Phantom 4

This week I took my first steps working toward my GVC qualification to pilot a drone safely in the UK. I spent three days with 8 others under the instruction of the excellent Chris Wright at Drone Pilot Academy. I have been flying small drones over the past ten years and have had a DJI Spark since 2016, but late last year we secured some internal funding that would allow us to expand our ground based Lidar to include a drone based device - the BLK2FLY.

At 2.6kg this drone requires a Drone pilot licence so on the advice of the Leica folk at Hexagon we approached DPA. From start to finish they have been excellent. Would definitely recommend them and we are hoping to put a couple more staff through the training soon. The three days is mainly classroom based interspersed with some practice sessions to build up the 2 hours flying time to be able to sit the assessment. We had mixed weather but were still able to get out for 3 flight sessions and the requisite 2 hours.

Drone Pilot Academy

The training focuses on making sure you are a safe pilot. I really appreciated the approaches taken to documenting how to fly. It felt like a lot of good airmanship is about making lists and more importantly using them. In a strange way I also didn’t appreciate going into this what this qualification allows you to do - it means you can fly ANY drone. We used Phantom 4’s for training and there were a few other drones present which were interesting to see - the DJI Avata 2 looked fun! The mix of people on the course was varied but split between two groups - surveying / building type people and cinematography folk. Half in companies, half setting up businesses to provide drone pilot services.

So what did I learn? Loads! On the practical side the last day was getting a little windier so the ATTI mode training was fun - it really showed how weather can have an exponential impact on your ability to recover stability! I learnt how to read aviation maps, which was new to me, and loved the fact that aviators describe horizontal distances in metres and vertical distances in feet. It reduces the potential for miss understanding the axis people are talking about. I have also come away realising I need to have a broader conversation with others at UCL who are GVC trained to discuss Operator IDs, insurance etc.

Returning to the other side of the classroom and learning new skills is one of my favourite things to do. I really enjoyed the style of learning and made some notes on things to integrate into our own teaching modules. The staff at Cranfield Management Development Centre also deserve a hat tip for the excellent food over the 3 days! Some pics from the classroom and the field site are below.

Drone Pilot Academy GVC

Church Farm Training Flights

Church Farm Training Flights

Church Farm Training Flights

Note: I am now realising the irony that I didn’t get any pictures from the Phantom 4!