The Ultimate Guides: Becoming A Successful Drone Pilot

3 Guides for Beginner Drone Pilots.

New Drone Pilot Guide

Everyone starts somewhere. This is the Beginners Guide to getting started with Drones!

Starting A Drone Business

For the Certified Remote Pilot in Command. This is the Ultimate Guide To Starting A Drone Business.

Authorizations & Waivers

For the Professional Drone Pilot. This is the Step By Step Guide to Acquiring A Daylight Waiver.

The New Drone Pilot Guide

Table of Contents

  1. Choosing Your Drone
  2. Understanding Camera Settings
  3. Basic Drone Maintenance
  4. How To Travel With Your Drone
  5. Registering Your Drone
  6. Airspace Requirements
  7. Getting Your Drone License
  8. Pre, During, & Post Flight Checklists
  9. Choosing An Industry

Chapter 1: Introduction

 

Welcome to the New Drone Pilot Guide. In this article, we'll be discussing everything you need to know as a Beginner Pilot to be successful in the drone industry. Our team has over 5 years of experience flying drones commercially for applications like Photography & Videography, Construction Management, Agricultural Scouting & Golf Course Management. In this guide you'll get our personal insight into the process of starting your business from scratch, all the way through scaling a successful drone operation.

 

Choosing Your Drone

Our instructors receive questions all the time surrounding the subject of which drone to purchase for someone who is just getting started. The information below will provide plenty of information for you to make a decision you are proud of, ie. responsiveness, maneuverability, battery life, size, and camera quality.

After years of flying everything from Quadcopters to Fixed Wing Drones, we have put together a list that aggregates the most user-friendly drones we recommend to our close friends looking to purchase their first drone.

The first question that is important to ask yourself is: What will you be using it for?

Professional Drones for Photography & Videography: 

Starting Small: The DJI Spark is a small drone you can fit in your back pocket, while the DJI Mavic Air is great for packing up in a small backpack.

These two drones are perfect for the basic user looking to get started flying a small, easy-to-use and responsive drone for fun. The Spark and the Mavic Air are great for showing off to your friends, and capturing aerial perspectives of your experiences!

We suggest these drones if you are an entry level pilot who is not looking to push the boundaries of these little machines. Either way, they are such fun drones to fly!

Some of the Most Popular Drones on the Market

These drones are highly ranked by not only our team, but the majority of users in the market today. Drone manufacturer DJI accounts for 70% of the global drone market (for a reason).

These drones are great if you are looking to purchase a ready-to-use drone at a beginner/intermediate level.

DJI Mavic Pro, DJI Mavic Pro 2, DJI Phantom 3, DJI Phantom 4: 

The Phantom 4 has a great obstacle-sensing system built into it, which makes it hard to fly into a wall. With a 5-direction obstacle sensing and 4-direction obstacle avoidance system, sensors are always working to detect any objects that could potentially be a threat in the path of flight.

The battery life is getting better! These drones have battery life of 23 minutes to 27 minutes. However, with interchangeable batteries, feel free to charge up while you are flying, switch the power source to the new battery pack, and repeat.

Advanced: This section addresses the commercial applications of these drones if you are looking to start an aerial service business.

When our company was first starting out, we used the Phantom Series to launch Altitude Aerial Media. This company provides residential real estate agents with aerial photography/videography of their high-end listings to help them leverage the power of video marketing to their properties faster and more efficiently than using conventional methods. As a substitute for low-resolution photography, the Phantom Series was perfect for capturing an aerial perspective of their properties, marketing them in a new and innovative way.

The Highest Level

We have a lot of friends who are heavily involved with cinematography, looking to take the next step and add aerial photography/videography to their services. For them, our team would recommend these next few drones!

To clarify, the drones listed above are for beginner to intermediate. They provide incredible features and are easy to fly, with little to no experience. Once you make your way into the drones below, we would suggest having experience before purchasing.

Our team has received various requests to address the consumer drones that also have commercial applications in more than just aerial photography/videography.

Inspire 1, Inspire 2, & Matrice Series

We highly recommend the Inspire 1 and Inspire 2. These two drones are the perfect ready-to-go aerial systems that will put you in the sky within seconds. Great for filming high-quality video and aerial photography (4K video at 24-30fps), these are very user-friendly drones that are relatively easy to fly.

The next step for Altitude was with an Inspire 1, which was used to launch Altitude Aerial Services. This business was focused more on data collection and data analysis for commercial industries (agricultural surveying, aerial inspection, construction and golf course management).

Our team has now ventured into using the Inspire 2 and the Matrice Series in a variety of industries and find both drones perform extremely well for professional pilots. While the Matrice is very customizable, we recommend working with the Inspire Series first to gain some traction with this technology before making the substantial investment the Matrice requires.

Chapter 2: Drone Camera Settings

 

Now that you have an understanding of the various drones and their capabilities, let’s dive into the process of setting up your drone, and establishing proper maintenance techniques to ensure safety when flying.

 

Calibrate Compass

 It is very important to calibrate your compass before taking off. The compass acts as a standard for understanding the position of your drone during flight, which means that if you have an inaccurate sensor measurement, you will be more likely to experience errors during flight which could potentially result in you losing your drone.

Below are Some Basic Camera Settings

 

Shutter Speed

A High Shutter Speed Setting (1/500) means less light shining on the sensor, which will create a darker image, and a sharper captured object.

