Drone Pilots Check In

Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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Thanks to Mark and the moderators for setting up this new sub-forum.

I know there are multiple drone pilots out there and thought we might want to open with a brief profile from everyone.

I've been flying drones going back to the original DJI products. They were a sponsor years ago and I tested several drones for them.

I'm a FAA licensed UAV pilot.

I currently fly a Mavic Air 2.
 
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Lou Ruh

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May 17, 2007
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I have flown a few drones as a recreational pilot. Some day (maybe soon), I will obtain a Part 107 certification.

My most recent acquisition (as of yesterday which was spent getting things all set up, so, not much experience with it yet) is a Mavic 2 Zoom with a Smart Controller.

One of the big reasons I got into this was to help with the storm surveys that I assist with (of course, I probably legally need a Part 107 certification to do that officially) but I have never done much with that idea.
 

rdale

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Mar 1, 2004
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I'm in! I fly a Phantom 4 Pro V2 with a Spark for quickies. I have access to a DJI Matrice M210 with FLIR added on, and a Mavic Pro 2 as needed. I have a few storm pics but my main role is damage surveying.
 

Todd Lemery

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I have the Mavic Air 2 also Warren. It replaces my Phantom that my brother crashed for me. He almost did me a favor. If he wouldn’t have crashed It I wouldn’t have the one I have now. I haven’t got around to registering it yet because I had no idea I was supposed to.
 

Warren Faidley

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I have the Mavic Air 2 also Warren. It replaces my Phantom that my brother crashed for me. He almost did me a favor. If he wouldn’t have crashed It I wouldn’t have the one I have now. I haven’t got around to registering it yet because I had no idea I was supposed to.
Make sure to register it through the actual FAA site. I think it's $5.00. There is a fake site that charges $24.00+. Also, you need to make sure the registration number is on the drone. I put mine inside the battery compartment with a Sharpie.
 
This is more curiosity than anything, as I probably won't be able to get into drones anytime soon, but what factors are y'all looking at when you decide what brand/type of drone to buy? I'm assuming that, much like ham radios and aftermarket car parts, certain manufacturers are of higher quality and/or more reliable?
 
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Todd Lemery

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Make sure to register it through the actual FAA site. I think it's $5.00. There is a fake site that charges $24.00+. Also, you need to make sure the registration number is on the drone. I put mine inside the battery compartment with a Sharpie.
Thank you Warren. Hopefully I can get around to registering in the next couple of days. I think becoming a pilot might be a bit out of my wheel house though.

Drew, I’m far from an expert or even knowledgeable about drones (I still haven’t gone through my owners manual). When I got my new drone there was two things I really wanted. One was collision avoidance. I don’t completely trust it, but it’s nice to have after what happened to my last one. The second thing I wanted was a decent range. The Mavic Air Two has a 6.2 mile range. I’ve sent it out a few miles and was really impressed. That was on it’s maiden flight and I’m glad it came back!
 
Make sure to register it through the actual FAA site. I think it's $5.00. There is a fake site that charges $24.00+. Also, you need to make sure the registration number is on the drone. I put mine inside the battery compartment with a Sharpie.
Warren, I’m not sure putting the registration number inside the battery compartment is ideal. Or legal actually. It should be visible upon inspection (let’s say you had a fly away and it crashed Into a crowd of people - worse case scenario, but it needs to be visible upon direct inspection.
 
This is more curiosity than anything, as I probably won't be able to get into drones anytime soon, but what factors are y'all looking at when you decide what brand/type of drone to buy? I'm assuming that, much like ham radios and aftermarket car parts, certain manufacturers are of higher quality and/or more reliable?
Drew, I am by no means an expert either. However, I’ve been flying unmanned aircraft recreationally for many years now, and commercially for a little over a year now. With roughly 2,900 hours flight time logged (as of tonight’s flight.) on my DJI account/products and as a part 107 cert and the old 333, with night waiver and BOVLOS, I’d like to think I have some pretty good knowledge on the topic. I fly every day and utilize my drones for work and play - your question is probably the question everyone who is getting into the hobby should be asking but aren’t.

