Thursday, August 10, 2017

I'm a (drone) pilot!

I realized on my drive home from work today, I haven't updated this blog in sometime.  Actually, I haven't blogged on any of my blogs in a while.  Seems like sharing on social media takes really all the wind out of my sails when it comes to sharing thoughts and work.  But I figured for this occasion, I would dust off my old (lack of) writing skills and sit down to write one.
In early spring I made the jump and purchased a drone.  A DJI Mavic Pro.  After spending years with a camera in my hand, I decided it was time to take creativity and soar....literally.  So, I went and made the leap.  I've heard someone describe flying a higher end drone as "holding a $1000 bill in your hand with it out the window driving a car at 60 MPH."  They are right.  I've spent a lot of time getting use to flying it, learning the controls, understanding how the camera works, etc.  So when it came time to look at adding it to my offerings for Andy Donaldson Photography, I found out that there was one really important thing I needed to do first.

Get certified by the FAA!!!

Okay, how hard can that be?  That was the thought I was going with.  But then I started looking into it and I was amazed at what the government wanted you to know.  Don't get me wrong, I feel it's important that if someone is going to be flying something in the air with the spinning blades of death attached to it, it's important that they understand the rules.  After several starts and stops with studying, I finally cracked down on myself and hit the books.  Well, just not the books, but also the internet.  Seems like the business of training want to be sUAS pilots is a big one out there and there are a couple of places willing to offer you training for a price. But I took this route:

1.  I watched this video several times

Very good video with LOTS of information and took a few times watching it for everything to start to soak in.  If you're looking for a good free guide to what the FAA is looking for, I highly recommend this one.

2.  I bought this book on Amazon

Really comprehensive guide that covers just about everything you need to know for the test!   It also includes the chance to take 5 practice tests from their website.  But then I found this.....

3.  The authors of the above book also created an app for Apple and Android devices for $4.99!
Absolutely LOVED this app!  Covered EVERYTHING that was in the book and the practice questions pretty much matched the questions that were in the book.  No need to make flash cards!  Really helped me prepare.

So with those three items, I spent a lot of time studying.  When I started scoring 90%+ on my practice tests, I knew it was time.  To take the test for the 14 CFR Part 107 test as it's officially known, you have to register and go take the test at an official testing center.  Just like back in the days when I got certified in IBM collaboration technologies, you have to call the service, pay $150 dollars and schedule an appointment at a testing center.  Being where I live, it was a coin toss as either of the places closest to me where an hour away from home.  So, I picked the one closest to where I work and went.  You can learn all about it from the FAA's official site by clicking here.

Okay, I will warn you.  Studying the information is one thing.  Understanding it is a complete other thing.  I got so use to remembering the answers of the practice tests, I got lazy on the theory of the questions.  So when I sat down to take the test, I noticed that hardly any of the questions matched the practice guides.  That's a good thing, really.  But I calmed myself down after a few questions and I started to get in the flow.  Long story short, it took me about 30 minutes to take the test, (you're given two hours) and felt pretty confident.  In the end, I scored an 82%.  The test shows you quickly which questions you got wrong, but doesn't show the right answers.  The sheet the testing proctor gives you has the codes you can check on the FAA site to see what area you did wrong in and as expected for me it was airspace.  But, 82% is higher than the required 70% so I'm pretty happy with it.  My advice for someone looking to study and take this test, really understand the concept of each practice question, just not the answer! 

So now, all I have to do is wait for my certificate to show up in my inbox and I can begin utilizing this investment in my offerings.  Finally.

That's it for now. Stay tuned to my Facebook page as more information will follow!