Observations from our first 10 drone flight assessments

Hello everybody! The Aerial Academy has now completed 10 drone flight assessments for pilots moving from manned aviation and I thought I would share a few observations to help people prepare for future flight tests.

The quality of risk assessments and pre-arrival surveys varies considerably but those pilots with previous manned aviation experience seem generally much stronger in this area.

Generally, the quality of GPS assisted flight is very good with people only occasionally struggling with nose-in orientation. Atti or non-GPS flight has proved more challenging. The CAA requires us to assess non-GPS flight as losing GPS signal, although unlikely, is one of the most common challenges that a pilot can meet in day-to-day operations. You must be able to fly competently in Atti mode in a range of orientations. I am generally happy for people to use course lock to recover an atti drift but can’t accept a return to GPS or use of home lock as neither of those methods would work if you have genuinely lost GPS.

We have had a couple of candidates who have been very unsure of how to initiate failsafe or what will happen when they do. Candidates must switch off the transmitter to simulate a transmitter signal loss. This should initiate failsafe but if the aircraft hasn’t been set up right that might not happen. If you are unsure about the failsafe, you must contact your supplier. With most equipment, we can help to ensure it will work before the assessment commences, but if you can’t initiate failsafe by turning off the transmitter I’m afraid that would be an instant fail.

I have also noticed that a number of candidates don’t know how to get best flight characteristics out of their aircraft using the assistant software or app. Gain and exponential changes can often radically change the way an aircraft flies and as a result it is worth taking some time to investigate the best settings for your flying style and operational purpose.

A few candidates so far have been quite blasé about lipo battery safety, particularly those with the “intelligent” DJI batteries. Please remember, they are still lithium polymer batteries and still potentially dangerous. I do not charge lipo batteries in my house. Please see my other lipo battery post and have a quick look here if you still don’t believe me.

Remember, whilst you don’t have to take training before your assessment, we do offer a range of training options from half day, to three day that will enable you to feel as confident as possible before the test.

We aren’t expecting anyone to be absolutely perfect on their flight test, but we are looking for competence, confidence and, above all, safety.

Fly safe! – Elliott


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