Retail giant Amazon’s much-publicized plans to launch a drone-based delivery service is still years away but unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are already in our skies and their use goes well beyond the military.
They’re being used to take incredible aerial photography, assist search-and-rescue crews, monitor and inspect everything from mines and crops to wildlife population, and so much more.
Consumers of all stripes are embracing the technology but without training, permits and proper insurance, they’re putting themselves at unnecessary risk, says Marcus Dickinson, CEO at X4 Drones and a UAV instructor who will be offering introductory and advanced workshops at Durham College this fall.
“People rush out there and buy the biggest, most expensive, shiniest drone they can get,” Dickinson says. “The retailer is under no obligation to make sure their customer is not only educated but insured to fly their UAV and hands them these things that are literally flying chainsaws.”
Too often, drone users rely solely on their unit’s autonomous system and don’t understand how factors like solar flare activity can affect a drone’s GPS. “They either lose their unit, crash their unit or hurt somebody or themselves with their unit,” he says.
Dickinson encourages anyone interested in flying a drone to learn how to manually pilot it first. “Master it,” he says. “Then and only then should you be working with a more complex unit.”
Here’s a look at the workshops he will be offering at Durham College:
Drones – Intro to Flight: The hands-on workshop covers the basics of drone operation and principles of UAV flight, including axis of flight control, wind turbulence and the basics of radio frequencies and transmissions.
“You learn how to fly with a qualified instructor who will offer tips and help you get comfortable with the units,” says Dickinson. “These units have no autonomous capabilities — it’s all manual flight.”
UAV Operator Training: Learn about GPS, compass and barometer technology; make use of semi- and full- autonomous unit functionality; and conduct pre- and post-flight safety checklists. Learn about Transport Canada regulations, insurance requirements, privacy law and municipal bylaws to start your own aerial photography and videography business.
“You’re legally allowed to use drones for wedding photography and real estate but you have to be an incorporated business in order to get drone insurance and you cannot apply for a special flight operation certificate from Transport Canada if you don’t have that insurance,” Dickinson says.
The interest in training continues to grow. “We have found a huge market for educating consumers,” he says. “We also do professional services … and are training skilled workforces on how to safely use these things for higher-risk applications.”