Australian Flight path, Q&A with Jessica Culley

Today’s Q&A is with Jessica Culley  she runs Down to Earth Photography  she lives on the East Coast of Australia.

Jess drone (1)

What do you fly?  

I fly a Phantom 4 Pro at the moment.  For me its all about the camera on board not all the other gizmos, and this camera is fantastic for my needs.  I started with a Phantom1 FC40, which I adapted to take 2 cameras so that I good get good quality photographs from a go pro. That was nearly 3 years ago and I have also had a Phantom2 and a Phantom 3 Pro since then. I got into the drone industry while someone was taking photos of my house that was going on the market.  The guy that came had a huge helicopter, as soon as it took off I said “I want one!”  my husband said no way… the guy said they were really hard to learn to fly.  Well, I don’t like being told no! So I did some research and found drones, and a month later bought my P1.

Do you think you are a role model for women and girls who want fly a drone?

I don’t really see myself as a role model for anyone, I just like flying drones, but people do seem to be quite interested in why I am doing it, and the “Oh your a woman!” frequently comes up.  People often talk to my husband about the drone as if I am not there, which is really funny, because he doesn’t know anything about them!  From a point of view of a business model…. well I don’t really have one… I am winging it… literally!

Tell me about your drone business model what do you do and how did it come about ?

I do Real Estate photography and private shoots for people, and I have a postcard business with a local shop supporting me, which does surprisingly well. People still want postcards of the local area, even if its just to put on their own fridge rather than sending anywhere. Quite a few people know me now in the local area, and will come up for a chat when I fly on the beach.

Your favourite project so far? Or most satisfying shot?

My favourite shot is always the last really good one that I have taken, I have them on a slide show on my computer so when I am doing other things they are just waving at me! I get a huge amount of pleasure from seeing my aerial photography. I was very excited to be included in the DJI book last year with the shot of the man in the yellow boat, its still one of my top 5 shots, and I would love to meet the guy in the boat one day.  I have never seen him or the boat since, and have asked around locally and no one knows who he is.


What new technology would you like drones to feature in the future..what is on your wish list if you like, your dream drone?

My dream drone would have to be waterproof, and if it could submerge too that would be great.  90% of my flying is over water so to know it could land on the water or go underneath would be a big bonus for me.  My fantasy flight would be the antarctic I think, I would love to fly and photograph glaciers and icebergs.  It is probably do-able as a holiday, but I just hate the cold, so for me its probably not ever going to happen! I might have to settle for no 2, flying over an active volcano instead.

What is next for you ?

At the moment, as I sit hear I am waiting to hear if I am going to go to North Queensland, to help survey the area following a catastrophic cyclone. Drones are so useful in situations like this.

I am passionate, some might say neurotic, about keeping this hobby as safe as possible. Now I have done my commercial license in Australia I am so much more aware of the potential impact that drones can have on other aircraft.  I help run the largest Facebook page in Australia, and we do a huge amount of education on the page for new flyers who don’t always know or understand the regulations.

Jessica will be back to talk about the Australian drone laws next week

Thank you for this Q&A I really enjoyed reading it 


Humanitarian use of Drones – Native American Story

I have been researching the humanitarian uses of drones for a while, one that has caught my attention is concerning Native Americans who are at Standing Rock reservation demonstrating against an oil pipeline.  It is a news story not being told by mainstream media channels. This one that caught my attention because of the sheer injustice of indigenous people of America – the violation of treaties, but not only that but the brutality that is taking place against peaceful protestors.

One of these viral videos used drones in away that made me realise more than ever how important this new technology is, how it is being embraced by groups to tell stories.  I now hand over the blog to Brooke Waukau.

Brooke Waukau

My name is Brooke Waukau; I am the Founder of Women’s Indigenous Media. W.I.M. was founded in Standing Rock due to the media blackout and mainstream media blatantly ignoring the groundbreaking stories that were unfolding in Standing Rock. The suppression of mainstream media is what birthed the Grassroots & Indigenous Media Movement at Standing Rock. At the time I was working with Myron Dewey and his media outlet Digital Smoke Signals, learning a lot about the way Indigenous Media and our stories should be correctly told. After my experiences with Digital Smoke Signals and the way Myron utilized drones to tell our story I was inspired to work with them as well.