Use Case: This setting allows photographers to freeze movement in a specific environment. The most common use case for high shutter speed setting would be action sports photography, where the window to capture the object in its specific location may be limited.

 

A Lower Shutter Speed Setting (1⁄4) means more light shining on the sensor, which will create a brighter image, and a blurrier captured object.

Use Case: The environment could be darker, and you need to let more light into the camera, or your want to introduce some blur into the final image. This allows photographers to emphasize objects like cars or people moving, while allowing the for the background to be blurred.

Aperture

Controls the amount of light being let into the lens.

A Large Aperture Setting (f/2) means a larger amount of light is being let in, allowing for a brighter image and a soft out of focus background. This effect allows for objects to be captured in detail, with a blurred background.

A Smaller Aperture Setting (f/16) means a smaller amount of light is being let in, allowing for a darker image, a broad focal plane, and an in-focus background. This effect allows for objects to be captured in detail, including background of the image.

ISO

Sensitivity Towards Light

High ISO: When you have a High ISO more light will be detected in the sensor, and it will allow for a brighter image, with more visual distortion.

Low ISO: When you have a Low ISO less light is detected in the sensor, and it will allow for a darker image with added clarity.

Exposure

There will be two types of exposure control methods with your DJI Drone.

The first is Auto Exposure, which can both increase the exposure value and enhance the brightness of the screen, or it can decrease the exposure value which will reduce the brightness of the screen.

The Second is Manual Exposure, which is a manual approach to capturing aerial photography under the current settings provided.

DJI’s Camera supports AUTO Mode, A Mode & M Mode

AUTO Mode: In this mode, your camera will automatically adjust the shutter speeds and aperture for optimal exposure given a current environment.

A Mode: In this mode, you can actually set the aperture and the camera will automatically change the shutter speed for optimal exposure according to the environment.

S Mode: Opposite of the previous mode, you can set the shutter speed and the camera will automatically change the aperture for optimal exposure according the the brightness of the environment.

M Mode: Lastly, this mode allows you to set the shutter speed and the aperture and the camera will automatically change the exposure according to the brightness of the image.

Focus

The DJI Phantom 4 Pro, Phantom 4 Advanced, Zenmuse X5, and Zenmuse X4S supports Manual Focus (MF), and Auto Focus (AF).

Focus Assist is a feature that uses Auto Focus & Manual Focus to automatically zoom in on the focal point of the image.

Focus Peaking will give you a visual representation in bright red when there is high contrast, allowing you to focus on what matters in your image.

Image Format

Images will be stored in either RAW or JPEG format. 

JPEG: Small file size that allows for less flexibility in post-production.

RAW: Larger file size that usually needs to be opened with professional editing software, allowing for more flexibility in post-production.

Advanced Options

AEB Bracketing: Auto Exposure Bracketing allows your camera settings to capture either three or five photos at the same time, allowing for an over exposed, properly exposed and underexposed photo to work with in a professional editing software with more flexibility to filter light.

High Dynamic Range (HDR): Similarly, this mode allows for three images to be captured at different exposures with most of the detail in both the bright and dark areas that will be merged and edited in a professional software program.

Chapter 3: Basic Drone Maintenance

 

Note: A Maintenance schedule should be devised to ensure safety and reliability.

Structural or skin cracking: Further inspect to determine scope of damage and existence of possible hidden damage that may compromise structural integrity.

Liquid or gel leakage: Further inspect to determine source of the leakage. This condition may pose a risk of fire resulting in extreme heat negatively impacting aircraft structures, aircraft performance characteristics, and flight duration.

Control inputs delayed: Discontinue flight and/or avoid further flight operations until further inspection and testing of the control link between the ground control unit and the aircraft. Ensure accurate control communications are established.

Battery casing distorted (bulging): Distorted battery casings may indicate impending failure resulting in abrupt power loss and/or explosion. An electrical hazard may be present, posing a risk of fire or extreme heat negatively impacting aircraft structures, aircraft performance characteristics, and flight duration.

Diminishing flight time capability: Diminishing battery capacity may indicate impending failure due to exhausted service life, internal, or external damage.

Missing hardware: Loose or missing hardware/fasteners may pose a risk of negatively impacting flight characteristics, structural failure of the aircraft, dropped objects, loss of the aircraft, and risk to persons and property on the grounds.

Chapter 4: Traveling With Your Drone

 

The FAA recommends that you document any repair, modification, overhaul, or replacement of a system’s components.

Most Airlines allow the transportation of Drones, as long as the LiPO Batteries are in an easy to reach location, usually in a carry on bag. It's best to ship the drone as a Checked Bag, and Carry On the LiPO Batteries in your backpack.  

The reason for this, is because if a cell were to break you will be able to reach and handle the situation before it becomes a hazard. 

Discharge the battery to 30% before transit. If the battery needs to be carried onto the plane, discharge it to 5% of its total power. You can set your batteries to self-discharge in DJI GO app.

Attach the gimbal clamp when storing your drone. This will effectively help to avoid any damage to your gimbal.

 

Taking Care of LiPO Batteries:

  • Prevent battery fires with fireproof pouch storage
  • Keep spare batteries away from metal
  • Prevent objects from crushing batteries
  • Prevent objects from puncturing batteries
  • Proper care extends battery shelf life
  • Proper care results in more flights
  • Don't use damaged or swollen batteries
  • Dispose of LiPO batteries properly
  • Avoid Cold Weather
  • Cold weather leads to reduced flight time
  • Travel with batteries in a carry-on bag
  • The DOT Prohibits LiPO Batteries from checked baggage.