You hit the nail on the head likening it to ham radio etc...
The best advise I can give you if you are looking at getting into the hobby or purchasing your first drone:
1) Stay away from WiFi drones.
2) Make sure the drone is/has GPS and or GLONASS
3) You get what you pay for (just like anything else)
4) DO NOT DO A MAIDEN FLIGHT MILES OUT!!! I cannot stress that enough. I’m not picking on Todd, but don’t do it. Keep it within line of sight (it’s not only law, it’s safe) And whether you are a hobbyist or get a cert - know and understand the basic rules - 400ft (AGL - exceptions to this rule) Max flight deck VFR, 3 statue mile visibility, know what class airspace you might be in, NOTAMs, DROTAMs, TFRs, Can’t fly over people, traffic, no night flight (unless you have a waiver and proper lights) BOVLOS - NO Beyond Visual Line Of Sight unless you have a waiver, a total understanding of the basic airman’s knowledge test etc..etc...I worked hard to get my BOVLOS and night waiver. But what the FAA is really starting to crack down on right now, and what you should know is what constitutes a hobbyists and commercial. It isn’t just the 250gram weight of the drone....If you intend on making ANY financial gain from your drone you need to have the 107. A good case scenario would be if you have a monetized Youtube channel and you are flying recreationally but posting videos that garner financially. That’s a big no no.
5) Brand wise, there are a number of different “brands”. Much like Kenwood, Icom etc. You get what you pay for as mentioned. But I like having something that is capable of not only flying with full GPS, but something I can turn the GPS off or fly in attitude mode. This will help you ultimately in a possible flyaway situation.
Much of the rest is pretty much what you want or are planning on doing with your drone. Warren stated he did some testing for DJI, while I don’t recall his name as a beta tester, I’m sure that he would agree that DJI no doubt has majority lock on drone sales around the world. I have done a number of beta tests for them and Yuneec. In fact, Yuneec sponsored us with a grant for the acoustic/infrasonic research back in 2018/2019. But there are also a few other brands that probably should be mentioned that have some great qualities as well:
Autel
Skydio
Yuneec

The flavor you want kinda depends on exactly what you intend to do with drone.

It should be noted that with the new FAA proposed rule making that just took place regarding Remote ID - this is pretty much a middle finger to the general hobbyist. I mention this only because it WILL eventually cause issue for those just getting into the hobby or those trying to make a profession out of it.

I hope I have helped to answer a few of your questions but if you have any more, feel free to ask away. I’ve attached a pic of a couple drones that I fly - I couldn’t get all 4 of them in a close up pic. But you’ll probably notice a lot of batteries. One last thing in closing - drone batteries are LIPO batteries and are extremely dangerous. While all of the batteries you see in the pic for each drone is a “smart” battery, they can and do fail for a variety of reasons. I highly recommend a lipo bag for each battery you have, especially when transporting them. Prior to each and every flight I go over my flight prep - the first thing I check ALWAYS is the shape my batteries are in. Hot and cold can and will do a number on them. Proper maintenance is key and by proper, I mean there are proper ways to maintain the battery life thus extending its life and lessening the threat for fire.
Hope this helps. -Lanny
 

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Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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Warren, I’m not sure putting the registration number inside the battery compartment is ideal. Or legal actually. It should be visible upon inspection (let’s say you had a fly away and it crashed Into a crowd of people - worse case scenario, but it needs to be visible upon direct inspection.
I believe the rules are it can be anywhere on the drone as long as "removal of screws are not required to make it visible." I could be wrong.
 

Warren Faidley

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I strongly urge anyone wanting to fly a drone to get a license. It's not that difficult. Most chasers already know the weather-related questions. The most important part is knowing where you can and cannot fly. Wildfires of course, are serious no fly zones. There are apps like B4UFLY that will show you restrictions / air spaces, etc. I believe most modern drones have both regional flight data on their apps and geo-fencing that will not allow you to even fly in a closed area. Lanny might know more about this as I took a three year break from drone flying so there are a lot of new things.
 