Drones have played a huge role in not only helping tell our story, but in the legal battles that began to unfold at the hands of Morton County and Dakota Access Pipeline. Drones were not only vital to the movement but also necessary, as this fight was bigger than just the Dakota Access Pipeline. We started not only witnessing, but also quickly becoming survivors of the vast number of human rights violations. The drone footage we captured at Standing Rock became so important and vital to the legal battle, because the footage could potentially keep a Water Protector out of prison to dispel the heinous and unlawful charges being brought against them.

Any attempts from the fossil fuel industry to bust up the bedrock of Mother Earth and put in a pipeline is a bad idea not only environmentally, but for the Dakota Access Pipeline project it was a clear and blatant cultural violation as well. When you desecrate sacred sites and burial sites as well, and nobody holds you accountable, then what has our world come to? Accountability has become a huge topic regarding Morton County Police Department and Dakota Access Pipeline. Holding these entities accountable for their inhumane actions not only to Mother Earth but also to the Indigenous population has been absent thus far.

The American Government has signed many treaties with Native American tribes over the course of the last 500 years and has yet to honor a majority of those promises. The opposition and resistance that occurred at Standing Rock was also a reflection of the broken relationship Indigenous people of this country have with the U.S. Government.

The day I was arrested on October 27, 2016, for sitting in a prayer circle, on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation for exercising my first amendment rights to practice religion. That day, Morton County Police Department had the assistance of 500 officers deployed from across the country to forcibly remove Water Protectors from unceded treaty land, without jurisdiction. The unceded treaty land we occupied that day was right in the path of where the proposed pipeline was going to run, ultimately once again disregarding the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. As Indigenous people this is nothing new to us, we have been oppressed by the U.S. Government for over 500 years and what transpired at Standing Rock was the unity of hundreds of different tribes, Indigenous people, and our non-native allies from around the country and even from around the world. Native American resilience is a direct reflection of the mass injustices and cultural genocide the U.S. Government has repeatedly inflicted on the Indigenous population, the very people who originally occupied this land.

Overly Militarized Police State
Overly Militarized Police presence at Standing Rock

 What’s Next? Currently, I have been working on so many things, but mostly starting the beginning phases of non-profit status for Women’s Indigenous Media, which will eventually offer media training for women including filmography, editing, correspondent training, and drone training. With the intentions to give women the tools they need to advance not only in the media sector but to be able to properly document footage that can have a positive impact on the individual and their community. This movement has always been more than just one pipeline; this movement has really captured the amount of corruption and greed by the fossil fuel industry, with the help of drones. I think that we will be seeing in the near future, stricter laws and regulations regarding drone usage, as these drones have been the eyes in the sky uncovering things the fossil fuel industry does not want the general public to see. I will continue my work with drones and utilizing them in this way, the general public has a right to be informed and if the drones can help me do just that, that is exactly what I will do for the people. Women’s Indigenous Media will be there on the frontlines or wherever the stories take us to document in opposition to the injustices that have been happening all over the world.

Please share this post on your social feeds, this story has to be continued to be told

Thank you Brooke for today’s entry 



Swedish Drone Lass !

Continuing the international theme we meet,  Isabelle Nyroth who is a drone pilot and software developer from Sweden.

Isabelle Nyroth Drone professional 


Please tell me about how you got into the drone industry/ flying drones?

Drones have been a part of my life since day one. Growing up in Sweden, I spent most of my time with my father and his RC aircrafts. My biggest idol as a child was Pippi Longstocking – the strong, independent young girl that could do anything, and always in her own way. When I was five, my father built me a Pippi Longstocking themed delta-wing aircraft. Even if I didn’t fly it myself, it was my greatest joy to see it soar through the sky. Keeping an interest in RC throughout my childhood came in handy when my passion for photography landed me in the drone industry in 2014. I started taking online courses about drones, and from there I interned with the company that offered the courses and then went onwards to work for drone companies all around the World.

What do you fly?

