Last weekend I attended Wellington Waterloo Flight Centre's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle pilot's course. I was attending to become compliant with my employer's requirements for flying a drone, but my history with aviation goes way back. In the early 1980s I followed a friend into the Royal Canadian Air Cadets in 845 Squadron Mississauga. While there I attended ground school training on a lot of Saturday mornings and spent a summer at Trenton doing air studies. Imperfect eyesight meant I'd never sit in the pilot's chair, but a career in air crew was the hope.
Life took me in different directions, but I've always had a love of aviation. Taking WWFC's drone piloting course rekindled that love. I've been flying modern quad-copter drones since our school purchased a DJI Phantom in 2013 for aerial yearbook photography. I operated it for a couple of years before passing it on to the next yearbook teacher and enjoyed the challenges of aerial photography. Technical photography in general, whether it's extreme weather, astronomical and difficult, microscopic or wider spectrum imaging, has always held a fascination; if it's a technically challenging imaging project, I'm in.
More recently I've been teaching computer technology and exploring emerging technologies in the field. Becoming an early adopter of virtual reality led to an exploration of 360° imaging in order to produce media for this new medium. We've been experimenting with immersive video using a variety of cameras and gimbals. After pushing the limits of this video format on the motorcycle, I started thinking about 360° video from the air, which led to exploring how we might fly legally while producing 360° footage for familiarization of incoming students and for marketing. For establishing shots in video there is little that works better than an aerial/drone shot to show an audience where they are.
The small end of the drone industry, being mainly recreational, has developed a credibility gap with both the public and the aviation industry itself. The recent drone strike on a landing aircraft in Quebec has only made things worse. Many commercial drone operators aren't actually flying legally and are just people who picked up a drone and went up without a second thought. Modern self leveling drone technology makes the flying of them fairly straightforward, but this means we have hundreds if not thousands of pilots (and yes, Transport Canada sees a drone operator as a pilot) flying illegally and sometimes dangerously.
After taking WWFC's UAV pilot course I'm now Industry Canada
ROC-A certified, and I've begun the process to generate Special Flight Operations Certificates in order to operate my drones in compliance with Transport Canada regulations. I'm hoping that in working through this process I'll be able to teach other teachers how to make effective and safe use of this emerging technology. The UAS (unmanned aerial systems - TC is about to make this the standard designation for drone/UAV) industry is indeed expanding rapidly. This is the ideal time to bring potentially hazardous amateur drone operators up to the standards expected by the rest of society.
While I'm working out Transport Canada regulations for work I also want to expand my flying operations in other areas. If you're looking for a trained and disciplined UAV/drone operator who will only fly legally within Transport Canada guidelines and comes properly insured, you can reach me through my personal webpage, Mechanical Sympathy, and on Twitter, Facebook or through Google.
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