 

Storage:

    • Store the aircraft in a dry, cool and non-magnetic place to avoid any damage.

    • When the aircraft and the battery will be stored for more than 3 months, store

      in around 25°C(77°F) and avoid direct sunlight.

    • Discharge the battery to 40% to 65% prior to storage. Storing a battery with full power or low power for a long time may lead to permanent damage.

Chapter 5: Registering Your Drone

 

We are going to walk you through the process of how to register your drone with the FAA in these simple steps below.

The FAA requires that all unmanned aircraft greater than .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds be registered with the FAA and given a registration number. You can do this by either registering online or using a paper-based registration process. As of December 12th, 2017 the FAA required all recreational & commercial pilots to register their drones through the DroneZone Account.

Steps to Register Your Drone

  1. The first thing you will want to do, is navigate to the DroneZone Homepage

  2. Visit https://faadronezone.faa.gov/#/register

  3. Create an account by providing your email and setting up a password

  4. Register your drone as an individual or business

Once you receive your unique registration number, make sure to print out a label and attach it to your drone where it is easily accessible.

UAV’s flown not as model aircraft must be registered individually by the owner. Each registration is only $5, so it will not break the bank to be an aerial pilot.

Friendly Reminder

Friendly Reminder: You must have the FAA drone registration certificate in your possession when flying, and are required to show it to any federal, state, or local law enforcement officer. Additionally, if you are selling your drone be sure to unregister the drone within your FAA DroneZone Account.

Once your drone is registered you are free to fly; under certain regulations of course. If you have not already acquired your FAA Part 107 Drone License, we highly recommend if for any pilot that is looking to improve their skills and become a safer, more professional drone operator.

Chapter 6: Know The Airspace Requirements

 

On September 26th, 2018 the House of Representatives passed the FAA Reauthorization Act which analyzed the impact of Recreational Drone Use, better know as hobby flying.

Section 336 is the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, meaning the FAA can not create any rules or regulations surrounding model aircraft if it adheres to the following conditions.

  • The model aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use.

  • The aircraft operation is in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines. Operation must be within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.

  • The aircraft is not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization.

  • The aircraft operation is in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.

When flown within five miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower with prior notice of the operation.

These conditions were designed for hobby or recreational pilots that fly their drones for fun. (Non-Commercial Use). Recently, the House of Representatives repealed Section 336, which will have an effect on all hobby & recreational pilots in the National Airspace.

So now that you know a little more about the industry, let’s discuss the FAA’s rules and regulations behind flying drones commercially. It’s essential that as a drone operator, you hold a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate. If you are new to the drone industry and want to get started flying drones today, Altitude University published an Online Part 107 Test Prep to help you acquire that license in less than a week.

Chapter 7: Getting Your Part 107 Drone License

You've finally decided you want to fly. You've chosen the perfect drone. Now what? It is time to figure out where, when, and what missions you can legally fly to avoid large fines and ensure drone safety. In order to properly learn the rules and regulations administered by the Federal Aviation Administration, our licensed drone operators believe that the Part 107 Certification is an absolute must for any drone pilot that is flying commercially in any capacity.

#1: Familiarize Yourself With The FAA Rules & Regulations

Up until August 29, 2016, the rules and regulations regarding flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the U.S. were mostly unstructured. Since then, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made great strides in making flying drones legal and far more safe. Although these regulations bring a solid structure to the drone arena, we still receive many questions on whether the average drone operator actually needs an FAA Part 107 Drone License.

#2: Get Started Preparing for the Part 107 Test

Okay, you’ve read though the regulations and decided you want to become a commercial drone pilot to start making money and helping people with this awesome technology, so how do you go about receiving your Drone License? In order to be eligible to take the Part 107 Test and receive your Drone License, you must:

  • Be at least 16 years old

  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English (exceptions may be made if you are unable to meet one of these requirements for a medical reason, such as hearing impairment)

  • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate a small UAS

  • Pass the initial Aeronautical Knowledge Exam at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.

#3: Understand the Specifications of the FAA Part 107 Exam

To receive a Part 107 Drone License, the FAA requires all pilots to first pass the Aeronautical Knowledge Test. The exam is a 60-question, multiple choice test with three answer options (A, B, C).

Some questions will require you to reference airspace maps and weather charts provided by the FAA testing center. To pass, you must receive a score of 70% or better. In other words, you have to get 42 out of the 60 questions right to become an FAA pilot.

#4: Know What Sections/Material to Prepare for the Exam

Here is a breakdown of the questions by category:

  1.  Regulations: 15%-25%
  2.  Airspace & Requirements: 15%-25%
  3.  Weather: 11%-16%
  4.  Loading and Performance: 7%-11%
  5.  Operations: 35%-45%

Total: 60 Questions 

Please, please, please don’t read this and think, “Oh, this might be too hard for me.” IT’S REALLY NOT THAT HARD. Using the Altitude University Part 107 Training Course or any other online training course allows you to breeze through the studying in nearly 10 hours.

I know you have put that amount of time into a test or big project at some point in your life, and we bet you didn’t come out of that event being a Certified FAA Drone Pilot. It's worth it.

 

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Online Part 107 Test Prep Course

This is the ultimate guide to passing the Part 107 Exam, and confidently entering the drone industry as a FAA Certified, Remote Pilot in Command.