I personally fly my Phantom 4 at any given opportunity. For work I have flown about a dozen different types of single rotor, multi rotor and fixed wing aircrafts. It all depends on your mission and what you’re looking to accomplish.

What was your first drone ?

Apart from the family collection of RC aircrafts, my first quadcopter was a cheap toy I could tear apart in the backyard. It didn’t have a camera, so it was fun to push it to the limits and learn how to “tame” it. I then moved on to the DJI Phantom 2 with a GoPro, and I am so happy I learned aerial photography from the beginning without visual aid of a monitor to distract me from flying. Flying a Phantom 2 with a GoPro enabled me to sharpen my pilot senses and envision myself as the camera on board. It gave me a set of flying skills in a way that the Phantom 4 can’t, because it is easier to rely on the display to correct angles and perspectives and that takes away your ability to capture the spontaneous beauty from above as you would with the GoPro.

What do you love about Drones and the drone industry?

I love that it’s a wide pool of opportunity and challenges. It is what you make it to be, anyone can invent the next big thing or become the next face of the industry. It allows creativity to be unleashed in all aspects, wether you are in marketing, operations, business development, engineering or just a client hiring drones to boost your company. The possibilities of this industry are unlimited, and I feel like an explorer constantly finding new undiscovered areas to develop. It’s also a great community because you connect with people from all over the World.

Your favourite project so far? Or most satisfying shot?

My favourite project at the moment is working with Spotscale to create 3D models of buildings. They have a top of the line software that is producing high quality models of buildings and areas we photograph. I always dreamt of turning my hometown into a virtual reality setting that I could walk through when I miss being there myself, now I can make that happen. Outside of work I just like to see where the road takes me, unpack my Phantom and see what the World around me looks like in a new perspective. Sometimes I come home with an amazing shot over a frozen lake or a cliff over the ocean, and that makes me feel like an aerial artist.

What new technology would you like drones to feature in the future..what is on your wish list if you like, your dream drone?

My dream drone would be compact, lightweight, and capable of multiple applications beyond taking beautiful photos. Imagine a first-aid kit drone, with everything built in to be able to send away in an emergency situation. A drone that could be put to use to simplify and help us in our everyday lives, like an extension to our limited human capabilities. I wish for drones to become the superheroes we are all obsessed with watching on the big screen, soaring through the sky to save the day. We need to find more ways to use them as tools instead of toys.

Are their many female drone pilots in Sweden?

Sweden has quite a few drone pilots, but roughly estimated I would say only a few dozen are women. I only know of about five personally, and sadly I haven’t met them since we are quite spread out within the country. Sweden is a country that holds a high standard of gender-equality, so I hope to see more women pursuing a career in drones to balance out the industry we have today.

Do you see yourself as a role model for women in the drone industry?

People tell me I’m one of a kind for being a female drone pilot making my way into an international industry, but I’m just Isabelle. A girl with a passion for driving an industry to the next level and happily inspiring others to join me in that quest. I try to set a good example for others to follow and I hope to be the reason that other women take a chance at following their aviation dreams, but in the end I am just doing what makes me happy and encouraging others to do the same.

If there was anywhere you could fly your drone with NO legal restrictions where would it be and why?  Your fantasy flight if you like.

I enjoy taking the road less traveled, so anywhere that hasn’t been photographed before would be my fantasy flight. With thousands of drones in the World flying around, I can imagine most places have been more or less discovered by a drone’s perspective already. Maybe I’ll widen my horizons and begin flight testing in space… there’s a universe waiting to be explored!


Isabelle can  be found on Instagram, username issabellen


Thank you Isabelle for a fascinating Q&A.  This is not the last time that we will be hearing from Isabelle as she has agreed to write about the drone laws in Sweden for The drone lass blog and that will be live next week.

Have a wonderful day

The Drone lass 

Drones in construction interview with Taylor Mitcham

Continuing the series of Q&A’s this week, next up is Taylor Mitcham she is based in the USA and has created a niche business helping construction firms with drones.


Taylor Mitcham

Please tell me about how you got into the drone industry?

