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ASOG – Your Ice Breaker

ASOG network, one reason for ASOG is to make it easier for people who are stakeholders in the aerial remote-sensing profession to connect, be it commercial, public safety, defense, aircrew, manufactures, integrators, trainers and service providers. The overall goal is to make our profession more universal, effective, and safe.

Regarding trade shows, conferences, and social events, use ASOG as that initial reason or topic to personally meet people of the same feather. For example: “I see you’re connected with ASOG, I’m also connected with ASOG!”

O.K., I’ll get off the box.

ASOG Desk Editor (Patrick)

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What makes a good crew debrief?

ASOG 2019 Focus Area: Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

This is a small ASOG post on a big tool in the average ASO’s kit. This tool is the “Post Flight Debrief.” For the senior ASOs, a debrief after an aerial remote-sensing flight is probably standard procedure. However, what if you’re new to the profession and haven’t had the exposer to this useful procedure which positively builds your knowledge from the first hour of your ASO career to 10,000 hrs. Building the discipline of debriefing every flight with your crew will only strengthen or improve your chances of success on the next go-around.

What is a debrief? In general, and from an aviation perspective, it’s the procedure of sharing and discussing information after a flight, training, or project event which leads to process improvement for both the individual and the group.

However, debriefs in many ways doesn’t get the same attention as pre-flight briefings do, unless your organization directs debriefs. If not directed, there’s a certain human habit, once your skin is back on terrafirma and safe, to overlook it and head to the parking lot and drive away. Try to build the professional habit of making serious time debriefing every flight and project. Once you get into a good rhythm of doing this, you’ll start to see the positive effects of doing debriefs.

So, with that said, what makes a good debrief? Without getting into specific line-by-line debrief items, I’ll leave that up to you regarding your specific operational needs & wants, here are the main elements of what I think makes a good debrief:

  • Plan – Plan a debrief for each flight or project. Make debriefing an equal step to all the other steps in each operation. You could say the mission is not complete until the debrief is complete.
  • Timing – Conduct the debrief soon after the event. Every hour and day that goes by, important details are forgotten (human nature) that could make a difference for the next go-around.
  • Evaluate performance – Review the overall profile of the flight or project with a focus on purpose and objectives, what intended outcomes and outputs, what data was to be collected, who was involved and how they performed, what were the guidance and standards for the flight or project, and what were the conditions of the operation (environment, technical, bureaucratic etc.).
  • Identify key events - Identify what went well and why and what can be improved on and how. Discussing and knowing what went well is just as important as what went wrong. By understanding why and how actions or equipment worked well or failed will strengthen or improve those things.
  • Rules-of-Engagement (ROEs) – Last but not least, create a positive and professional atmosphere and conduct in chronological order of events. Additionally, use open‐ended questions, support self‐debriefing, point out underlying principles that lead to misconceptions/errors, use visual aids, and show alternatives. Again, concentrate on a few key learning points, and point out the good parts of the mission.

Bottomline, the debrief after a specific event or operation is a smart thing to do if you care “not” to repeat the negatives of history. Besides applying this useful concept or procedure to your ASO career, you can even apply it to your everyday life.

Fly Safe!

Author: Patrick Ryan

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Top Photo: USCG Chief Petty Officer Froberg, future ASOG member, being introduced by George at the Maritime SAR conference this week in Estonia.

Bottom Photo: From L2R: ASOG member Peter Myers introducing future members Jens Schinköte from Aerodata, and Urs Kunz from Hensoldt/EuroAvionics, flanked on the right by Maritime SAR organizer and ASOG member Maxwell Field.

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By: Patrick Ryan

Benjamin Kabelik
Dept. Head of Remote-Sensing Services & CIO at Airborne Technologies GmbH, Austria

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting and sitting down with a fellow ASOGer, Benjamin Kabelik, at Airborne Technologies (ABT) on one of my consulting office calls. I thought it would be great to take a moment to capture and share his thoughts on the Airborne Sensor Operator profession and the industry ASO’s work in, in this case, aerial mapping and surveying.

What is your job and how did you end up in this career field / position?

I’m the Department Head of Airborne Technologies data-solutions and airborne surveillance services. I’ve been working for ABT over 10 years with ever growing opportunities and responsibilities. I never pictured myself being in this position when I was at University. However, I’m very happy with how my career has progressed in this field. I started my career studying mechanical/electrical engineering and geomatics at several schools in Austria. During the end of my studies, I was hired by ABT to establish their information systems and data-processing programs. Over the years I added more and more skills and duties related to aerial remote-sensing. One of the most exciting skills or duties was getting qualified as an Airborne Sensor Operator flying small to mid-size manned aircraft. Once I became an ASO, my knowledge of how aerial remote-sensing works from clients’ needs to product delivery took-off.

What do you think is the general role of an Airborne Sensor Operators in today’s Aerial Mapping & Surveying Sector?

I think the role of an ASO, especially in a small to mid-size company, is just not operating a sensor during flight but participating at some-level in the planning, maintenance of systems and processing of data for each project. Because small to mid-size firms don’t have endless resources, it’s critical that ASO’s support as much as possible each step of a project. One benefit from this is QA. With ASO’s in the loop from start to finish in a collection project, it increases the chance that errors, or mistakes are caught early. From my point of view: 1 x mistake in collection = 10 x problems in data processing. Again, the ASO is an important part of this process.

What do you look for when hiring an Airborne Sensor Operator?

I know this might sound funny, but I first look to see if a new ASO candidate likes to fly or still wants to fly before going further with the hiring process. We regularly take interested candidates on test/calibration flights to see how everything goes for them and us. Also, other things I look for is an individual who can speak English, has good situational awareness and can solve technical problems in a creative and resourceful fashion. Again, as a small mid-size firm, it’s critical to have self-starters and individuals who can work independently around the world in remote locations.

What would you recommend to future ASOs regarding type of training and education to pursue?

First, I recommend those who are interested in becoming an ASO in the aerial mapping and surveying sector develop a knowledge of mechanical and electrical principles and systems, understand how IT networks operate, and a basic knowledge of aviation, i.e., aircraft systems to airmanship. After that, I recommend individuals expand their knowledge around specific disciplines like GIS or specialized applications.

What are the general trends you see in the Aerial Mapping & Surveying sector or markets?

Overall, and from my experience, the want for data has doubled in the last 5 years. We’ve seen an increase in the number of firms approaching us who 8 years ago would’ve never reached-out and sought our services. Because of the tech revolution, organizations can get good quality and cost-effective data from drones, manned aircraft and satellites that wasn’t available 10 years ago.

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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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