We've helped thousands of drone pilots apply this technology towards sectors that have been hugely impacted by the value of drones, and we want to help you do the same.

10% OFF Discount
McKinsey predicts the economic impact of the commercial drone market will increase from $1 billion in 2017 to over $31 billion by 2026.

- McKinsey & Company

The Ultimate Guide To Starting A Drone Business

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction To AltitudeU
  2. How To Choose The Right Drone
  3. Taking The Part 107 Exam
  4. FAA Rules & Regulations for Flying Legally
  5. Starting Your First Drone Venture
  6. Choosing An Industry
  7. Get Insurance (Options)
  8. Are Drones In Your Future?

Chapter 1: Introduction to Altitude Aerial Services

Drone Enthusiasts Become Business Owners

Before we dive into the exhilarating journey of buying your first drone and show you the steps to becoming your own boss as a drone service provider, we want to introduce our company and show how Altitude has worked with some of the largest early drone adopters in various industries. 

Founded in 2015 by four drone enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, we have experienced nearly every industry in which unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can add value. Starting in real estate photography, Altitude took Southern California by storm, producing high-quality marketing materials for the top real estate brokers in one of the most competitive real estate markets in the world. Through the use of drone technology, we have completed hundreds of real estate marketing photography and videography jobs, displaying property listings in a new and innovative way. Today, we have developed a widely used platform that allows real estate agents nationwide to receive on-demand aerial photography from our highly trained pilot network.

Altitude has continued to grow and explore the potential of using drones in other commercial industries. We have segmented and fully immersed ourselves into the process of learning how drone technology can add value to numerous arenas, including construction, development, golf course management, agriculture, and many more. This has provided an incredible learning experience and allowed our team to work hand-in-hand with some of the top construction moguls and golf course management companies in the world.

Currently, in addition to our experience in a variety of industries, our team has seen firsthand how the value of drones can change everyday workflows for so many important sectors in the worldwide economy. This is why we want to be at the forefront of this driving economic force, and continue to educate, train, and use UAV pilots to their full potential. This will allow thousands of individuals to fly drones for a living. - which we believe has to be one of the best jobs on Earth.

We are excited to share this information with you and have worked hard to provide amateur and experienced pilots alike continued education resources, podcasts, and a tight-knit community of drone pilots to allow you to grow as a pilot while you progress in this emerging industry.

Our goal is to encourage drone enthusiasts to take the next step and become FAA Part 107 Certified, joining the professional community of pilots who are using their entrepreneurial spirit to change the way commercial business is done today through the use of drone technology. 

Chapter 2: How To Choose The Right Drone

 

The Complete Guide for Choosing a Drone at any Skill Level 

The Altitude team has aggregated a list of drones we recommend for those interested in learning more about the technology. If you have landed on this page, we hope you are either interested in getting involved with drone technology, or need help deciding which drone to choose. Either way, enjoy the options below and fly safe!

 

DJI Spark: $399

Meet Spark, a mini drone that features all of DJI's signature technologies, allowing you to seize the moment whenever you feel inspired. With intelligent flight control options, a mechanical gimbal, and a camera with incredible image quality, Spark empowers you to push your creative boundaries.

Buy Spark

DJI Mavic Air $919

A marvel of engineering and design, the Mavic Air was built to go wherever adventure takes you. Inheriting the best of the Mavic series, this ultraportable and foldable drone features high-end flight performance and functionality for limitless exploration.

Buy Mavic Air

DJI Phantom 4 Pro (V2) $1,729

The new Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 features an OcuSync HD transmission system, which supports automatic dual-frequency band switching and connects to DJI Goggles wirelessly. Like the Phantom 4 Pro and Advanced, the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is equipped with a 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor capable of shooting 4K/60fps video and Burst Mode stills at 14 fps. 

Buy Phantom 4 Pro (V2)

DJI Mavic Pro Platinum $1,149

Platinum. The Mavic Pro Platinum features a sleek design and compact body that is both powerful and alluring. A new and improved 30-minute flight time coupled with 60% noise power reduction makes the Mavic Pro Platinum DJI's best portable drone yet. Enhanced Endurance, Quieter Flight.

Buy Mavic Pro Platinum

DJI Mavic 2 $1,729

See the bigger picture with the Hasselblad camera. Obstacle Sensing. 8km Video Transmission. Hyperlapse. 31-min Flight Time. The Mavic 2 is DJI's flagship consumer drone built for pros and enthusiasts.

Buy Mavic 2

Phantom 4, Mavic 2, & Inspire 2

The Phantom 4 has a great obstacle-sensing system built into it, which makes it hard to fly into a wall. With a 5-direction obstacle sensing and 4-direction obstacle avoidance system, sensors are always working to detect any objects that could potentially be a threat in the path of flight. The battery life is getting better! These drones have battery life of 23 minutes to 27 minutes. However, with interchangeable batteries, feel free to charge up while you are flying, switch the power source to the new battery pack, and repeat.

When our company was first starting out, we used the Phantom Series to launch Altitude Aerial Media. This company provides residential real estate agents with aerial photography/videography of their high-end listings to help them leverage the power of video marketing to their properties faster and more efficiently than using conventional methods. As a substitute for low-resolution photography, the Phantom Series was perfect for capturing an aerial perspective of their properties, marketing them in a new and innovative way.

