So You Want to be a Drone Pilot?
Let’s follow the path of a drone pilot.
I decided to get my Part 107 License. I was wary that drones would take over my job, but I have learned that getting my license has opened more doors and made my inspection job safer and easier.
Not to mention super cool and more fun.
To obtain my license, I went online and found free study materials. There are plenty of courses you can purchase, but I tried my hand at preparing on my own. I told myself I would investigate the different courses if I didn’t pass the first time.
Over the next couple of weeks, I read everything I could find about the test. I downloaded a free study guide and took some practice tests. I bought a cheap recreational drone to learn the remote control and get familiar with how drones take off, land, hover and all the other aerial tricks the little guy can do.
The day came for the test. I logged on and began. The time limit was two hours, and I needed 70 percent to pass. I flew through the basic drone questions about lift, thrust and atmospheric conditions. I recalled answers to proper loading from my own drone experience. I debated the detailed questions about airspace while analyzing aerospace charts. I resolved hypothetic scenarios. I second-guessed myself on some queries and confidently answered others.
When I finished, I was relieved. Right away I was alerted that I had passed. A few days later, I held my Part 107 Drone Pilot’s License.
I told my boss at the construction site that I had my drone pilot’s license, and he immediately scheduled me to fly the company Mav 2 for a progress monitoring job we had going on in the next town over. He sent me the job details through our software program, which mapped out the flight path.
The next day I double-checked the weather conditions before heading to the site and setting up the Mav 2 to take flight. I ensured the batteries were fully charged the night before and that the flight plan was shareable with my boss back at the office.
I placed the drone on the portable landing pad, stepped back and pressed the button to execute the flight.
I watched as the UAV took off, following a series of GPS coordinates embedded in its software brain. This was my first professional flight, and it felt good. It felt like a stepping stone in my career, and I had a feeling I was going to encounter a whole new world.
I stood watching the drone trace the flight path, shooting the data it picked up to my screen. I ensured the drone stayed in my line of sight and that nothing caused an obstruction.
The drone returned to the landing pad when the flight parameters were complete. I packed it up and headed to my car. There, I sent the data to my boss, who most likely uploaded it immediately to report to the stakeholders.
I felt good about my first full day as a drone pilot. After that successful flight, I was assigned more piloting jobs, which I also completed efficiently. At that time, I felt like I could pick up other jobs, so I joined a few different networks of pilots that received alerts of pilot jobs in their area. I had purchased my own commercial drone with the extra money I was making as the go-to drone pilot of my construction company.
One of the pilot networks I joined was with FlyGuys, which was pretty easy to do. I filled out the application on their website, downloaded the pilot portal and filled out all of my information. It wasn’t long before I had my first job with them.
Over the next few months, I flew over many different types of sites, traveled to neighboring cities and met many interesting people who were either intrigued or petrified of drones. I captured photos of gorgeous golf courses, mapped out plans for developing neighborhoods and monitored a few acres of crops.
I shot aerial photos for realtors one week and inspected cell towers the next. I expanded my territory so that I could accept jobs in other states, which opened even more opportunities while fulfilling my love of traveling – something, I hadn’t been able to do much while working solely in the construction field.
I never expected a new career path, especially one relatively new to the scene and, even more incredibly, one so technology-driven and innovative. But here I am, accomplished in a trade I once thought would take over my job, but it is creating jobs and helping industries become more efficient and successful.