Drones aren’t just getting easier to fly as the technology advances: they are also getting cheaper. The $3,000 aircraft you purchase today will be less capable than the $1,000 aircraft your competitor buys tomorrow. At best, technology will only provide you with a fleeting advantage in the marketplace, but your skills, insight and judgment are permanent assets that will sustain you throughout your career.
You can build these up yourself, through trial-and-error, but this will be a long, slow, and painful process — a fact that I can attest to based on my own history learning to fly drones, which pre-dated the development of formal training programs. As Benjamin Franklin once observed: “Experience is a dear teacher, but fools will have no other.”
In Franklin’s day, the word “dear” meant “expensive,” and you won’t have to break too many aircraft or smash too many cameras before signing up for a class will seem cheap by comparison. However, more than anything else, learning to fly in a structured environment will save you a tremendous amount of…
You are reading these words right now on a computer, so I think I can safely assume that you understand the frustration caused by a computer failure. Crashed. Frozen. Locked up. It comes by many names, but they’re all frustrating. Unlike computers, which sometimes manage to explain the problem in plain English, drones communicate by means of beeps and flashing lights — and they incorporate mechanical systems, not just electronics, so there is even more that can go wrong with them.
Even if it doesn’t cause a crash, the smallest issue can be a major setback if you don’t know how to overcome it. Deciphering the problem and trying to fix it on your own can take hours, even more if you’re unfamiliar with the way the systems work. An experienced instructor can help you understand the problems and save you time and frustration. Learn how to speak the language of your drone and you’ll be a safer and more professional pilot.
The Federal Aviation Administration is still struggling to put in place the rules that will govern use of drones in the National Air Space. However, it isn’t the only authority that will determine whether or not you are able to fly commercially.
Like any other professional service, you won’t be able to enter the market unless you can provide proof of insurance. Your clients want assurance that they have effective liability protection in case something goes wrong — and you won’t be able to get insurance without proof that you have been professionally trained.
In establishing the Flight Ready training program with our partners at Unmanned Experts, we worked with Transport Risk Management — the largest aviation insurance brokerage in the United States — to develop our curriculum. Thanks to their input, we’re confident that the training we provide will meet the standards required by insurers to issue policies to our graduates.
All electronic and mechanical systems will fail — it’s only a matter of when. The day the GPS guidance system inside your drone decides that “home” is on the other side of the plate-glass window is the day it will really matter whether or not you are actually able to fly the aircraft.
If you are going to call yourself a professional and market your skills as a professional, you have to be able to fly your drone on its worst day, not just when everything is working perfectly. You also have to be able to identify and assess environmental factors that increase the likelihood of a failure and how to mitigate them — and how to recognize when you have no business flying in the first place.
Hopefully, you will never have to cope with an actual emergency situation during your flying career. However, that also means you will not have any experience in tackling emergencies should one arise. Training is an opportunity to develop those skills in a safe, controlled environment.
Becoming a pilot means more than understanding how the levers and switches on your controller determine the movement of your aircraft through the sky. It means becoming part of a history that goes back centuries, and understanding your place in it.
If you stood alone, in a field, with enough batteries and spare parts, you could eventually master all of the skills required to operate your drone safely. However, you would be unprepared to communicate with other pilots, your clients, or the authorities about what you are doing, and why — and you would know nothing about the legal and regulatory framework, and the ethical principles, that should guide you while you.
Flight school is about more than learning how to fly: it’s about learning the context that surrounds those basic skills and becoming a true professional.
In many ways, the new friends and contact you make while attending training may prove to be as valuable as the training itself. Building relationships with your colleagues is essential in any business. However, in a rapidly evolving field like drones where new players are constantly emerging, personal relationships are critical to your success.
When you go for training, be sure to bring along plenty of business cards. Flying drones is still such a young field that you never know who you will meet or what opportunities may present themselves to you. It’s an exciting time — so get involved!
The Roswell Flight Test Crew has partnered with Unmanned Experts to establish the Flight Ready training program, with upcoming classes in Denver, Seattle and New York City. For complete information, or to register for an upcoming class, visit: www.beflightready.com
What advice would you give to a new or aspiring drone pilot? Let us know in the comments: