Three's a A Crowd? Try 11 New Remote Pilots at Brinkmann Consructors! Our Latest Client Site Drone License Class
When Brinkmann Constructors, a progressive and innovative general contractor, decided to add drone technology to their workflow, they committed nearly everyone on their team of Denver-based project managers, supervisors and engineers to earning a Remote Pilot Certificate and becoming qualified to fly drones at project sites. At Brinkmann's invitation in early April, Greg DePrez (Senior UAS Instructor, Aeon Unmanned, center in blue shirt) and Micah Lambert (Aeon Unmanned CEO, behind DePrez) brought the AU Academy to Brinkmann's Denver office classroom for two days of FAA drone license lectures. After taking several practice tests and meeting the instructors once more for a final review on test day, all of the license candidates passed the FAA Drone Knowledge exam. Brinkmann's new Remote Pilots will use drones to take photos and videos of site conditions, as well as to document monthly construction progress. We congratulate Brinkmann Constructors, an employee-owned construction industry leader, on making an "all in" commitment to embracing drone technology by creating a large team of legal, safe, and professional employee-pilots.
AUTHOR: Micah Lambert, CEO
So, you want to be a drone pilot.
I could start this blog with a whole bunch of lessons learned and tell you all the pitfalls of starting a drone service provider business. But I’m not going to. Instead I'm going to share what's going on in the industry and what's working.
First a little background. When I started my drone business a few years ago, it was a crazy ride. The tech has evolved from toy-like drones to something out of a sci-fi movie. In fact, 2016 drone technology is obsolete now. And drone legislation is evolving every day.
When I first started, I got paid stupid money to shoot homes and business all over the state. By stupid, I mean $1500 for a 45-second video and 10 HDR shots!
Today, you’d be lucky to get $200.00 for that kind of work.
My first year in business, I was commissioned to do things with drones that had never been done before. My drones read serial numbers on solar panels and generated maps of every panel via GPS.
I flew indoor marijuana grows to measure plant nitrogen levels.
I flew unpoured post tension slabs and mapped all the penetrations and cables in the pour before the concrete went in.
I had 380 billable hours under my belt within the first six months. That’s 63 hours of flying a month! I was flying drones about 3 hours a day and having a blast. It was all about to change. New software, new hardware, new cleints.
I’ve witnessed massive change in the drone industry since 2016, much of it for the better.
The FAA implementing a waiver system that’s finally giving drones a little piece of the sky. Large firms and insurance companies using unmanned aerial vehicles and being positively impacted by drone technology.
I’ve personally used over forty pieces of software for DJI products alone that range from sublime to downright scary. All of this in 24 months. The industry is changing at a mind-boggling pace and being on the bleeding edge of it has been fucking amazing!
Over the past year, my partners and I have developed an excellent Part 107 training course that takes what we learned from the bloody days so we can pass it on to the new guys.
In every class I’m asked, “How did you start your business?”
I didn’t know how to explain my conviction that I’m on the cutting edge of an industry that’s about to revolutionize the world. But after lots of reflection, I realize the answer is FAITH.
I have faith that this industry is the next big thing and I want to be in it!
I’ve stayed flexible and agile. I’ve looked for innovative ways to use drones, then tried them.
When I started my business, I bought email lists and sent thousands of emails. I built up my LinkedIn account and connected to anyone who would listen to my message about using drones in their business. I worked hard. All day, every day.
I flew during the day, and marketed and sold at night. I wore all the hats. I lived the drone life. I learned a lot. I learned what worked and what didn’t, and then I stopped doing what didn’t.
I am not telling you this to make you think I’m a badass or to brag. I want you to know that I went down a lot of different avenues to so many verticals, here is a quick list.
Roofing and Builder associations
Realtors associations and offices (Cold calls and walk-ins)
Construction company walk-ins
Hundreds of LinkedIn connection invites every day for six months
Facebook and Instagram ads
Meetings with CEOs
Meetings with anyone that would let me buy them lunch
Some of these are viable ways to get exposure. I’m going to walk you through the ones that work so you can avoid the ones that are a waste of time and money.
The absolute most important first step is to get your Part 107 remote pilot certificate. (http://aeonunmanned.com/training.html) This will get the rules firmly planted in that brain of yours, so you can avoid loss of income and hardware.
I am not saying, do my course! There are lots of options out there right now. You could attend an online program like DartDrones or Remote Pilot 101. There is some solid data out there that online programs are just as effective as hands on and classroom study. And the cost is considerably less, No travel, No hotel, No car rental. Then you can go out and fly like a pro. Just pop up that new $2000.00 DJI Phantom 4 pro and cruise right up to the first job and go for it!
Not so fast.
Before you try to maneuver your pricey high-tech aerial vehicle you want to practice, practice, practice! And when you're done with that, PRACTICE some more!
You need to know what you are doing before you ever get a gig. And practice with a machine that’s not going to set you back thousands of dollars the first time you drive it into a tree. (Lucky for you, this is built into Aeon Unmanned’s Part 107 course)
Having your Part 107 ensures you make the right moves. If you go out and practice shooting post tension slabs and can map the penetrations and get them right, down to a 1/4”, every time then you have a product that is ready for market. It’s All about what you can provide to the end user or client.
You’ll have a solid foundation to generate a robust income with your drone. Any yahoo can take mediocre pics of a job site. But do you know how expensive it is re-pour an incorrectly laid slab?
It involves x-ray, locators, stamped engineer’s letters, coring crews . . . . The list goes on and on. Quality drone work saves contractors tens of thousands of dollars. And proper training ensures quality drone work.
One accurate drone flight will create data that integrates with AutoCAD and ensures everything is in the right place. Before the concrete is ever poured. This is pure fucking gold to construction companies!
So after you have your training and are insured, you can go out, request airspace (I’ll be showing you how in a future article) and fly practice missions on weekends. Then connect with project superintendents through LinkedIn. Ask them if you can give them a free DXF file of the map and then they can overlay that file and see how accurate you are. NO ONE SAYS NO TO FREE SHIT.
In this series, I’m going to give you some little nuggets that I have learned. I want to get you from dreamer to doer in the next 6 weeks.
Stay with me and interact. Tell me what’s blocking you from moving forward in this fast paced, ever changing, industry. Get in touch email@example.com and help me help you.
CEO of Aeon Unmanned, Inc
We've wondered where the drone pilots of the future will come from. Will they continue to be the solo entrepreneurs we've always seen in our monthly Aeon Academy Drone License classes? Or will more of them be employees of companies and agencies that sponsored their training to create an internal drone team?
So we looked at the trends in our own Part 107 license class training. In 2017, the first full year of drone license availability, 66% of our students were private or self-employed individuals. 34% of of our students were sponsored by an employer.
But in 2018, the numbers have swapped. This year, 35% of our students have been private, and 65% have been sponsored by their employers. These have included police departments, national science laboratories, construction companies, gas and oil operators, and even reality TV video crews (you can spot their drone shots on reality TV shows!).
We think the growing percentage of employer-sponsored Drone License students demonstrates that, as companies discover the critical value of drones to key internal processes, more of them will hire or train internal pilots who will handle company drone operations.
And yes - we are happy to help employee-sponsored students get their commercial drone licenses!
We've been teaching the Part 107 Drone License Course since September 2016 (a record?). But 2018 was a big year for our program. At the beginning of the year, we completely revised the course, based on our experience and feedback from our grads. During the year we welcomed dozens of students from all over the US, as well as Kenya and Jamaica. Two thirds of our students were sponsored by their employers, and we had new industries represented, including law enforcement, mining, journalism, and wind turbine inspection.
We constantly made lesson adjustments; for instance, students reported that the number of "airspace" questions on the Part 107 exam were increasing, so we expanded the airspace lectures and practice problems to make sure students were comfortable with this topic. We saw our graduates' FAA exam scores rise, and since June, the average of our graduates' scores has exceeded 87 (and only a 70 is needed to pass!).
Heading into 2019, we think we've got one of the most comprehensive Part 107 professional drone license and flight prep course available. Our full Test Prep and Flight Intro course features two days of classroom instruction and two days of basic flight instruction, supported with homework and test practice right up to the scheduled FAA exam on the final day. That's twice the instruction time of nearly all other lecture plus flight courses.
Our graduates (see their comments!) consistently report that they felt prepared to take the Drone exam and they they are comfortable with the basic elements of safe, legal, and professional drone flight.
Are you a designated future drone pilot for your company or agency (or yourself)? Then pick an upcoming FAA commercial drone license course and join us!
AUTHOR: Hud Lambert
One of the biggest points of confusion for an aspiring drone pilot is the legality of their activities. As drones have become increasingly popular over the last decade, we've seen numerous horror stories on the news and on social media about people inappropriately flying and getting busted as a result. Here's a short list of transgressions of FAA drone regulations that I've seen in the news over the years:
Hobby Pilots: Part 101The regulations for hobby pilots are pretty short and straightforward. If you'd like to see them yourself, you can check them out here. It's a short list, but I'll expand on them:
As you make plans to earn your Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate, there is key element in your professional portfolio that you need to include. It's a commitment to a UAS-centered Code of Conduct.
When you apply for your pilot certificate, you agree to obey the rules and regulations governing your UAS flight privileges. But you should enhance that commitment by pledging publicly that you are committed to safe and responsible operation of unmanned aircraft.
To make that commitment, we recommend to our Aeon Academy students that they adopt the UAS Pilots Code. The Code was published this year by the Aviators Code Initiative and the University Aviation Association. It's designed to advance safety, airmanship, and professionalism among UAS pilots and crews.
The key theme of the UAS pilots code is that, as members of the professional aviation community, remote pilots should maintain the same obligations toward safe operations as manned pilots, who have a highly developed set of training and safety programs.
The UAS Pilots Code lists a set of recommended practices to confront real world operations. It's designed to help UAS pilots embrace standard operating procedures and incorporate risk and safety management in all operations. There are seven sections of guidance in the Code:
1. General Responsibilities of UAS Pilots
2. Manned Aircraft and People on the Surface
3. Training and Proficiency
4. Security and Privacy
5. Environmental Issues
6. Use of Technology
7. Advancement of UAS Aviation
As an example, here's an abbreviated version of Section 1, General Responsibilities of UAS Pilots:
UAS pilots should:
a. make safety a top priority,
b. seek excellence in airmanship (knowledge, skill, ability, and attitude that promote safe and efficient operations),
c. adopt sound principles of aeronautical decision-making (ADM) (the process used by pilots to consistently determine the best course of action in response to the circumstances), and develop and exercise good judgment,
d. use sound principles of risk management,
e. maintain situational awareness (the accurate perception and understanding of your operation and environment), and adhere to prudent operating practices,
f. aspire to professionalism,
g. act with responsibility, integrity, and courtesy, and
h. adhere to applicable laws, regulations, and industry guidance.
In our Academy classes we review the key statements and encourage our students to incorporate the UAS Pilots Code into their operations. And we point out that they should promote their embrace of the Code to demonstrate their commitment to professional and safe UAS operation.
Remote Pilots: are you committed? You can find the full details of the UAS Pilots Code at this link: http://www.secureav.com/UAS-Listings-Page.html