I was an underground drone enthusiast until the company I worked for previously began whispering about using drones for a project I was on.  I geeked out and composed an unsolicited report about why this project needed a drone that included recommendations about which quadcopters were best.  After that, they bought 6 DJI Phantom 3’s and put me in charge of anything drone related on the project.  That experience made me FALL IN LOVE with drones.  I saw first-hand what the drones were doing for me as an engineer and also for the other members of the project management team.

What do you fly?  Inspire 1 V 2.0 with Zenmuse X3 and XT Thermal cameras & Autel X-star premium

What was your first drone ?  Hubsan X4

Tell us about setting up your drone business how did it come about?

Well, I actually started out as a freelancer but then realized the potential the potential in my niche, which is construction.  Seeing a need that must be filled in Philadelphia, I started SkyNinja full-time to better help my clients.  We concentrate specifically on construction and other industrial projects.  I’ve been able to combine my construction, engineering, and sUAS knowledge to provide data to companies that have helped them save time, money, and reduce their risk.

What do you love about Drones and the drone industry?

I love that the drone industry is fast paced and new!  There’s exciting news that comes out everyday whether it’s new technology, new drones, new use cases.  You can’t get bored with all the things that are happening.

Your favourite project so far? 

My favorite project so far has been one that I’ve been working on with a local non-profit.  They are building a 10-story living facility as well as an organic market in a low-income urban area.  I love the meaning behind the project and the fact that they see the true value that my company provides to them.  Truth be told though, I love all of the projects I’ve done.  They all have unique challenges and problems to be solved.

What new technology would you like drones to feature in the future..what is on your wish list if you like, your dream drone?

I’d love to see an affordable drone that can withstand winds of over 40mph and have a battery that lasts for hours.

Do you see yourself as a role model for women in the drone industry?

Yes I do.  But I think that all of the women in the industry right now are role models.

If there was anywhere you could you could fly your drone with NO legal restrictions where would it be and why?  Your fantasy flight if you like. 

 Yes, I’d like to fly over Area 51 in Groom Lake, NV.  It’s a top secret military base.  The US Department of Defense have CRAZY technologies out there that I probably couldn’t even fathom.  It would be neat just to get a peek into the super secret projects they have going on out there, the new aircraft they’re testing, etc.
Mouth open arms wide
Taylor Mitcham
Twitter @TayHamHQ

New York City Drone Film Festival



This weekend was the third New York Drone Film Festival  #NYCDFF as they have shortened it for social media.  The first year, I saw some of the winners and I can say it is what finally pushed me into purchasing my drone and going for my CAA PfCO here in the UK.  The showreel from the winners was the final inspirational push that I needed to become a drone owner!

The film festival runs over a weekend during middle of March, where drone professionals and enthusiasts come together to talk about drones, the applications, new technology, there are panel discussions and sharing of creative ideas and techniques.  As work has not allowed me to get to the festival as yet, but it does sound very exciting.  Today we have an entry from Jody Johnson professional drone pilot from USA  Who attended over the weekend and has provided us with a quick over view of the festival.

Jody Johnson with Randy Scott Slavin founder of NYCDFF


Jody writes : I was happy to partake in the NYCDFF weekend for the 3rd year in a row. The films were over the top and clearly created by some of the top drone pilots around the world. I did not see as many familiar faces this year and was admittedly a bit disappointed that there were no women with winning films, however I was blown away with the creativity and precise editing. Randy Scott Slavin, the founder of the NYCDFF, did an amazing job putting together a fun day for families on March 19th.

The Liberty Science Center which is located across the river in Jersey, hosted “Day of Drones” as part of the NYCDFF. There were drones flying in cages, displays tables with all types of drones and contests to win one of your own. I entered to win a DJI Mavic however luck wasn’t on my side. I can’t complain, I was fortunate to take home a DJI inspire last year as a prize for Best in Film “Greystone Rising” at the 2016 NYCDFF (shameless plug). Overall, the weekend was another success. Panels were informing, classes were taught, and the idea of drones being used in positive ways continued to be spread.

Jody’s website


I will take that as a rallying cry to try and create a film to submit for 2018!  After all the submissions are open to everyone from all over the world, it is a truly international event. 


New York City Drone Film Festival   twitter @NYCDRONEFF

Get on to the webpage to look at this years winners for some inspiration for your own drone film making.

I have some exciting Q&A this week coming up

Best wishes

The Drone Lass



Weather Apps

17016911_376864066033177_1477653107257746843_o (1)

Drone pilot also equals avid weather watcher! The British  obsession with the weather to a whole new level.  I am always monitoring high and low pressures and what that will mean for me and most specifically the drone flights.  My friends are now wowed when I say there is a low pressure from the south bringing a cold front with increasing winds from the west.   Yeah I am a fabulous dinner guest, proper riveting conversation!

When you meet other drone pilots we always ask each other what apps are you using?

I have been asked several times by readers so here goes.

The obvious is free sources of weather watching in the UK is BBC Weather

The Met office 

Then a little known one that I wish to share with you

Norwegian Weather site   – yes really, its very accurate and free I used it for a number of years when planning outside events for the BBC.

Paid for Apps

So far my experience of these are not good for the long range forecast, but do give some indication from the day before and on the actual day. Can also show what it will be like in the next hour,  so you can hold off a decision to fly or fly in that half hour window.

The first is dark sky app, which is available for both iOS and Android and costs £3.99    This a very accurate app and use it a lot, for checking that day what will happen.  On the whole it does give a very clear picture of what is happening hour to hour.  I can see in 30 minutes what will be happening.  You can check temperature, humidity, precipitation and UV index

 The dark sky app


Another App is called home & dry  which is good for a slightly longer term view of the week but also you can see when the rain is coming in unfortunately, on the photo from today its clear skies for the UK, so not very dramatic or good for illustrative purposes

You can check windspeed, cloud cover and also temperature.

This seems only to be available for iOS via the apple store and is priced at £2.99 I don’t use it as often as I do dark sky,  I have found its maps are easier to read.


 Home & dry – by Metdesk

For new drone pilots, I know I don’t need to mention this but don’t rely just on your apps and websites, the weather on your location will be your deciding factor along with your risk assessment to decide if the flight is due to take place.  Checking the wind and not forgetting the wind could be much greater speed at a higher altitude.

I would love to hear what weather apps you are using so feel free to comment.

May your days be full of sunshine flights
The drone lass






Happy International Women’s day & Northern Power Women awards.

Thank you to the women in my life and to those contributing to this blog!  Thank you to the feminist men who believe we can do anything and support us on this mission. There is still a long way to go before the worlds sees equality,  but we should celebrate how far we have come and hopefully gender diversity will be pushed further not just in this country but across the world.

#sheflies #drones  #thankyou #BeBoldForChange #Internationalwomensday


Northern Power Women Awards


Last night I attended Northern Power Women awards, I was shortlisted in the one to watch category which was amazing over 500 nominations and 60 shortlisted.  Felt extraordinary but is a bit of a boost and motivation for this blog and the work I do. I didn’t win but then again I didn’t expect to. So many talented women in the category of one to watch. It was good to meet those that I did meet and those I didn’t I hope to connect over social media.  Thank you to Simone Roche who organises the awards and is pushing not only gender diversity in the North but making highlighting what North contributes economically to the country as a whole! A great evening.

Congratulations to Kriti Sharma,  who was winner in  ‘one to watch’ category, technologist with Sage UK. Much deserved and looking forward to chatting all things technology innovation very soon.

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I was recently asked why there are very few women in the drone industry and I can’t understand why not.  I suppose its because there were very few girls when I was growing up interested in technology. What I will say is that this industry is so new it’s a level playing field, well it feels like a level playing field and for that is some where so far I haven’t experienced any negativity for being a women in a new industry in fact I seem to be encouraged to succeed.  Drones involve, technology, creativity, creative problem solving and they are exciting and I would say to any girl,  woman or man wanting to get involved.   Grab a drone, and fly high as long as thats at a maximum  legal altitude of 400ft!

I will be continuing the journey with drone pilots as guest contributors we will be sharing lots of information about our journey,  and most importantly sharing knowledge. I also have some great posts from UAV Companies from around the world coming up

Feel free to get in touch via the comments box if there is something you wish to know more about and want covering or contact me via @thedrone_lass on twitter




How can we get more girls into STEM industries ?



You can’t fail to notice that today is International Women’s day and because of that today’s blogs post is from international women who are working in or encouraging women and girls in to STEM industries and subjects.   For those that don’t know STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

It is globally acknowledged problem that there are just not enough girls studying these subjects so I have asked a number for their views for today’s post.



The question is how do we encourage girls and women into STEM subjects and industries? What are the solutions?

This is a great question and the very reason we are making “Fly Like a Girl.”  I recently read a study in Science Magazine that found young girls are less likely to think their own gender is smart.  The study also showed that this bias has an influence on the child’s future interest.  If early on a girl believes that she is not smart enough to do math or science, then she may not consider a STEM field later in life.  In order to change this narrative, it is crucial that girls and women see people like themselves, achieving great things in their fields.  Girls need more female heroes that come from the STEM world.  Our goal for “Fly Like a Girl” is to reveal the contributions women have made to aviation and bring to light the many women who are doing extraordinary work in aviation and STEM today. We hope that by sharing inspiring stories we will encourage more girls to get involved in STEM and aviation fields.  

Katie McEntire Wiatt, “Fly Like a Girl” Director, Lakeland United States

To find out more about Fly Like a Girl:  

Website   Indiegogo  Twitter: @fly_like_a_girl

Facebook: @flylikeagirlfilm  Instagram:  flylikeagirlfilm

Lulu  Elliott
  At Reel Angels we actively support and represent female technical film crews. We support them by providing a platform to showcase their skills and we mentor the up and coming talent, which we search for. Our website is very visual, as we believe in showcasing role models is very effective for the next generation. Its all about awareness, searching for potential talent, role models and creating a support network for women.
 Lulu Elliott, Reel Angels Agency and Network
Reel Angels   Twitter: @reelangels1
Hollie  Woodward, third from the left.

To encourage more girls into STEM subjects more work needs to be done at Primary school level, well in advance of subject choices being made at higher education level. We need to inspire and capture the imagination of young people at an early age by improving their awareness and exposure to the many industries and roles available to them. If you first understand what interests an individual you can then tailor the careers advice to the opportunities available in that field, for example if they have a passion for technology talk about the future of projects in regard to 3D modelling and 3D printing. What could be more  exciting than their ideas transformed into a visual model. This in my opinion is one way in which we can bridge the skills and gender gap for the future

Hollie Woodward, Project Manager VolkerWessles



Stephanie Morgan

Tackling unconscious bias in the teaching profession and the school yard would start to really get to the underlying problem. If deep down we don’t actually believe that there is a place for women in STEM, then young people are infected by that view. Even those who might be aspiring to a role will start to doubt themselves when subjected to mixed messages at a crucial time in their personal development (i.e. people say “of course you can do anything you want” but act as if it’s extremely difficult or inappropriate to consider it). Worse still is the way people have added an additional “rule” to their beliefs about Women in Tech, as if only certain types of girls are right for the industry.

Stephanie Morgan – Director of Learning Solutions at Bray Leino Learning @StephanieLandD

Emma Gibbs
Emma Gibbs

It shouldn’t be hard to get girls into STEM. Look at any group of girls hanging out together and you’ll likely see a bunch of young women who are smart, mature and terrifyingly confident. Even if they don’t profess to be into technology they’ll be voracious consumers of it and they’ll have a sophisticated technological skillset on top of their traditional school education that their mothers never had. We need to stop perpetuating the myth that STEM is for boys. Girls don’t need projects themed around fashion or make up and they don’t need their Raspberry Pi to come in pink with sparkles. A lot of girls recognise that technology is cool and they’re perfectly aware that they are equally as capable as their male counterparts when it comes to using, creating and manipulating content. We need to stop underestimating our young women and give them the means and opportunity to learn a variety of STEM skills on an even playing field. It’s essential that women are directly involved in the way science and technology progresses and just as important that girls know how vital it is for females to play a visible and meaningful part in that.

Emma Gibbs, Media Archivist and photographer

Emma Gibbs Photography @missemmagibbs




black and white drone
The drone lass 

I think to encourage more young girls and women in tech they need to see women, doing technical jobs or things that involve technology as past times.  My nieces are tiny at the moment but from the safety of cars they have seen me flying a drone, they will never question why girls can’t fly drones because they have seen me fly one.  It is completely normal to them, as much as they see my brother in law cooking.  Also parents encouragement is so important. I am very lucky that my Dad encouraged me when my sister and I were little he said girls you can do anything, anything that a boy or man can do and then told us how diesel engines work.  I wish I had listened a bit more, but obviously that influence has had an affect on my career choices.

@thedrone_lass  for twitter and instagram


” You can’t be what you can’t see”  Marian Wright Edelman






My flight test in detail

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














Insurance for UK Drone Operators


IMG_1623As in all walks of life insurance is required for drone operations, for that what if moment. Those what if moments have happened to someone somewhere, even with the best planning in the world and the best drone technology. There are bound to be things that go wrong and you need to be insured for that.  If you are planning on operating in a commercial capacity, you will need insurance to obtain your Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) its a legal requirement.

First of all when you take your flight test you will need your insurance in place, the training NQE will not let you take the flight test until you have insurance from that day. More of that later.

Once you have passed your flight test, you will be submitting your ops manual to the CAA for approval, right up until this week  there has been a grey area depending on which NQE you trained with, that you put a place holder in your ops manual that read ‘insurance document will go here on PfCO being granted’.  Some NQE’s would not let you submit your ops manual unless the insurance was submitted and in my experience this even varied from instructor to instructor within the companies.

The CAA have ruled you must provide your insurance certificate with your ops manual for submission even if this is your initial application which means for at least 28 working days you are paying for insurance.  You could argue although you can’t commercially operate at least your drone will be insured whilst you are practicing manoeuvres and safety drills.

My personal point to anyone feeling disgruntled do you feel your drone business will be taking bookings from the second your PfCO comes in? My experience would be no, I have been qualified and with permission for over 12 months and I am only just getting interest on the scale I imagined and that is approximately two to three bookings a month. This is not the cash cow that may have been lead to believe, the industry in drone pilot heavy, not as much work out there yet as your training company may have lead you to believe.  So there has been plenty of times where my drones have sat insured and not working. It is the stark reality of joining a new industry.

Insurance for the flight test

When I did my flight test, I joined the British Model Flying Association and paid £70 if I remember correctly to join and have insurance this covered me for my flight test with resource group. It then took me a long time to write my operations manual.  If you are already a member of the BMFA then it may be worth whilst checking with them and your training company if the insurance is valid for your flight test.  Please note you can not operate commercially with this insurance.

You can now purchase flight test insurance from  Moonrock  Insurance and Coverdrone and this may be significantly cheaper.

Level of insurance

I fly a lot for TV production companies and they vary in requiring £1 million and £5 million public liability (PL).  If you fly for The National Trust they may request that you have £10 million pounds PL. Also some construction companies and sites ask for £10 as standard.  So I started with £5 million pound PL but it took 6 months of having my permissions in place to fly for a TV production company, so I could have saved money by having £1M PL and then increased this when I needed it.

Choosing your insurance provider

When I started flying there was only one company offering insurance policies and now a quick google search will bring up a number of them.  They say you never know how good your insurance company is until you have to make a claim and hopefully you’ll never find out.  I was insured by Coverdrone last year and now I have moved to Moonrock and what I would say is that it was features of the policy that made me make a move to change.   The people at both companies are very helpful and senior people in the companies are hands on to chat to.   As the industry grows, I am sure more insurance providers will join the market but I feel happy sometimes to go with an established insurance provider even if it costs a bit more.

Shopping around

As with car insurance it is up to you to weigh up what you is right for you and your drone business. What level of cover do you need? What the policy offers you.  Can you add a temporary drone for a day to your insurance with no extra cost? Can you increase your policy for the rest of your insurance term should you find yourself operating in a different industry.

Hobby flyer insurance

If you are a hobby flyer I would still recommend on public liability insurance and that can be obtained again another google check will mean that you can weigh up your options. You will also be able to get drone insurance as a hobby flyer which could safe guard your investment.

Hopefully I won’t have to ever claim on my insurance ! Turn around and touch wood!

Happy Safe flying this fine day

The Drone Lass