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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Instructor Hangar

Company processes, training guidelines, and other helpful resources for our drone flight instructors.

This page was last updated in April 2021.

Please use the Chapter navigation to learn more about company policies and training guidelines, and you use the quick link below to let us know how each training goes.

Thanks!

Quick Link: Let us know how your training went!

(any pictures to share? please send to judy@uavcoach.com)

01 CHAPTER

Company Info & Press

Contact Info

  • Judy Hintz (Manager, Instructor Operations & Inbound Sales) — (920) 915-1054 / judy@uavcoach.com
  • Alan Perlman (CEO) — (617) 331-2426 / alan@uavcoach.com
  • Lana Axelrod (COO) — (646) 594-7688 / lana@uavcoach.com

About UAV Coach

UAV Coach is an industry-leading sUAS training company that reports on drone industry news to a community of over 50,000 drone enthusiasts around the world each Saturday morning. We track global regulations and product launches, we promote organizations doing remarkable things in the drone industry, and we publish a ton of content for folks looking to fly commercially — whether it’s building their own aerial service company, working for a public safety organization, doing research or being part of an enterprise-level drone program.

Here are some links to a few of our top resources:

We also moderate a community forum where folks swap stories and tactics and share what they’re working on.

Back in 2016 when the Part 107 regulations went into effect, we launched Drone Pilot Ground School, an online test prep course for U.S. commercial drone pilots looking to pass the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test. Since then, more than 30,000 students have used Drone Pilot Ground School to get their FAA Remote Pilot Certificate—from solo drone operators and small teams to police and fire departments and enterprise organizations like Intel, GE, and PrecisionHawk. We’re proud of our 2,000+ 4 and 5-star reviews and do our best to stay on top of regulations and FAA standards.

In 2018, we started to offer in-person training. We offer 1:1 and small-group training through our network of drone flight instructors — that’s you! We also offer enterprise and custom training. To date, we have trained over 900 students.

02 CHAPTER

Company Policies

Equipment. You will provide your own sUAS — either a DJI Mavic, Phantom, or Inspire series. If the student brings his or her own sUAS, it is your responsibility to ensure that the use of that sUAS complies with all applicable laws and regulations and will not have a negative impact on safety or on the course of instruction.

Location. Please choose a training location in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. You are responsible for personal travel to and from the training location. Occasionally, a student or larger group might request you to travel to them directly — in this case, we’ll work with you and the student on additional compensation to account for your travel.

Customer Recruiting and Scheduling. We have the primary responsibility for recruiting students and scheduling instructional sessions in consultation with you and as permitted by your availability. After initial scheduling, it shall be your responsibility to maintain communication with prospective students to address changes or cancellations due to weather or other contingencies.

Course of Instruction. The course of instruction shall be determined by your professional judgment in consultation with the student(s), environmental conditions, aircraft limitation, time constraints, and reference to a recommended outline provided by us. It is your ultimate responsibility to tailor the instruction with safety as the first priority while ensuring that the student is a better and safer pilot at the conclusion of training.

Independent Contractor Relationship. Your relationship with UAV Coach is that of an independent contractor. You have full responsibility for the payment of all federal, state and local taxes and contributions, including penalties and interest, imposed pursuant to unemployment insurance, social security, income tax, workmen’s compensation or any other similar statute or regulation. Here’s a link to the Independent Contractor Agreement.

Liability Insurance. Here’s a link to our $1 million liability insurance policy. It covers both you AND the student, flying your aircraft OR the student’s aircraft. It’s a custom and flexible policy designed to protect both you and the student in the unfortunate event of an incident. No need for you to purchase Verifly / SkyWatch / DroneInsurance.com for your training classes.

Aircraft Hull Damage. You’ll exercise due care to avoid damage to aircraft involved in flight training. In the event that your aircraft is damaged while providing instruction, UAV Coach will assist in repair and replacement costs pursuant to the following schedule (per occurrence):

  • First $50.00 of repairs or replacements – UAV Coach will cover this
  • Next $250.00 of repairs or replacements – We ask that you pitch in at a $250 deductible
  • Remaining costs – UAV Coach will cover this

Damage to Student Aircraft. Should Contractor fly the student’s aircraft during training or choose to permit a student to fly the student’s aircraft during training, and if this results in an incident causing damage to the student’s aircraft, Contractor shall file an incident report with Company. Company will be responsible for communication with the student after the incident. Contractor will work with Company to determine an appropriate course of action in response to the incident.

