Here's some information re. an aerial sheep survey I flew today:
Although I've been on several helicopter sheep captures on behalf of CA WSF, today was the first time I've helped on a helicopter survey. At DFW's Sheep Coordinator Regina Abella's request, I went down to Blythe yesterday to help count sheep in the Chuckwalla Mountains, a range that hasn't been surveyed in over twenty years. It was a terrific experience and a great way for me to appreciate even more the dedication of Regina and her fellow DFW sheep team members. As a licensed pilot myself (but not for helicopters) it also gave me great confidence in our new helicopter survey firm, Air Shasta Rotor and Wing from Redding, and especially in their chief pilot, Dave Everson.
When you capture sheep, you fly a couple of hundred feet above the ground and even further away from the slopes, the rock out-cropping's, and the rocky cuts until you find a target to net gun. Only then do you 'go low.'
But when you fly a survey, at least when you fly a survey in the in the Chuckwallas with Dave, you are more often than not within yards of both the ground below, the slopes of the canyons and draws next to you, as well the rock out-cropping's and cuts all the time. You 'go low' all the time!
Indeed, we were more often than not flying by and shooting over and next to the rocks and cuts at a distance of no more than twenty to thirty FEET!
That will get your heart going!
In most mountain ranges, the draws and canyons are big, wide, and well-defined. Not so in the Chuckwalla's, which, at least at the north end, are all chopped up, busted up, and broken up. There are countless small, hidden draws and narrow, rocky cuts and I think Dave took us in and out of every one of them, and safely as well! We'd head straight at hard rock, then Dave would pull up just enough to clear the rock before dropping the chopper back into the next rocky and narrow draw.
This unit would be a bowhunter's dream, because IF you could handle climbing up and down a few hundred thousand busted up rocks each day, once you found a ram, you could very likely execute a decent stalk and probably get within twenty to forty yards for your shot.
Unfortunately, this survey, which was also shared by CA WSF Director Darryl Williams later in the day, clearly demonstrated to me the danger and risk-to-life which is ever present to the people who fly them.
One stutter of the engine, one unforeseeable wind shear, or a tiny fraction of a moment's distraction at the pilot's end, and four lives are lost.
We MUST get the drone project up and running!