I’m Officially A Drone Pilot

A beautiful day for flying

As days-for-a-flight-review go, this one was pretty much perfect. And that’s how I found myself at the K-W Flying Dutchmen’s field to get my Advanced Operations drone pilot certification. Hmmmm, maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. Let’s back up a bit.

Back in February (which now seems like forever ago), when I was still house-sitting out in the beautiful Okanagan Valley (and before the world as we know it was turned upside down) I decided to sign up for a training course in preparation for obtaining my drone Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations. Up until that point, I was limited to my “Basic Operations” certification.

The process ended up taking a BIT longer than expected although through no fault of the course itself. But, much like pretty much everything else, the coronavirus affected the world of flight reviews too. To clarify, in order to obtain an Advanced Operations certificate one must pass (i.e., 80%) a challenging online test as well as a flight review with a certified reviewer – you know, to confirm one’s flying skills and knowledge. The online test was successfully passed back in early March after completing an intensive (about 20 hours) weekend-long online course – something the coronavirus couldn’t interfere with. Unfortunately, the flight review portion of the process had to wait until the world started opening up again which ended up being nearly two months after taking the course and passing the online test.

This screen grab from the course still makes me laugh – and yes, it makes sense

As for the course itself, as I said, it was intensive. Transport Canada requires a pretty thorough body of knowledge to pass. One could argue TOO thorough but then again maybe I DO need to know aircraft de-icing regulations as a drone pilot. But I REALLY suspect not. Ever. Anyway, we covered air law, radiotelephony, theory of flight, RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) systems, flight operations, navigation, meteorology, and more. As I said, intensive. I had heard horror stories about how challenging the advanced exam was and how some people wrote it SEVERAL times before passing so I was more than a little relieved when I finally submitted my exam and was promptly informed of my passing grade. Step one complete.

And that brings us back to where we started – me being at the K-W Flying Dutchmen’s field in St. Jacobs at 10:00 this morning on what could really only be described as a perfect day for flying a drone – especially so, given the “test” aspect of the day’s flights. I’m still a bit stunned by how ideal the conditions were. I tend to be pretty aware when it comes to noticing wind conditions – cycling, hang gliding, and paragliding tend to have that effect on one’s senses – and around here, it’s been REALLY windy lately. So, a few days ago, when the forecast finally called for a calm day I booked my review. Perhaps most surprising of all is that the forecast held true.

A nice view on a beautiful day

Under the watchful eye of Harish, my training instructor and flight reviewer, we covered all the knowledge tests, pre-flight checks, emergency procedures, and so on prior to taking flight for the day. While I have more than a few hours of drone-flying experience, I definitely learned a few helpful tips from Harish during my first flight of the day. I used those tips as we moved onto my official flight review and after a few specific skill tests and a few verbal tests I was once again bringing the drone back in for a landing. And with it came the result I was seeking. Harish declared I had passed and officially granted me my Advanced Operations certificate. Well, technically he still had to submit the results to Transport Canada at which point I would have to pay another fee to the same Transport Canada to get the actual certificate but those were formalities. Formalities which have since been taken care of.

I’ve altered the specific numbers but this is essentially my new certificate.

Thanks again to Harish at RPAS-OTC for the online course, flight training, and flight review. He made the process really easy – even if the test wasn’t! Although, admittedly it wasn’t as brutal as I feared it would be. Then again, the course probably had a lot to do with that.

And with that I officially have my Advanced Operations drone pilot certificate. If anyone’s looking for a LEGAL drone shot or two … well, I now know a guy who can help you out.

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