I strongly urge anyone wanting to fly a drone to get a license. It's not that difficult. Most chasers already know the weather-related questions. The most important part is knowing where you can and cannot fly. Wildfires of course, are serious no fly zones. There are apps like B4UFLY that will show you restrictions / air spaces, etc. I believe most modern drones have both regional flight data on their apps and geo-fencing that will not allow you to even fly in a closed area. Lanny might know more about this as I took a three year break from drone flying so there are a lot of new things.
I couldn’t agree more @Warren Faidley. Many drones will auto update the Geo-fencing areas. For example, DJI will push random updates out. And while they are incredibly irritating and sometimes come at the most inopportune time (when you have “that shot”, doing a mapping shoot, doing an inspection shoot, a real-estate shot etc..) the updates are done for a reason. I always carry a sectional aeronautical chart with me that I look over right after I do a my pre flight. I do this so I’ll know for sure what is in my area or what I’ll be flying around, but more importantly, what airspace I might be flying in. Knowing how to read a sectional chart is critical and it can help immensely (not to mention it is on the test and is required). I’m still old school like that I guess. However, there are a number of apps that can be helpful - as Warren mentioned B4UFLY, SkyVector, AirMap, Flightradar24 Kittyhawk (which actually updates B4UFLY) and a bunch of others. A quick search in the App Store or google play store will offer a ton. Word of caution here: there is a reason the FAA requires you to understand how to read sectional charts, and why the 107 test will roughly contain about 30% of questions relating to the charts. While many of apps are good apps, some may not be updated, have correct information etc..
The one time I didn’t look at my sectional chart and just used an app, it didn’t end well. So it would behoove anyone to have both the sectional and a good app.
Knowing if you are in controlled airspace is key, and what particular airspace you might be in, doesn’t matter if you are recreational or certified.
Some drone manufactures won’t allow the drone to take off if you are within the mandatory 5mile range of controlled airspace (unless you get authorization).
For those who are rec flyers, and even those who are certified, the FAA teamed up with Kittyhawk a long time ago to help facilitate flying within controlled airspace by using what’s called LAANCE. LAANC acronym stands for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability. It short, it is simply a quick way to request an immediate air space authorization to fly in the controlled airspace that you are in. It is super easy to use and I’ve personally never had a request take over 5 min to get a reply. And I’ve never had a request that wasn’t fulfilled, but you are limited to the restrictions of the area you intend to fly in.

I know some of this probably sounds pretty intimidating to those who may be just getting into this, but it’s really not. And I would highly encourage ANYONE who has interest in UAS flying to just do a little homework and you’ll find it very rewarding. For example, just about anyone on this forum will have no issues with understanding the Metars and weather information and it’s kinda cool because for many new folks, it’s almost a refresher course every time you fly. I like looking at the Metars for informational purposes even if I’m not flying in a plane or unmanned aircraft.
As a meteorologist, I utilize Metar data every day anyways so if you are intersted in the weather and flying, it’s a great way to bring these two passions together.

I don’t have much manned flight time, just enough for my pilots license. I wish I had more hours but I’ve got a a shit ton of hours flying UAS. And being able to fly my drones is the next best thing IMO. Ive had the opportunity to fly drones as heavy as 55pds which is the cutoff limit for UAS (250g to 55pds) and I absolutely love it.

For those intersted, there are so many creative and lucrative outlets not to mention scientific in being sUAS certified. For example, we will be resuming PACRITEX (Pressure Acoustic Recording Inside Tornadoes EXperiment) in 2021 by utilizing drones with payloads. The whole COVID thing didn’t just screw up my tours, (and everyone’s chase season) but also the grant we had received, but we will be resuming next season. All of that said, no matter what you plan on doing with your drone, there are so many possibilities. Again, I use mine for work in my weekly weather packages. I also use it for “play” so it’s a win win for me. Hence why I would encourage anyone who is even remotely intersted to jump on in.
Hope this helps. -Lanny
 
Lanny and Warren, I greatly appreciate the detailed replies from y'all. Looking at prices, it's actually not as far out of reach for me as I originally assumed it was, but I did think that someone needed to ask the questions that I asked regardless. If nothing else, I hope that it was helpful to others who are interested but didn't know what questions to ask. With them being more affordable than I initially assumed, I believe I'll pick up a Mavic 2 later this year and get my license. I've been studying for my Amateur Extra and I highly doubt that the FAA license is that difficult.
 
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Warren Faidley

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The Mavic Air 2 is an amazing drone, especially if you have never flown one before. A very compact drone, with auto take off, auto return and obstacle avoidance... it's so easy, a cave man could fly it. (Me). The 4k cam with 60fps and tripod mode is nuts. I'm still mainly a still and high quality 4k Cine ground shooter, but there are some shots that look great with a drone. Before anyone takes the test, start a new thread here and we can go over the common questions. There are some unnecessary trick questions.
 

