While we are still at least a year from an official route to becoming a licensed commercial drone operator, private companies have begun to take it upon themselves to educate the curious masses to teach and instill best practices to the curious masses looking to enter the world of drones.
One such company is DartDrones, based in Massachusetts.
DartDrones was founded in 2014 to teach people how to fly and address some of the pain points that accompany starting in the drone space.
The company hosted their first class in January, 2015.
“We want to simplify the experience for aspiring drone pilots,” DartDrones CEO and cofounder Abby Speicher told DroneLife. “We want them to know the FAA regulations and how to operate safely. It’s really easy to make a mistake. If you have one switch in the wrong position, it can ruin your flight or, worst case, your drone.”
But before you even dive into a DartDrone class, it is important to approach the subject of drones with the right mindset. And that may mean changing the way you think about this burgeoning technology. “We are trying to get people to see them more as tools rather than toys,” Speicher said.
And it’s easy to overestimate your ability when you first get a controller in your hands.
“The first drone we had was a DJI Phantom FC-40 (which, next to DJI’s new Phantom 3, looks like a BetaMax player next to a BluRay). There was no manual, no instructions, and what little literature was included was in Chinese. We crashed it on the first day.” Speicher told us. “It made me nervous to fly again. We want to prevent others from having the same experience. We don’t want them to have a bad experience and stop flying all together.”
So Speicher and her cofounder, Chris Costello, set about developing a curriculum.
DartDrones has its own Section 333 exemption from the FAA and employs certified private pilots to teach its classes.
This means class attendants get hands on experience.
“In a DARTdrones class, students get both classroom and hands-on instruction,” Speicher explained. “Topics include FAA regulations, the 333 exemption, safety considerations, first flight basics, emergency procedures, checklists, and a deep dive into the DJI App. During the hands-on flying, students complete agility courses to become experts at low and slow flying.”
Even though it has been in existence for less than a year, DartDrones instructors has already trained 250 people in Philadelphia, Boston, and outside New York. In the next few weeks, classes will be held again in these three locations.
And by the end of the summer, there will be DartDrones certified instructors in California, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Missouri, and Illinois.
“I would say 30% of our students are retirees who are excited to use their drones with their grandkids and take pictures. The average age of our students is probably about 55,” Speicher said. “At the same time though, we have attracted a lot of husbands whose wives bought them drones around the holidays but the drones have sat in the boxes because they are intimidated by the learning curve and uncertain rules.”
Also interesting is DartDrones’ decision to discontinue using any iteration of DJI’s Phantom 2 drone in favor of the three month old Phantom 3.
“We have found that drones seem to be a product that people want to upgrade as soon as a new one comes out, like the iPhone. Plus there are so many new features with the Phantom 3, like less fly aways and better homepoint navigation, that it just makes. And the Phantom 3 has a lot in common with DJI’s Inspire 1, so we can teach both drones at the same time,” Speicher explained.
DartDrones does plan to add classes for 3D Robotics’ drones eventually, but Speicher said there hasn’t been much demand for them.
“We are really excited about the GoPro drone next year, though,” she said.
If you are interested in taking a class with DartDrones, click the image below and be sure to use promo code DRNLFE10 to save 10%!
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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