Seems simple of course. Go to the Heliguy website, choose between a sexy Phantom 3 or even sexier Inspire One, and BAM. You’re a pilot and the world will marvel at all those sexy aerial shots that start appearing in your showreels and trailers….
And then one day you crash it. EBay is littered with broken Phantoms and I’m man enough to admit I’ve had a crash or two myself. Sometimes they just seem to get a mind of their own and the last you see is a couple of grand zapping away through the sky never to be seen again. Word is that Inspire One batteries are failing too and on occasions they’re just plummeting out of the sky and landing with a bit of a bill. So aside from the cash loss, what’s the problem? I’ll tell you. If that crash had impacted on the guests you’d be in a veritable shi* load of trouble. If it drops on a beautiful white Rolls Royce and dings the car you’re in trouble. If you didn’t see that 747 coming into land while you were filming at the Syon Hotel and had a near miss or worse, hit it – consequences are too terrible to contemplate. Because you wouldn’t be insured. And you’re not insured because… you’re not licensed. And you’re not licensed because… you thought “nah, it’ll be fine, I won’t crash, and even if I do I’ll get away with it”.
(Unlike THIS chap….)
Wrong in so many ways. Number one. If you’re filming with your drone (last time I’m going to call it that, from here on it’s an RPAS or Remotely Piloted Aircraft System)… So, if you’re filming with you’re RPAS and it’s for profit (yes, you’re filming that wedding to make money, remember?), then unless you get a licence from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) that gives you what’s called a ‘PFAW’ or Permission for Aerial Work, you’re actually committing a criminal offense and can be hauled up before m’luds for a proper spanking. And that my friend will doubtless both empty your wallet, and most likely kill your business stone dead. And you don’t even have to kill or injure anyone for that to happen. They have the power. It’s the law. This fella was fined £800 + £3500 costs and he didn’t injure a soul.
Taking this into consideration I decided I wanted to be all legal and go get that license so I would be probably about the only RPAS operator fully licensed and insured in my sector. First thing, it’s not cheap. Well, actually it is. For about the same price as a new Canon 5dIII body and a modicum of common sense, you too can go and get all legal too.
Essentially there’s two qualifications that can lead you to that licensing Holy Grail. One is called BNUC-s and the other RPQ-s. When I started this process, Euro USC offered BNUCs and Resource Group offered RPQ-s. Talking to both companies soon showed who was more bothered about winning the business, so I went with Resource Group. £1600 including VAT bought me a Web Based Training Module, a three day Ground School course with two ex-military instructors that really knew their stuff and helped no end, and a practical Flight Exam conducted by them at the end of which, If I’m up to par they’ll recommend to the CAA that I get the much sought after certificate.
At the time of writing, the web based stuff is done, the Ground School is done and passed, and before long I’ll be going for that final exam.
In Part 2 I’ll be running through exactly what the Web Based Training covered and what my experience was like at Ground School.