It’s small but it’s not a toy!

A thought: The fact that something is small does not mean it is a toy.

I get a lot of brilliant responses to the octocopter. As discussed previously they are almost always positive with the odd half-joking half-petrified “big brother” type comment. Invariably I get asked if people can have a go. The answer has to be no.

I’m sorry.

I think part of the problem is that, well, it does look like a toy. It has a radio-control, it’s cool, people buy into it as the dream job.

The reality is it is a small aircraft, it has 8 knife-sharp propellers rotating at considerable speed and 90% of my job is making sure we use it safely and have permissions and briefing in place to allow that to happen. If I am on a building site, like I have been a lot recently, there are site surveys, risk assessments and method statements to write, then I have to make sure I am wearing the correct PPE and that everyone on the site has theirs on. Insurance cover is sorted with emergency details covered as part of our Ops Manual. I enjoy flying but it is usually a relief to bring the copter down, download the footage and know that I can go back and prepare the images for my customer in the knowledge that the operation went well. Then comes the follow-up, post-flight checks, checking props and motor and airframe for signs of wear. Cleaning dust from the camera, camera mount and electrical systems, recharging batteries, filling in flight and equipment logs and downloading the blackbox data for future reference. When I can’t fly outside because of the weather I use a simulator to keep my skills fresh just as commercial airline pilots do if they haven’t flown for a while.

It’s small, but it’s not a toy.

The closest analogy I could think of is a drill. You get drills on oilrigs tens of metres high, bench drills, hand drills, pneumatic drills, cordless drills and Dremels. They are all different sizes and all potentially dangerous. Aircraft are the same now. We are used to working aircraft being big because, in the past, you always had to be able to fit a pilot inside. By moving the pilot outside, you can make the aircraft smaller but still just as useful. By moving the pilot outside you create safety issues that didn’t exist with the pilot inside.

Of course, you can buy toy drills made of plastic and you can also buy toy copters.

If you would like a toy version I can point you in the right direction or even sell you a starter rig, but even then you still have to promise me to be very very careful and to learn and take it slowly.

So, if you see us flying, please wait until I have landed before you come to chat. I am always happy to talk to people about the kit if I have time, but please don’t ask me if you can have a go because I’ll only have to disappoint you. I always bring the simulator to trade shows and you are more than welcome to have a go on that!

Elliott – HexCam