(Source: Washington Post)
Right now flying commercial drones in the United States is illegal, except for a handful of individuals who have received Federal Aviation Administration exemptions to shoot everything from movies to real estate videos.
But the lucky few with permission to fly commercial drones in U.S. skies have had to jump a serious hurdle, obtaining a pilot’s license. These drone pilots have spent thousands of dollars as they receive the type of training one needs to fly a Cessna. A square peg is getting jammed in a round hole.
The usefulness of the training is restricted, given the limited overlap in skill sets needed to safely operate a drone and a manned aircraft. But even those most frustrated with the FAA’s slow approach to integrating drones into the national airspace agree that for safety’s sake some certification process is needed. Not just anyone should be flying a drone.
The question is what does that license look like, and who should issue the licenses? An interesting example is Britain, where its Civil Aviation Authority — an equivalent to the FAA — has approved three companies to provide training on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that weigh less than 45 pounds.
Once a pilot has completed the training, he or she must provide the Civil Aviation Authority with a manual explaining how the drone will be used. Pilots also must show that they have liability insurance. Then the operators can receive actual permission, with a few stipulations. Generally they must fly in the line of sight and not within 50 meters of people or buildings, according to a CAA spokesman. Drones over 15 pounds must get clearance from air traffic control. Those under 15 pounds can operate freely in airspace that isn’t congested, such as near airports.
“My whole mission has been to bring the best lessons from manned aviation and put them into the unmanned space,” said Nick Rogers, the director of training at Sky-Futures, one of the companies approved to offer drone instruction. Sky-Futures initially developed the training to prepare its pilots for its work in the oil and natural gas industries. The training is now becoming an additional revenue stream. It’s currently in discussions with a British utility company to train some of its employees.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com