DJI Inspire 2 $3,499

The Inspire 2 takes everything that was good about the Inspire 1 and improves it. The image processing system CineCore2.0 has been upgraded to CineCore2.1, recording video at up to 6K in CinemaDNG/RAW and 5.2K in Apple ProRes when used with Zenmuse X7 camera.

Buy Inspire 2

The Highest Level

We have a lot of friends who are heavily involved with cinematography, looking to take the next step and add aerial photography/videography to their services. For them, our team would recommend these next few drones!

To clarify, the drones listed above are for beginner to intermediate. They provide incredible features and are easy to fly, with little to no experience. Once you make your way into the drones below, we would suggest having experience before purchasing.

Our team has received various requests to address the consumer drones that also have commercial applications in more than just aerial photography/videography.

We highly recommend the Inspire 1 and Inspire 2. These two drones are the perfect ready-to-go aerial systems that will put you in the sky within seconds. Great for filming high-quality video and aerial photography (4K video at 24-30fps), these are very user-friendly drones that are relatively easy to fly.

The next step for Altitude was with an Inspire 1, which was used to launch Altitude Aerial Services. This business was focused more on data collection and data analysis for commercial industries (agricultural surveying, aerial inspection, construction and golf course management).

Our team has now ventured into using the Inspire 2 and the Matrice Series in a variety of industries and find both drones perform extremely well for professional pilots. While the Matrice is very customizable, we recommend working with the Inspire Series first to gain some traction with this technology before making the substantial investment the Matrice requires.

Chapter 3: Taking The Part 107 Exam

Step 1: Register your UAV

The FAA requires that all unmanned aircraft greater than .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds be registered with the FAA and given a registration number. You can do this by either registering online or using a paper-based registration process.

UAV’s flown not as model aircraft must be registered individually by the owner. Each registration is only $5, so it will not break the bank to be an aerial pilot.

Friendly Reminder: You must have the FAA registration certificate in your possession when flying, and are required to show it to any federal, state, or local law enforcement officer.

Step 2: Study

Wake up, lace up, and put the work in as an investment in yourself and your future. We have talked about how powerful training courses can be, but at the end of the day, however you decide to study, make the commitment and put in the time to become an FAA licensed drone pilot.

Step 3: Apply

Schedule an appointment with a Knowledge Testing Center (KTC):

Visit the Computer Assisted Testing Service, Inc. (CATS) to schedule your exam: http://candidate.catstest.com/sitesearch.php

Step 4: Prove your identity

The testing facility will require you to bring proper identification. Prior to scheduling, please ensure you clarify what is required at your specific testing center. 

Step 5: Pay the fee

The cost is of the test will most likely be $150, which will be paid to the testing center. (either online, or over the phone)

Step 6: Pass with flying colors

You now have all the information for taking the next step from being a UAV hobbyist to a Certified FAA pilot.

Congratulations! You are now one step closer to legally being able to fly your drone for commercial applications. Whether you are flying for real estate, media, construction, or any other commercial industry, this is a huge first step in any professional pilot’s flying career. 

What’s Next?

Once you have taken and passed the exam, you still are not technically a licensed pilot. Not to worry, the next step is very simple. To receive your certificate, go to https://iacra.faa.gov/IACRA/ and register for an account.

Known as the IACRA, this is the FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application. Once you have registered, this web-based certification/rating application ensures you meet the requirements and electronically submits the application to the FAA's Airman Registry.

Within 10 days, your application should be validated and will allow you to print out your temporary license, which is valid for 120 days. All you have to do now is wait for your real license to come in the mail within that time period.

Maintaining Your Part 107 Status

Once you have passed the exam, registered with the IACRA and received your physical Part 107 certificate, you are now a commercial drone pilot. From here, you are free to fly drones for commercial applications and are responsible to operate under the Part 107 guidelines outlined throughout the exam.

Make sure to always keep your license with you when operating your UAV, and be sure to stay on top of your renewal, which happens every two years. 

Now You Know What It Takes

So, there it is! The complete cheat sheet to understanding if you are currently flying your drone legally, and how to become an FAA Part 107 Licensed Pilot.

The merits of drone technology are endless and we are just at the brink of unleashing this technology to assist hundreds of commercial industries.

Chapter 5: Starting Your First Drone Venture

Using Your Part 107 License to Assist the Real Estate Industry

Starting your first drone venture can be an exciting and educational experience. As we explained earlier, our team has experience with a variety of commercial industries and has always been very thankful to have started with real estate marketing. As you enter the drone service provider space, doing aerial media jobs will quickly improve your piloting skills and teach you the best fundamentals moving forward. Plus, it is always nice to enter an industry with an abundance of profitable jobs.

Real estate marketing is booming, with a growing number of agents turning to aerial pilots to put them a step ahead of their competition with high-quality aerial marketing material. According to Real Estate Magazine, properties with accompanying aerial images are 68% more likely to sell than properties without aerial photography, and that number is only increasing. Agents are taking the opportunity to sell their properties faster in a new and innovative way. In addition to the ripe opportunity for drones to provide real estate marketing, aerial real estate jobs are a quick way to gain valuable experience as a licensed drone pilot.

Learning essential skills such as maneuvering your drone safely, establishing flight insurance, following a structured on site flight process, and understanding how to receive payment from clients are all skills that will help as you move toward working with a variety of industries in the future. Our team also recommends beginning in the real estate arena because there are currently so many opportunities to join pilot networks that provide a tight-knit community of licensed pilots who share and give feedback to better the skills of pilots across the board. Having a support system from which you can receive professional feedback is extremely beneficial when you are trying to progress as a pilot. There are a variety of large pilot networks that can offer jobs, continued education resources, and forums to communicate with people around the world who are trying to achieve the same goals as you.

