In August of 2017 we starting quietly working on a new venture to better serve our customers. Over the past year we have been asked by several of our long-time clientele if we offered aerial photography? As the this was not a service that Vagabond Photography offered but it always has been something we were interested in.
While at EAA Air Venture this year we sat in on a few of the drone seminars where we started to learn what we needed to know to legally be able to offer aerial photography and videography.
If one is going to fly commercially the FAA requires that a person takes the sUAS part 107 pilots exam in order to become a qualified pilot. As we like to explain it to most of our customers and potential commercial pilots, think of it like a drivers test for the sky but way more intensive. The test covers everything from knowing how to read chart and what symbols mean on them to knowing how to read the weather data released by observation stations. Along with many other things.
We found the best place to start to find the information needed is at https://www.faa.gov/uas/, it shows the possible commercial drone pilot everything they need to know. Even though the site can be a little hard to navigate at time you can find everything you need.
At first, we struggled with what specifically we needed to know, if your anything like us, you want to know the exact things required and not waste time on useless knowledge. Though the FFA website we were able to look though a sample test with about 40 different questions but a lot of them didn’t make any sense to us even after going though the 87-page study guide that you can download.
It was recommended to us that perspective drone pilots look into using an educational company called remotepilot101.com. This is by far the best educational services out there for perspective drone pilots. Jason Schappert is an excellent instructor he and his company keep the videos short and on topic and breaks it all down into 10 lessons and quizzes culminating in a mock final test one similar to what a perspective done pilot will see when you to your local FAA testing site. The course does currently run about $149(Jan 2018) but is well worth the investment. To go though the class takes about 12 hours on the short end but if you really take your time and re-watch some of the more intensive sections along with taking the quizzes and overall course test it will realistically take about 24-30 hours.
In addition to setting a perspective pilot up for the test RemotePilot101.com also helps you locate testing sites in your area. For us being located it South Eastern Wisconsin the close place for us to take the test was in Madison.
When taking the test at an authorized testing site you the instructors/proctors will tell you to bring a pencil and a calculator. Also, as one of the people in our group taking the test found out using the calculator on your smart phone will not fly. In order to pass the test, one must score a 72%. We thought this seemed a bit on the low side considering when taking the test with RemotePilot101 they require an 80% for completion of the class.
Once you pass and register your drone with the FAA($5 one-time charge) your ready to hit the sky in the correct areas.
The above was just our experience with the process of going from a hobbyist to a commercial drone photographer we would love to hear how your experiences varied from ours.