A couple of people have been in touch asking me to post what it was like for me to take the flight test and what happened. Although it is a while ago, I did promise to post it here goes…..
I know some things will have changed with Resource group, this was back in August 2015. My nearest flight test centre was Richmond in North Yorkshire, a lovely part of the world. The first test was cancelled after the paper work was done – a fine mist descended whilst we were in the office doing the paper work and it was a no go due to the mizzel. I couldn’t carry the paperwork over and just do the practical flight test, which was a real anti-climax.
So fast forward to the end of September 2015 when I met my instructor in the offices, I was given a task typed on a piece of paper. Asking me to provide video and stills for a client. On the desk were some maps, ordnance survey and aviation charts. I could ask the instructor any questions about the job and then using the pre-deployment survey and risk assessment plan the job in detail. He went off to get a coffee. I was aloud to use my laptop that have connected to the office wifi, to use any helpful websites.
Top tip : Try not to be nervous, I say this because I was very very nervous the first test and I didn’t even get the drone out of its box. So when it came to the flight test second time round, I already knew roughly what was going to happen during the planning and questioning section.
You are filling in the forms just like you would do if a client asked you to do a job. So I filled in my planning forms, that I designed and that had been signed off by my instructor at resource group. I used my computer to check the Notams and knowing this area is so close to a military base, noted by my previous visits to Richmond but also on the maps. There is no shame in knowing the area you are going to fly in. I used google maps as well to look at possible hazards on the site where the flights were to take place.
Top tip for this to practice planning jobs in areas you don’t go to and this will make you a bit faster at this bit and calm your nerves as you will know your planning forms well then
Once I had completed the paper work, I was then asked a few questions about the aviation law and also about the planning of the job. Note the questions about the aviation law pertain to the practical application of flying a drone. I was also asked questions about my drone.
Top tip – Know your drone: what does it do when there are failures? When you calibrate the compass, how do you know its completed?- What does that green flashing light mean? What did you write in the flight reference cards? You may be asked what is then maximum speed that your drone travels at? So I can’t stress enough that you need know the drone you are flying and what you have written on your FRC’s.
After this we then left for the flight test field. When we got there I realised it was particularly sunny and I wasn’t expecting that, so I had to wear child’s sunglasses that I happened to have in my car! Nothing says serious drone pilot like a woman in children’s novelty sunglasses.
I was looking at the flight test field, to complete the on site flight planning / risk assessment. The field was flat and had telegraph poles all along the ploughed area. So I talked through the additional hazards. I also talked about what I would do if there were people around, how I would put out cordons, signs out etc. I didn’t have to do this as this was a very rural place.
I also noted the direction of the military air base and that there could at any time be a training flight by the military from the base that was about 2 to 3 miles from the location.
This was all done before the drone and safety kit was taken out of the boot of the car
Top tip : Don’t unpack your drone until you have checked the wind speed!
I did check the wind speed, but in your nervous state you might forget.
Which leads me on to the pre flight checks as you have written on the FRC’s – follow them! You will have already checked this works for you whilst practicing your flights.
Having done a lot of assessments in the past for first aid etc, I talked my instructor through everything, he said I didn’t need to but I felt I needed to, mainly so I could calm myself.
I then briefed my flight instructor to be my flight assistant, what I was expecting from him should crowds arrive, what else I was expecting from him, if he was to spot a hazard, military flight, what would happen should I fall ill and how to get the drone back. What we would need to do should we need to call the locale ATC
Then once I looked around for one last time and checked the wind speed again, I put the drone in the air to fly. Before zooming around I always check the drone is ok to fly – by putting it up 12 ft in the air or a bit lower and then checking the remote control unit is working properly. Sending drone a very small forward/backwards and left to right.
Then I was asked to fly away away from us over to particular areas on the field and do a rectangle in GPS mode, and then to change the camera facing angle and fly in reverse commands with the RC sticks doing the opposite.
Next to fly over to a big clump of trees and fly high above it to see what was in the middle.
Then to fly really long distance away approximately 400 meters
Then I landed, changed the battery.
Checked windspeed again after having another look around.
Then put the drone in the again and did my little test sequence and then was asked to go up 20 ft or so and go in to ATTI mode and fly in a rectangle about the size of a tennis pitch, and then put the drone camera in reverse and fly the same in ATTI, again so the controls are opposite to normal flying mode.
I was allowed to go in to GPS whilst I changed the camera orientation. I did have my finger on the GPS switch at all times incase I got into difficulties.
Then I was asked to go back into GPS and then fly up as high as I was legally allowed, asking what may be the hazard in doing this so mentioned to close proximity of the military based that it could be a flight at the height, I was going up to. Then proceeded up to the 400ft max altitude.
Then finally landing and breathing properly, I am glad to say my flight instructor wasn’t the one holding his breath! Actually, I wasn’t as nervous as I expected once I had got flying and talking through what I was doing and why. Now this may not come naturally to you but to me, I felt I would be telling my instructor. I don’t believe its standard practice
Top tips to prepare for the test
- Practice practice practice , in GPS, ATTI. Practice flying in shapes, circles & rectangles. I used cones to fly over at home to and still do this on practice flights.
- Read your FRC’s, revise the law you learnt at ground school
- Practice flight planning
- Use your check lists
- Make sure all batteries are charged, including your tablet and laptop incase no power supplies where you are going
- Check through all your kit including your drone
- Make sure you eat and drink as per your training
Your flight test will be different the flight instructor and NQE want you to pass its in their interests. So they should create a calm and for what its worth an enjoyable experience, where you can demonstrate what you have learnt. They do fail people from time to time as they don’t let anyone pass if they can’t show a certain level of competence.
Final thing I have to say is that its not as stressful as you are thinking, keep calm, get a good nights sleep arrive in plenty of time. Take your time whilst planning and whilst setting up on the field.
Let me know in comments if this post was helpful
Oh and GOOD LUCK, you will be fine!
The Drone Lass