Here is a list of some pilot networks to check out for incoming pilots: Drone Pilot Jobs.

 

How to Build the Foundation for an Aerial Real Estate Venture:

Step 1: Start the Business

Although the majority of the content our team wants to provide surrounds drone technology, we have found many aerial pilots are so excited to begin jobs that they forget to build a foundation to their business. The first step we recommended taking when becoming an aerial service provider is to establish your company as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). This will allow you to operate your business without the lingering risk of being personally liable for any accidents that may arise when operating your UAV. Although it’ll be an expense of anywhere from $800-$1,400 per year, this is an important step to protect yourself as a professional UAV pilot.

Step 2: Get Insurance

In-flight insurance is absolutely essential to ensure financial protection in case of any incident that can cause significant damage. Our team has found that for most pilots, DroneInsurance.com is a great resource for aerial insurance. DroneInsurance.com offers on-demand drone insurance for any UAV under 35 pounds at rates starting at $10 an hour. This is an easy way to make sure you are protected as a pilot, and allows you to only purchase insurance for the time-period needed.

Here are the steps provided by DroneInsurance.com on how the process works:

  1. Select a flight area, to see a real-time price.

  2. Get instant approval, insure in two taps.

  3. Receive on-the-spot proof of insurance.

If you want to acquire and maintain clients, insurance is a necessity.

Step 3: Build a Team

As you grow and continue to gain trust from your clientele, there will be a point where you cannot complete every job that is thrown your way; you will be forced to expand. Whether you are starting your venture with partners, or by yourself, eventually you will want to expand your operations to meet the demand that comes from all of the hard work that is put into the business.

As a drone pilot, most of what you will be doing is providing a service. This means customer retention. - achieved by developing relationships. -should be a top priority for you and your partners.

Our team has found that the four characteristics of personable, passionate, cautious and connected are the best attributes you can have when searching for team members.

You want a teammate who is personable to make sure a connection is being made at every job to encourage returning projects from every client. It is also vital to look for a person who is actually passionate about what they do, because half the fun of choosing UAV piloting as a career is because it is a blast. This will make everyday operations much easier and will keep the attitude around the office positive even when you may experience setbacks.

In addition to having a love for drones, your team members should be caution-oriented. Being cautious and following a strict flight process will pay off in the long run by reducing accidents, and giving clients peace-of-mind when drones are flying over their listings.

Lastly, team members who are connected in their community can be a huge advantage for your company. The real estate industry is a very connected community and agents love using personal connections they can trust to assist them in their selling process.

 

Step 4: Learn Key Angles for Aerial Photography

Anyone can fly a drone, but knowing best practices for aerial photography and videography will set you apart from the competition. When it comes to shooting residential and commercial real estate, there are multiple angles you will always want to include in your shots.

Residential Real Estate 

For residential real estate, you are going to want to focus mainly on the property.

Make sure to get angles of every corner of the house from three different elevations: one close up to the property, the next higher and the last even higher. Regardless of what angle and elevation you are shooting at, you need to remember to never cut off any part of the property in the photo. You always want to make sure to cover the entire house regardless of where the drone is positioned. 

Commercial Real Estate

For commercial real estate, you are going to want to focus on the property, but also the property’s surroundings.-the parking lot, highways, shopping centers, etc.- showcasing all the amenities nearby.

Commercial real estate brokers are more focused on selling a buildings location rather than what it actually looks like. Still focus on getting shots of the actual property, but its surrounding environment. Like residential real estate, you are going to want to take shots at all corners of the building and at three different elevations. This will give your client a good amount of shots to pick from.

Always remember to get the parking lot, and stay away from showing the roof close up, because a lot of times the roofs of commercial buildings (if industrial and warehouses) aren’t in great shape.

 

Luxury Real Estate Video

 
 

Commercial Real Estate Video 

 

Step 5: Ensure Quality 

There are a couple of different things you are going to want to do to ensure the quality of your work.

For shooting aerial photography, at Altitude we love to use HDR photos. If you have a DJI drone, you will be able to shoot with this setting. HDR photos are photos taken in multiples. The camera will take one underexposed photo, one normal exposed photo and one overexposed photo. You then proceed to merge them together in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, creating a high-quality, visually appealing photo. If you want to just take normal photos, we recommend always shooting in raw and editing them in a photo editor software like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom.

When shooting in raw over jpeg, you can make edits to the photo (exposure, contrast, etc.) without reducing the quality of the end photo like .jpeg files do.

Step 6: Fast and Effective Delivery 

To ensure you are making your clients happy, you need to put a big emphasis on having fast and effective delivery. If you provide fast turnarounds clients will want to keep working with you on a regular basis. At Altitude, we have some best practices we have been using for years that keep customers happy and coming back.

First off, right when you get home from your shoot, you are going to want to move all the photos from the sd or micro sd card to a folder on your computer or external hard drive. From there, you are going to want to go through every photo, and make a list of the best ones. Then, bulk import the best photos you have selected into your photo editing software of choice. Once you are done editing your photos, you are going to want to export them to another separate folder on your computer or external hard drive. Finally, you need to upload the photos to the cloud, using your hosting company of choice.

We recommend using Dropbox for the fastest experience, but Google Drive and Onedrive work as well. You are going to want to import your photos to one of the services above you can directly share them with your clients via email!

