a spot in our team for you. If you’re interested in this position, we look forward to your application stating your possible date of entry, photo and salary expectations. Please send your application to:


Airborne Technologies GmbH.
Z.H. Ms. Teresa Mancevski
Viktor Lang Street 8
2700 Wiener Neustadt

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