March is a pretty unpredictable month for most outdoor activities weatherwise let alone drone flying which requires dry conditions and wind gusting to no more than 20mph. So it was no surprise that due to high winds my first drone practical was cancelled this month only to be rescheduled to the week after.
To the layperson a drone job consists of launching the drone, flying around a bit and editing the footage together. Job done. In reality when a commercial drone job is quoted for, factored into the price is the time spent planning the operation which includes getting grid references, getting lat / long coordinates, researching the operating area for ground hazards and creating plans as well as producing a risk assessment, getting emergency info such as police, air traffic control and local authority contact info, crew briefings, airspace and meteorological checks, further airspace known as Notams, land owner permissions etc. etc. All commercial drone ops need to be insured correctly too. Then there’s editing of the raw footage once the flight is complete.
So if someone says they can take some aerial photos and videos for you for £100 then odds are they are not doing all/any of these things correctly and/ or they do not hold a PFCO commercial drone operating licence and that is between you and your conscience.
It’s good to see that the rapidly growing drone industry is starting to be regulated to eliminate cowboy operators and the CAA is regularly updating laws for drone operators, most recently after the high profile incident where a drone was sighted inside of Gatwick’s ATZ prompting a law change outlawing any drone flying at all in these sensitive areas.
The Flight Test
So to the day of the practical flight test, this came after a process of 3 days ground school and a theory test in January, creation of a Ops manual and a test on said Ops manual in February and then practicing the pre ordained manoeuvres for hours on end in prep for the practical test in March.
The practical test was set as realistically as possible in the form of a commercial operation and therefore all flight planning had to be completed beforehand. The location was the beautiful Shrigley Hall on the edge of the Peak District. It’s been a good few years since I took my driving test and I must say I felt more nervous about this test than I remember I was back when I was 17!
The test took around an hour with the site checks, crew briefing, system and mechanical checks all before the set manoeuvres and emergency scenarios but at the end of it I received a pass with only 2 minors, you are allowed up to 12 minors I think and still pass.
I was so happy and so relieved to pass this test and be recommended to the CAA for my PFCO licence. Not only because of the cost but also the time invested in becoming qualified. It had been a pretty intense 3 months of training and practice which made passing first time all the sweeter. It’s also great to know that the CAA are not giving these PFCOs out like sweets as some of my fellow pilots , good candidates too, did not pass. Hopefully they did at the second opportunity.
So what will I do with my new found wings? Well, adding drone video and stills to the interactive tags within our virtual tours was always number one on my list but also offering a complete marketing package to my estate agent clients which includes, virtual tours and photography, aerial imagery and CGI visuals of new builds through our sister company iCADworx. All these services complement each other well and we already have work lined up for the new drone services. Check out future blogs for the evidence.
Finally a massive thanks to the guys at Heliguy who provided all the advice and training throughout the whole 3 months. I would highly recommend them to anyone who wants to take their drone flying to a professional level.
So until next month, this is Captain Hampson (as I now insist on being referred as) over and out!