Todd Lemery

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I finally got mine registered last night and started looking into getting a license. What are the benefits of getting a license for a hack like myself? This is my 4th year of flying and I somehow was unaware that there were more rules than don’t fly by airports. I spent a bit of time looking at rules and regulations. For instance, one said you were supposed to fly over people. I didn’t see a specific height mentioned and have a hard time thinking they meant flying over at a few hundred feet.
I’m not trying to scare anybody off, but there are some rules to follow.....
 
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Warren Faidley

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The license will really help keep you out of trouble. The FAA will fine you regardless if you have a license or not. You cannot fly over people without a waiver, you cannot fly 30 mins after twilight without a waiver, etc. You will also be surprised at the amount of areas that are restricted. I don't agree with all of them, especially at less than 200-400 ft. National Parks are a big off limits and they are ULTRA aggressive about catching you. Without a license, you cannot commercially or editorially distribute footage, but there seems to still be some grey areas about this. Regardless, most remote chase areas are wide open for flying, although I've heard stories of ranchers shooting at drones.
 
I finally got mine registered last night and started looking into getting a license. What are the benefits of getting a license for a hack like myself? This is my 4th year of flying and I somehow was unaware that there were more rules than don’t fly by airports. I spent a bit of time looking at rules and regulations. For instance, one said you were supposed to fly over people. I didn’t see a specific height mentioned and have a hard time thinking they meant flying over at a few hundred feet.
I’m not trying to scare anybody off, but there are some rules to follow.....
Hey Todd,
There are a TON MORE rules and requirements. I think I was just trying to touch on the very basics.
As far as the benefits, I think first and most importantly - you will learn how to fly your drone safely. You won’t have a choice. By learning the requirements of the test, you will learn so much about safety. And by proxy, this will make you a better UAS Pilot. It will also give you some validity should you ever encounter a problem on a local level. Trust me when I say that an “encounter” will happen while flying. It’s not a matter of if, but when. And when it does, that “encounter” is highly likely to go over a lot smoother when they know you are a certified UAS Pilot.

There are so many more benefits than that (these are just a few) but again, I’d say probably the best benefit is that it is going to make you a better, and safer UAS Pilot.

@Drew Terril you studying for your Extra is obviously so much harder, this will be a breeze as long as you study.
I hold my General class (old school 13wpm CW) as well as my GROL and that was hard! So you shouldn’t have any problems as long as you study. The 107 test is the same test required of manned pilots in that you’ll take the test based upon the Airman’s Knowledge Test. And as Warren mentioned, there are tricky questions on just about every question. But there are many study guides out there that can help you prep and the cool part is that they are free. Word of caution here to anyone interested: DO NOT PAY A DIME TO ANYONE OR ANY ENTITY FOR TEST PREP. You don’t need to. I know a lot of people are charging $100 - $500 with a “guarantee you’ll pass on the first time”. I highly encourage everyone to stay away from these higher “educators”. There are so many free ways to study for the test and it’s simply a waste of money. You got apps, you can order the actual Airman’s Knowledge book in, you can take practice tests, you can study right off the FAA website. It’s all right at your finger tips.

Changing gears now: some things I would recommend for new flyers. The first thing I would recommend is learn how to fly safely and within the law. This is paramount. The second thing - batteries for your drone. One battery just doesn’t cut it so make sure you have a few. The third thing - ND filters (if they make them for your drone type) Most drones (even those with a 1’ sensor like Mavic Pro 2) just can’t handle the dynamic range (doesn’t matter if you are shooting in H265,
D-Cina, Log or normal) A good set of ND filters will go a long ways to helping you get that shutter speed down to the 1/60 rule to help that video turn to that buttery cinematic look (providing that’s what you want to do with your drone)

The possibilities are endless and I think right now is a good time to jump in especially with the new Remote ID coming soon. Just my two cents FWIW.
 
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Mark Blue

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If anyone has any FAA links or others that should be included in the sticky post let me know and I’ll edit it.
 
Also in the ranks now, Phantom 3 Advanced purchased as my "practice" drone before going full hog. FAA study underway (suggestions for study always welcome). Depending on things I want to upgrade but may hold out for a Phantom 5 (if it ever comes out). Otherwise I may just have to go with a Mavic Pro 2. I'm curios for those that have both (P4 and Mavic) which one does better with things like wind and obstacles. I have a very good reason to get both (eventually) but for the weather side, feel like wind stability is a element not often discussed.