If you get a good system/routine down, you can knock out this process out in under a day like we are used to doing at Altitude! 

 

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Step By Step Guide To Obtaining A Daylight Waiver (Flying At Night)

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction To AltitudeU
  2. Anti-Collision Lights
  3. Describe The Proposed Operations
  4. Operation Risks & Mitigation
  5. Specific Guidelines
  6. Filling Out The Application

Chapter 1: Introduction

This article was written by Altitude University, and is to be used as a resource for obtaining a Part 107 Waiver to Fly your sUAS at Night.

In this article we will review the different steps a commercial drone pilot must take in order to acquire an FAA Daylight Operation Waiver (107.29 Daylight Waiver). If you are wondering what some of the use cases might be for an FAA Daylight Operation Waiver to fly your sUAS at night, I’ve outlined a few below...

  • Wedding Photography
  • Concerts/Events
  • Real Estate Photography
  • Cinematography
  • Surveillance
  • Surveying & Inspection
  • Law Enforcement

At this point, I’m sure you’re referencing this article to gain insight into obtaining an FAA Daylight Operation Waiver for your current operation - so let’s dive right into it.

Let’s quickly review what the FAA’s Part 107 Rule states for pilots looking to fly during the day, before/after Civil Twilight, and Flying at Night.

To mitigate risk, the FAA’s Part 107 Rule limits sUAS use to daylight, and civil twilight with the use of proper anti-collision lights. Remote Pilot’s should not operate their sUAS during the period of civil twilight unless the aircraft has lighted anti-collision lights visible for at least 3 statute miles.

So, if you are thinking about operating your drone during the 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise, then you will not need a Daylight Operation waiver to proceed ONLY if you are using anti-collision lights. 

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1. Describe The Proposed Operation

When filling out the Waiver Safety Explanation field in the operational waiver application, applicants must

  1. Describe their proposed operation
  2. The Possible Risk Associated With The Operation

As Well As The Methods You Will Use To Mitigate The Risks.

Note: Use the following questions as a guide to address both sets of information. Answers to these questions may be entered into the Waiver Safety Explanation field on the waiver form (5,000 character limit), or submitted as attachments after receiving a waiver tracking number (See Step 4 – Submitting Additional Information).

Important: If hazard identification and risk mitigation strategies are not included in your application, the FAA will be unable to make a complete safety analysis and will disapprove your application based on insufficient information.

Provide a description of your proposed operation without the technical details, but with sufficient information for the FAA to understand it quickly and easily. This is the who, what, when, where, and how of your proposed operation, and is commonly called a Concept of Operations (CONOPS). All questions below relate to the operation(s) to be conducted under your requested waiver.

 Brief Description 

1. Where do you plan to operate?
Consider providing latitude/longitude and a detailed map of your planned flight area.

2. How high will you fly your aircraft (maximum altitude above ground level)?

3. Do you want to fly in controlled airspace? (Class B, C, D & Surface E)

4. Are there any other kinds of airspace within 5 miles of any planned flight area?

If yes, please see 14 CFR §107.41 and Airspace Authorization Request (Page 5)

5. What kind of areas will you fly over?

Ex: rural, sparsely populated, congested, populated, a neighborhood, within city limits, large outdoor gathering of people, a restricted access site, etc.

 

Small UAS Details 

1. What kind of UAS will you use to fly the operations requested in this application?
 
Ex. Multi-Rotor, Fixed Wing, Hybrid (Both Multi-Rotor & Fixed-Wing), Single Rotor, Lighter Than Air, Etc.
 
2. What is your UAS’s power or energy source?
 
3. What is your UAS’s maximum flight time (In minutes), range (In feet), and speed (In miles per hour)?
 
4. How big is the aircraft (Length/Width/Height in Inches)?
 
5. How do you ensure the aircraft only flies where it is directed? (ie. ensure containment)

Ex. Geo-Fencing, Tether, Etc.

6. What kind of termination system, if any, does the UAS have? 

Immediate Flight Termination Switch

7. How much will the aircraft and its payload weigh when flying?

8. If the aircraft carries any external or internal load (or object), how is the load secured?
 
9. What, if any, external or internal load (or object) could be dropped from the aircraft when flying, and how will you assure the safety of people, or other people’s property if it is dropped or detached when flying?
 

Pilot/Personnel Details

1. What minimum level of experience will the Remote Pilot in Command (Remote PIC) have to fly under this waiver?
 
2. How many personnel (including the Remote PIC) will you use for operations under this waiver?(minimum needed)
 
3. What kind of training, if any, will personnel (e.g. visual observer(s)) have prior to flying under the waiver?
 
4. How will the personnel be trained?
 
5. How will the Responsible Person know the other personnel are competent and have operational knowledge to safely fly the UAS under the waiver conditions?
 
6. If personnel will be tested, what kind of testing will be performed, and how will evaluations be conducted and documented? 
 
7. How will personnel maintain the knowledge/skill to fly under this waiver? Will recurrent training or testing be required? 
 
  

2. Describe Operation Risks & Mitigation

Provide, to the greatest extent possible, how you propose to address or lessen the possible risks of your proposed operation. This could include using operating limitations, technology, additional training, equipment, personnel, restricted access areas, etc. When reviewing the questions for each section below, the FAA's primary concerns are:

1. How you will ensure your operation(s) remains safe at all times, even in unusual circumstances?

2. What kinds of circumstances could arise, and how you plan to handle each?

Chapter 2: Guidelines to a Daylight Waiver

Before we dive into the 5 Specific Guidelines, it’s important for applicants to understand the information needed to make a successful safety case for granting a waiver.

