Every now and then as you know I try to interview interesting people within the UAV industry. This next interview is with Ricky Huntley from Sentinel Aviation
Please tell me how you got into the drone industry?
I have been working with unmanned aircraft for 15 years plus, initially I fell into the unmanned sector after the Regiment I was a member of became disbanded. During my time as a military operator I operated numerous drones from small unmanned systems to high altitude long endurance, after operating these systems on many operations worldwide I closed time on my Army career as a tactical instructor on unmanned aircraft.
Post army I joined an NQE as an instructor, this was back when the industry was very embryonic and there were only two training organisations against todays 30+. I have remained instructing until this present day however my role within the industry has been directed more toward safety and consultancy to the global market.
What do you like about your job?
What I love most about my job is engaging with people in the industry and passing on my experience and knowledge, being able to take someone from zero aviation experience to a level of underpinning knowledge is very satisfying.
Tell me about Sentinel Aviation?
Sentinel Aviation’s mission is as follows:
“Our mission at Sentinel Aviation is to apply the safety standards of modern commercial aviation to the rapidly developing unmanned aviation sector. Working to the highest standards we ensure the safe and efficient operations of Unmanned Aviation Systems for both operators and end users.”
Sentinel was established 3 years ago using both military UAV and commercial aviation experience to establish themselves in the drone industry. We now work with individuals entering the industry, and established commercial drone operations to enhance their operations particularly in the field of safety.
We have worked both in the UK and overseas and we also work for the Lloyds of London drone insurance industry. As an example we have advised from the newest teenage individual operator right up to a national navy as to how to enhance and develop their drone operations.
Why would I need the services of Sentinel Aviation as a new entrant to the UAV (drone industry)?
In essence at Sentinel we believe that there are no barriers to entry into the burgeoning drone industry, however, there are standard rules, regulations and procedures that need to be followed. These will insure that both individual and commercial operators do not harm themselves or indeed members of the public.
The opportunities for commercial drone operations are endless, most of these ‘uses’ probably haven’t even been thought of yet, but it will require skill, knowledge and experience to exploit these opportunities. Sentinel has the experience, personnel and skill set to take someone’s ‘idea’ or ‘vision’ for their company, develop it and then ensure that they can implement and execute that idea ‘in the operational environment’.
What services from Sentinel Aviation as an established Drone operator or Drone company can you offer?
Sentinel’s advice starts tight from the outset with helping operators identify the right drone for the right operation. Some drones are more suitable to operating in open and rural spaces, whereas others are better suited to operating in congested areas. What safety features do you need, do you need a quad or a hexacopter? What sensor do you need? Operators really do need identify what it is they are trying to do and what niche in the market are they trying to exploit?
Earning your UK CAA Permission for Commercial Operations is the first step for most people in setting out on their ‘drone journey’. Its what they do after that that counts. It’s a very easy industry to set out in, spend an enormous amount of money and not get very far.
From then on it’s about getting the work and maintaining currency of flying. The commercial manned aviation industry is a highly regulated and safety conscious industry. There is no reason why the drone industry should not embrace the culture of safety. Sentinel has embraced that culture and as a result we advise drone operators, end users of drones and the associated insurance industry on the following:
+ Commercial and Military Drone/UAS/UAV Safety + Drone/UAS Safety Audits and Inspections + Risk Management + Assurance and Compliance + Job Safety Analysis and Safety Documentation + Insurance and Legal Services (Accident Survey/Investigation/Analysis and Report Production) + Drone/UAS Airworthiness + Advanced Training and Development + Human Factors and Crew Resource Management (CRM) Training + UAV Pilot and Operator Medical Assessments
As an example CRM training is annual pre-requisite in commercial manned aviation and there is every reason why drone operators should embrace this, It will help avoid accidents. When it comes to medicals, this at the moment is not a requirement, but as drone operations begin to integrate with national airspace then it is possible that commercial operators will require ‘pilot medicals’ just like their manned aviation counterparts. Our medicals mirror those taken by the British Army’s UAV operators. It will almost certainly be the aviation insurance industry that will drive these requirements and changes.
We believe that commercial operators demonstrating themselves to be the safest operators are those who will eventually rise to the top of what is an increasingly congested industry.
What are you hopes of the UK drone industry?
Our hopes for the UK industry is to work together to build a regulation that works for the people, as technology advances so does the need for change in regulation, legislation, and policy. This must happen to make commercial operations rules fit for purpose.
What about Worldwide drone industry?
Worldwide we should begin to see a harmonisation of rules, this is imperative to start to bring unmanned operations in line with manned operations.
What you you think about the negative press that Drones receive?
I suppose there will always be some negative press, someone always playing devil’s advocate however it is only a small few. Unmanned technology is not going away and will only increase, the sooner people start accepting the positive applications the quicker we can develop as an industry.
Three top tips for people who have obtained CAA PfCo? What should we be doing to improve.
If in doubt give Sentinel a shout!! Operators should never be left wondering why or second guessing their operations. Sentinel Aviation are here to support the industry’s operators with advice and guidance.
Continual improvement is key in aviation, skill fade is a massive factor in aviation accidents, conducting an annual refresher course will help lead the operator to professional development. During the refresher, the operator will brush up on regulations and planning and undergo flight evaluations for the experts to advise where necessary.
The operator should also remember to be proficient in their line of work they must practice meaningful scenarios, they will not advance their skill set by flying in a field every day. Where legal and safe the operator should be conducting flights that they would be doing on a real job.
Thank you Ricky for taking time for this interview.
If you are in the drone industry and would like to be interviewed please drop me a line
The Drone Lass
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