Flying a drone safely takes training and training takes time. But if you’re organised and efficient it’s amazing what you can achieve. We think we’ve trained the fastest student in the UK – so far.
Heliguy set the scene with lectures on the commercial drone industry, how drones work (particularly DJI aircraft), and how to fly them safely. The course (priced at £1,680) continues with air law, principles of flight, regulation, meteorology and navigation. After a theory exam students later take a practical flight assessment.
(Call 0191 296 1024 or register your interest)
One of the students on a Heliguy course managed to get from the passing his theory exam to passing his flight assessment in just a month. Photographer Andrew Bryson explains how he did it:
Sunday afternoon. Sitting with pre-school nerves, getting all my stuff ready for the course, pencil – check, pen – check, notepad – check and drone – check! I must’ve checked everything at least four times.
Monday morning (Day one) was all about meeting the people on the course and getting an understanding of the practical skills you need to become a pilot of an unmanned aerial system. There was a right mix of people on the course. Not just from the North-East, but from all over the UK. I don’t know what I was worried about. It was great to meet like-minded people – all of them drone mad.
There was a range of experience and of UAV models on the course. Some people like me who had flown for a while and some who were just picking up their drone from Heliguy for the first time that week. All of them had DJI aircraft – a mixture of Inspires 1, Phantom 2s and S1000s.
We met our tutor, who explained how the next three days were going to unfold and we got our operations manual template to read through and to start work on.
On day 2 and 3 we started to learn about air law, theory of flight, meteorology, the dangers of lithium polymer batteries, human factors, flight planning exercises and emergency procedures.
At the end of the day 2 I was looking forward to the evening out. What more could a man ask for than a pint of beer and chatting about drones. The “drone social” evening is where we met people who already fly drones for a living. It was great to ask them questions about their businesses and how they got started.
Day 4, the day of the test! I sat down feeling very nervous. The timer started. I turned over the first page and read every question twice before I answered it. You have an hour and 15 minutes, which is plenty of time. Then you have to wait and wait and wait for the results – well only until just after lunch, but it felt like a long time. The results were in and I passed with 100% in my Remote Pilot Certificate Theory. I felt like Maverick from Top Gun!
After the course I felt like I had the confidence and the knowledge to start writing my operations manual. It took about 20 to 25 hours in front of the computer before I felt confident to submit the manual for approval. After submission I sat at home biting my fingernails waiting for that manual to drop back into my inbox. It arrived but it needed a little adjustment. That meant another five hours on the computer before I could resubmit the manual and hopefully get it approved.
Saturday I received an email asking if I would like to do my flight test on the Monday. I got the brief and the postcode, so I started the planning using all the knowledge I learnt on the course. I searched Google maps, Sky Vector and Sky Demon Lite, I won’t tell you what I found out because I wouldn’t want to spoil your flight test surprise. I visited the area to have a look around, carried out my risk assessments, my site survey and I kept an eye on the TAF and carried out my checklist to make sure that everything was packed and working correctly.
The Big Day arrived. Feeling very nervous, I had to head down to Heliguy for 1 o’clock or should I say 1300L. When I walked in it was nice to see another set of people starting out on their journey through the course. Just before my practical exam started I had time to check the METAR (weather information). I had to stand up in front of the two examiners and brief them about the mission I was going to carry out in the exact way as it was laid out in my operations manual. We got to the exam site. I walked the site, conducted any last minute planning and risk assessments. I had to go through my checklists I got ready for the flight test, it was now or never, I got the all clear to take off I carried out the mission as instructed, I’m still not telling you what is involved I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun. After I landed, I was asked to debrief about the mission, what went well, what didn’t go so well, what I could’ve done better and was the mission carried out successfully. And now that it was, I just had the nervous wait until I found out if I had failed or passed.
They were only away about 30 seconds but it felt like ages. I was debriefed on how I did, then was told I had passed. I was over the moon.
I was the first person in the UK to pass the test from start to finish in 35 days. I’m not going to say it was easy but if you put the time and effort in, you can also pass with the help of Heliguy but please don’t break my record.
Sales Manager at Heliguy, Scott Henderson, said “Andrew is a shining example of what can be achieved on a commercial pilot’s course at Heliguy. Drone operators need to take their responsibilities seriously in this exciting and rapidly developing industry. Andrew was totally committed to get the best out of the course and then went on to pass his flight assessment in double quick time despite having no previous aviation related experience.
“We work closely with many established UAV operators so we are well placed to advise newcomers about the best way to get off the ground. We are sure the success of people like Andrew will encourage other aspiring commercial drone pilots to work hard and realise their dream by signing up for a Heliguy course.”
The Head of Academy at RUSTA, the National Qualified Entity that Heliguy have partnered with to produce the course, Sion Roberts, added “Remote Pilots Course (theory) RPC(T) was designed by military trainers, from ex RAF Aircrew to ex RAF Engineers, and is designed to enable candidates with little or no aviation experience to have enough knowledge to operate SUAS safely and within the rules and regulations. It covers the basic topics needed for aviation. These topics for manned platforms are generally taught over a period of months, but as it’s only a 2.5 day course a lot of information is disseminated quickly and the candidates experience a very steep learning curve.
“We do not apologise for the heavy workload as we realise that soon enough these candidates will be flying their vehicles in National Airspace and have to be capable, responsible pilots.
“Andrew Bryson realised the gravitas of what was asked of him and applied himself 100% to the task at hand. Despite no aviation experience he scored an impressive 100% on the exam, wrote an above average Operations Manual in the required timeframe and passed his flight test with no problems. Andrew’s experience reinforces our mission objectives of turning people from all walks of life into competent small unmanned aviators who can operate efficiently, within the law but above all safely.”
If you think you can beat Andrew’s impressive record or even if you’re interested in getting this valuable qualification at your own pace then speak to us here at Heliguy. Drones, remotely piloted aircraft, unmannned aerial vehicles or whatever you choose to call them are a huge growth area and there’s no sign of demand for skilled, commercial pilots easing off. Our trainee pilots come from all over the UK. You can have a friendly chat with us about our CAA approved training by calling us on 0191 296 1024. Alternatively find out more on our training course page.