What I’ve Learned as a Drone Pilot

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I’ve been a drone pilot now for a few months. It’s been exhilarating, exciting and challenging. I have learned more than I ever thought I would about something I never realized was even an option as a career.

My Own Business

Becoming a drone pilot is running my own business. I have even named my business “Inspector Gadget.” I fly my drone for many different companies that require inspections of some kind. I have inspected construction sites, HVAC equipment and even bridges. Companies contract me out; I fly the designated flight path and immediately send them the data I collect.

I have gotten lots of work from word of mouth and networking. And since drone inspections are such a quick turnaround time, I am constantly busy and moving on to the next job. I even video the occasional wedding or local event for more creative flying with my drone.

I have joined a few pilot networks, which have all sent substantial work my way. I’ve gotten to speak to other drone pilots and have learned tips and tricks from the more seasoned fliers. One of the better pilot networks I have been a part of has been FlyGuys.

Working With FlyGuys

FlyGuys is a start up drone services provider that contracts licensed drone pilots nationwide. Working with their project managers is a breeze. They contact me through their exclusive pilot portal when a job in my area comes available. After they send me the details of the data to be collected and the flight plan, I accept the job and we schedule the day of flight. I capture the data, upload it to their proprietary software and send it to the project manager. Other pilot networks don’t have project managers, and it is somewhat difficult to get in touch with the client if something changes. Most of the time it is easier to work for my own clients or through FlyGuys.

I have also learned a ton working with FlyGuys. The different industries that can benefit from drones are beyond what I ever imagined. The types of projects I have flown for FlyGuys have opened my eyes up to the different types of services that drones can offer. For instance, I had no idea that the agriculture industry could use drones to help plan and map future crops and monitor their progress and health. I never thought about using a drone to manage livestock or perform field and soil analysis.

I have collected data to create 3D models and mapping for urban developments. I added solar and turbine inspections to my resume. I have learned how to take killer photos and videos for realtors and hoteliers to use for marketing. My data collection has created digital twins for engineering inspections and helped surveyors conduct ground quality assessments.

I have even learned more about LiDAR, another service FlyGuys offers. LiDAR, a remote sensing method used to detect objects in real-time, is a precise and accurate measurement that offers even more deliverables. Some deliverables include density measurement, election models, volumetrics and Orthomosaics. And although LiDAR is an entirely different beast than just a drone, I am learning more and more about the high-tech sensor so I can join the FlyGuys LiDAR division.

Without the FlyGuys team, I would not have ventured out further than just construction site inspections.

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I get it now

Before, when I was just an inspector, I feared drones would take over my job. But I also feared the safety of my inspection job, if I’m being honest. The inspection site was often dangerous, trekking through enormous construction equipment or scaling up scaffolding to reach the high inspections. On days after a hard rain, the inspections frequently had to be rescheduled because it was too slippery or muddy to go out and collect data.

Manual inspections also required a lot of time. Once I collected data from the assessment, I wouldn’t be able to send my observations until later in the day after I recorded my findings. There were times when immediate action needed to be taken, but it took a few days to schedule something after the construction manager was finally notified.

With drones, safety risks are minimal, if any. The drone flies to the highest point of the inspection, allowing the company to save money on scaffolding and insurance for the person climbing it. As the drone pilot inspector, I can now stand a safe distance away from the heavy equipment on a construction site, and rain rarely causes delays.

The drone collects data immediately and sends the reports to the decision maker. They can see the inspection in real-time, enabling them to take immediate action if needed. They can share the progress with stakeholders, thus increasing quality assurance and customer satisfaction.

Overall, drones make life and business easier. Much like any new technology or invention. They keep workplaces safe, save money and time and can capture aerial footage and data that would otherwise be impossible.

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