Piloting Tips: Commercial Drone Work…RockIt!

This will be another “TIPS” Series. You can visit my Photo Tips Series by choosing the category from the drop-down category search.

Since ascertaining my Remote Pilot (drone) License  I’ve flown 6 commercial missions!  I was hired by a contractor who is doing a 5-Location build-out.  1st one started May 6th, and is a 2-month build out.  Locations 2&3 run simultaneously once this one is done, and Locations 4&5 commence in Spring 2020.

It is exhilarating to watch the crews from the air.  The way this company operates is really remarkable.  Today there were actually 5 things going on on the ground, and to capture it all in one field of view, and watch each crew systematically maneuver is pretty incredible.  Ya just don’t get that overview from the ground.

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Each time I am on site, one or more of the folks on site always makes a comment or asks a drone related question.

  • One fella talked about how he took his outside one day and the wind just blew it away!  His neighbor came by a few days later asking, “Is this yours?” LOL. I figure he had a Whoop (which is a teeny tiny, very light, quad-copter / drone)
  • Another guy asked, “How do you learn to fly those things well?” my prompt reply was an enthusiastic “Practice practice practice!”  The reply that came to me later (you know how that goes… 2 hours later the “perfect” witty retort finally hits you, haha) was “I’ll be sure to let you know.” LOL.
  • Today’s comments included a very playful reference from a fella about skeet shooting (OH NO!)… He’s seen me every time I’m there, so he plays more, and another crew member said “You have the perfect job: Flying all day!”  I couldn’t agree with him more!
  • Some also inquire about the end result and purpose– which they correctly speculate as a milestones-driven coverage for edited video(s) for the company (my client) and the end-user (the company’s client).

What do I provide, and what have I learned so far?

  • I upload each day’s video clips to a cloud share system, so my client can review them to ensure I’m capturing the goals he needs
    • The files are only visible to him and his office assistant.
    • This is to protect the integrity of my raw files and privacy of his client.  They cannot be released into any mainstream until proper releases are obtained and signed off on by the end-user.  That will come at the very end after the edited videos are presented and cleaned of identifying info per all scopes from all stakeholders. There will be different edits made for end-user versus what my client wants for his demo and promo videos
  • I use the Verifly App for Liability Insurance coverage on missions.
    • Verifly is an app that provides insurance.  It is mega easy to use.
    • You can get it when you are on site (on-demand), or pre-schedule it.
    • I can choose $1M, $2M, $5M,
    • Duration (1 HR, 4HRs, etc.)
    • Geographical range
      • It uses GPS to pinpoint coordinates and you can choose 1/4 mile radius, or more as needed.
  • I carry a back-up sUAS unit.
  • I keep tighter watch now on the seasonal locations of sun so I can concentrate or coordinate recordings to an appropriate time of day for optimal lighting. Suffice it to say 10:00-10:30 EDT is awful during a cloudless morning sky in May!  HAHAHA.
    • Understanding of course certain things happen at certain times, no matter what the lighting, and so I just gotta go with the flow, and maneuver the drone to the best angles.
  • I shoot DSLR stills as well. So far all with my 300mm lens.
  • I keep an accurate flight log in my Pilot’s Log book.
  • I supply a “Pilot’s Notes” sheet for each mission in the cloud folder, both for my record and for my client’s.
  • I use DroneBuddy App to check weather / meteorological conditions 1st thing when I get to the location, and include those conditions in my notes.  Drone Buddy gives me wind speed, Sun, temp, visibility and Kp Index
    • I already have an idea from checking before I ever head to the location, but mark down the stats of the conditions at time of mission.
  • 000000001I’m dressed professionally
    • In a Hi-Vis Vest clearly marked with FAA CERTIFIED REMOTE PILOT, with a clip art of a drone, so even without reading they can quickly get a sense of what I might be doing, and MISSION IN PROGRESS so there is no confusion as to who I am, what I am doing, or why I might be ignoring someone.
    • I wear my Remote Pilot License around my neck in a lanyard.

What are some things I’d like to improve on?

  • I’d like to refine my pre-flight check list
  • I’d like to get a shade-giving attachment for the Chair-pak I use on location, simg_6873.jpgo I can be sure my equipment stays shaded (especially Batteries!)  But for me too!
  • I’m researching for a better cloud solution for storing files for my client’s reviews.
    • I did get some feedback for Sync – For Business from a colleague (Thanks BT!)  Seems reasonably priced, and I’m looking into it.  What solution(s) are you using?
  • I’m thinking of having one of my 2nd units always airborne ready when on a mission.
    • For fluidity of shooting.  Since the batteries are about 13/14 minutes true recording time,  instead of powering down, if I have the 2nd unit ready for flight, there’s a good chance I won’t miss something critical for a battery swap.  It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve been concerned 2x so far about this.

Please share some of your tips and thoughts in the comments below!

Fly Safe!  Cheers and Clicks,

JJ

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