The Part 107 regulations provide a flexible framework for unmanned aircraft operations. Waivers and airspace authorizations are an important part of making the new rule work as intended. Applicants can help speed the process by making sure they make a solid, detailed safety case for any flights not covered under the small drone rule.

Below are a few of the most missed objectives that will result in your application being denied by the FAA during the application process.

  • Applicant must provide a method for the remote pilot to maintain visual line of sight during darkness.

  • Applicant must provide a method for the remote pilot to see and avoid other aircraft, people on the ground, and ground-based structures and obstacles during darkness.

  • Applicant must provide a method by which the remote pilot will be able to continuously know and determine the position, altitude, attitude, and movement of their small unmanned aircraft (sUA).

  • Applicant must assure all required persons participating in the sUA operation have knowledge to recognize and overcome visual illusions caused by darkness, and understand physiological conditions which may degrade night vision.

  • Applicant must provide a method to increase conspicuity of the sUA to be seen at a distance of 3 statute miles unless a system is in place that can avoid all non-participating aircraft.

IMPORTANT: Make sure that you justify somewhere, that the operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver.

The 5 Specific Guidelines

1. Describe how the Remote Pilot in Command (RPIC) will maintain visual line of sight (VLOS) during darkness.  

  1. How will the RPIC be able to see the small unmanned aircraft (sUA) in the dark, at the maximum planned flight distance from the RPIC and/or Visual Observer (VO)?
  2. What procedures will the RPIC and/or VO follow in the event they lose sight of the sUA in the dark?
 
Example Response Ideas: This is where you will want to explain in detail how the Pilot in Command will maintain visual line of sight with the sUAS at all times. Keep in mind, you will be flying at night so it would be beneficial to include that you will be flying with the assistance of anti-collision lights attached to your sUAS. Also, will you be flying with the help of a Visual Observer? (VO)
 
Describe what procedures you have determined to be the most effective when communication with everyone involved in the safety of the mission.
 

 

2. Describe how the RPIC will see and avoid other aircraft, people on the ground, and ground-based structures and obstacles during darkness. 

  1. How will the RPIC and/or VO locate other persons, aircraft, obstacles, and structures in the dark?
  2. What will they do if other persons/aircraft are located during flight?
  3. How will they avoid hitting obstacles/structures during flight?
  4. If flight operations occur in an area with lighting sufficient for the RPIC and VO to see the sUA and other obstacles, persons, and aircraft, how will they determine the lighting is sufficient before flight?
 
Example Response Ideas: The great thing about this application, is it gives you time to scout the mission site before submitting. Explain the controlled operating space, and the details of the location that would assist in keeping the mission confined to the point of interest. If the point of interest is located in the center of the site, it would be great to describe the launch area and the conditions surrounding. Also, describe the actions you will take to ensure you are on the same page with you visual observer that will clarify your attempt to avoid collisions at all cost.
 
You might want to sit down with your Visual Observer during this section of the application to detail the methods used to scan the sky for potential hazards or obstructions.
 

 

3. Describe how the RPIC will be able to continuously know and determine the position, altitude, attitude, and movement of the sUA.

  1. How will the RPIC be able to tell which direction the sUA is pointing or flying in the dark? 
  2. While keeping eyes on the sUA, how will the RPIC continuously know the current real-time (1) geographic location, (2) altitude above the ground, (3) attitude (orientation, deck angle, pitch, bank), and (4) direction of flight of the sUA?
Example Response Ideas: This is a section where you will want to include your unique safety measurements used when your sUAS begins to lose signal, or completely loses signal. If your Visual Observer loses Visual Line of Sight with the aircraft, it would be in your best interest to describe how you will immediately put the sUAS in hover mode until Visual Line of Sight has been restored. It is very helpful to add an additional Visual Observer to the operation incase something unexpected occurs. Emphasize communication between all parties associated with the mission.
 

 

4. What procedures will be followed to ensure all the required persons participating in the operation have knowledge to recognize and overcome visual illusions caused by darkness and understand physiological conditions which may degrade night vision? 

  1. How will the RPIC and any other participants in the operation demonstrate knowledge about night operation risks, such as overcoming night visual illusions, limitations to night vision, and conditions that can affect night vision?

  2. How will this knowledge be obtained and who will document it?

  3. How will the Responsible Person verify the knowledge has been obtained and documented?

Example Response Ideas: Describe a pre-flight meeting that will discuss the following topics to reduce the risk of Visual Illusions caused by darkness that may degrade night vision. These concepts can be found in the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.
 

 

5. Describe how the visual conspicuity of the sUA will be increased to be seen at a distance of at least 3 statute miles (mi).

  1. Will the sUA be visible for at least 3 mi at night, in the location where the RPIC will operate?

  2. If  yes, how will you accomplish this?

  3. If no, why do other aircraft not need to be able to see your sUA from at least 3 mi?

Example Response Ideas: You will want to include some information about the type of lights you plan on attaching to your sUAS and confirm that the light will be visible during the operation for up to 3 statute miles. As an added factor to the flight of your sUAS and the success of your mission, you will want to include information regarding the constant update of new anti-collision light technology as it comes on the market, and the current condition of your lighting equipment.

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