With the recent growth of unmanned aircraft into the commercial drone sector, many companies have found themselves in the position of needing to create new jobs for FAA Part 107 Certificated Remote Pilots. Considering the relative infancy of commercial small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) operations, this has created a limited, yet rapidly growing pool of applicants that all share one basic qualification – an FAA airman certificate or “drone pilot license.”
A drone pilot license to fly a sUAS under Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) does not take much time to obtain. This typically requires that the applicant be 16 years of age or older and able to pass a 60 question, multiple-choice exam, known as the Part 107 exam. As a result, many employers are now left wondering, what other qualities and experience should we be looking for in a commercial drone service provider?
In no particular order, here are 12 of the most important qualities of a drone service provider:
A commercial drone pilot needs to be detail oriented. To be a safe sUAS pilot, an individual should use checklists, create safety procedures, and be very alert to changes in weather or situational safety. The equipment also requires a tremendous amount of time and effort to keep the drone and the software maintained. A person who skips steps and cuts corners is not likely to be a very effective and safe commercial drone pilot.
Drone pilots are constantly approached by the public and asked questions about their equipment, how to fly, and what they are doing. Drone service providers must learn to be comfortable in a situation where people are watching them complete a difficult task and bombarding them with questions. That may require a friendly yet tactful response (said with a smile) such as, “I’d love to answer your questions and show you my footage, but due to safety reasons I can’t talk while I’m flying so let’s talk after I land in a few minutes.”
Cool, Calm and Collected
Not only are interruptions from the public and performing in front of an audience challenging, there are other conditions that can also cause flying a drone to be stressful. Many things can go wrong when flying a drone. Firmware updates, wind, rain, snow, extreme cold, extreme heat, fog and the like can cause hardware, software and drone malfunctions. Not to mention other hazards like aggressive angry birds, air traffic, ground traffic, advisories from the air traffic control tower, restricted airspaces, geo fences, etc. are among the many obstacles a drone service provider must navigate while remaining cool, calm, and collected to stay safe and complete the mission in the best way possible. Even if everything goes wrong, they stay composed, especially in front of the client.
A commercial drone pilot needs to be able to fully understand and comprehend the consequences of their actions. A drone is considered an aircraft by the FAA. An excellent drone service provider does not break the rules or cut corners and takes the time to consider the consequences. A drone pilot that breaks FAA laws and/or regulations will be subject to fines and/or possibly have their license revoked.
In many instances, an aerial image is being collected to gather data or an image at a specific point in time. A safe drone service provider will arrive on site early enough to conduct a thorough site survey and weather assessment, scout the area, identify potential hazards, and test their equipment, and other important safety procedures. If a drone pilot arrives late to the site, they could rush through important steps and be more likely to cause an accident.
To fully maintain procedural discipline and to gain the utmost levels of safety and consistency in performance under a range of both normal and challenging conditions, many drone service providers will meticulously create a plan for each mission as well as a plan to maintain, organize, label, and store their equipment.
Flying a drone can include many costly risks. Companies need to protect themselves by ensuring that their drone service providers are competent, safe, extensively trained, licensed, and insured. A pilot who thinks him or herself invincible and above the law will be more likely to cause an accident or damage. A good drone service provider will understand that accidents are possible and will not overestimate their abilities, take necessary precautions, but still be confident enough to successfully conduct a mission. Or if conditions are too unsafe or hazardous to complete the mission, they will humbly call off the mission.
The sUAS industry is still in its infancy and evolving rapidly. Dedicated drone service providers are ready and willing to seek and give help, build, and strengthen their drone community, and continuously learn, hone skills, and refine their craft. They are passionately involved and enjoy the fast-moving speed of this new tech and art form.
Much like the autonomous drones they fly, good drone service providers are data collectors. They inquisitively ask questions to gain perspective on a situation. Part of being a good drone service provider is being able to assess a flight location, gather information on a variety of factors, and make final decisions related to the specifics of the appropriate plan. A drone service provider that takes the time to properly prep and gather relevant information has a much better chance of conducting safe and successful missions. Good drone service provider often asks the client a lot of questions during an interview. By nature, they are curious and prefer to gather information to paint a clearer perspective of the bigger picture, like a bird’s eye drone view.
Situational and Self Awareness
Excellent drone service providers modestly know their strengths, weaknesses, and personal limits. They will also possess situational awareness and be able to analyze a situation and know when not to fly. When the pressure is on to conduct a flight, a discerning drone service provider focused on safety will be able to call off the mission and explain why.
A good drone service provider must understand their position as the Remote Pilot in Command (RPIC). The RPIC is ultimately the decision maker and is held responsible by the FAA for any decisions that they or their crew carry out. Knowing how to manage the crew, make proper decisions and when to set limitations or boundaries on a mission is key. A great drone service provider must have the ability to step up as the leader and guide their crew to completing a safe mission.
Integrity and Professionalism
Above all an excellent drone service provider will uphold the highest standards of honesty, integrity, quality, hard work, courtesy, and professionalism. The client of a drone service provider of this caliber will breathe easier knowing they are taken care of, and they will have not only the highest quality valuable assets, but also a safe and enjoyable experience.
From The Editor:
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