Getting Paid. Coaches are compensated:

  • 1 student — $120 for a 2-hour training
  • 2 students — $160 for a 2.5-hour training
  • 3 students — $200 for a 3-hour training

The majority of flight training classes will be 1-3 students. In the event that we have a larger group, we do our best to set expectations with customers that 1) the larger the group, the less flight time students will get, and 2) that we don’t typically like to train longer than a half-day (4 hours).

Of course, there are exceptions and edge cases, and we will work with both you and the students to ensure expectations are being met prior to commitment.

If you worked with a student who requested help setting up their drone (as in, directly from the box) prior to or following a scheduled training session, please let Judy know by adding comments in the notes field of the Training Complete form so you can be compensated accordingly.

Inclement Weather. Instructors are responsible for looking at local weather forecasts and messaging the student to reschedule the class. Use good judgment here. If the winds are going to be greater than 15-20 mph, we’d recommend rescheduling. If there’s more than a 50% chance of precipitation forecasted 1-2 days before your training, I’d also recommend rescheduling. More info on the rescheduling process below.

Advice Regarding Laws and Regulations: UAV Coach and its instructors do not provide legal advice. Our training material related to laws and regulations has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal advice. You should consult your own legal advisor with any legal questions.

Clothing: Instructors should wear clothing suitable for spending several hours outside in an unprotected environment and are urged to check the weather forecast prior to attending class. We ask our instructors to wear closed-toed shoes and the UAV Coach lanyard we provide.

Late Policy: If the student is more than 15 minutes late and not responding to your texts / calls, we ask that you head home. Please let us know so that we can 1) compensate you for your lost time; and 2) reach out to the student to find out what happened.

03 CHAPTER

Incident Reporting

During the course of your training class, if you are encountered by a law enforcement officer, park official or other security personnel asking questions, we ask you to loop us in ASAP over phone and in a written email.

And if there’s an accident to either your or your student’s sUAS, please fill out this incident report with as many details as possible and we’ll then hop on the phone to discuss.

04 CHAPTER

Student Booking Process

Students learn about our flight training program on our primary sales page, and when they are ready to book will select a location, and then the date and time on your calendar as managed in Calendly, the booking software we use.

How to Manage Your Availability in Calendly

Here’s a 10-minute screencast that walks through how to set up and manage your availability in Calendly:

https://www.loom.com/share/11843c64ba3b4c0799d46a59024818c2

Notifications and Student Information

When a student books time with you, you’ll be sent an email from Calendly that looks like this.

You’ll also be sent a calendar invite that looks like this:

The student will receive an email and calendar invite as well.

48 hours before the class, the student receives a text message that looks like this:

And 24 hours before the class, the student gets an email reminder that looks like this:

As an instructor, you’ll just get the initial email and calendar invite.

At any time, you’re able to log into your Calendly account to get a list of your upcoming training classes.

We ask that you be responsible for making a go or no-go decision due to inclement weather. More on that in the next section!

Rescheduling or Canceling a Class

Here’s a video that walks through the rescheduling or cancellation process, either on your end or on the student’s end:

https://www.loom.com/share/dca46e4e0c8f4872860ddf680fa5bf4c

One thing not mentioned in the video — both the Reschedule and Cancel links are unique to that particular training session. So you’ll need to go directly into the calendar invite for the session you’re trying to find those links for.

What About Training Classes Outside of Calendly?

Here are a few instances in which classes might be booked outside of the more streamlined and automated Calendly system:

  • If we’re training 4 or more students — we love training groups! It’s fun for instructors but requires a bit more back-and-forth with everyone to ensure it’s a good fit.
  • If someone needs to pay by check or purchase order — common when we’re training employees who are getting their company or department to pay for the training
  • If someone wants to buy a training class as a gift for someone else — common around the holidays!
  • If someone is bundling hands-on training with our online test prep course, Drone Pilot Ground School.
  • If someone would like us to train at an alternate location — sometimes, particularly with larger groups, we’ll see if it makes sense for you to travel to their location.

If any of these apply, the student will contact Judy via phone or email to coordinate the details. Specifically, with large group or on-location training requests, Judy will reach out to you directly to inquire about your level of comfort with the proposed training. It’s okay to say no! We know that we cannot be everything to everyone.

Once the training session is coordinated and payment has been made, Judy will send a confirmation email to both you and the student(s) to include contact information, details about the training session, and our terms and conditions.

Following Up With the Student

After a student books a class (either through Judy or Calendly), there’s no need to follow-up with the student. We’ll take care of all the reminders, just show up to the training and deliver a kick-butt experience for the student!

You’re welcome to connect with the student prior to training if you have specific questions based on the student’s intake form, such as questions about their stated training goals/intentions, or if you’d just like to introduce yourself. As a best practice, we do not provide your contact information to anyone until after a student has booked a flight training session.

Should a student become unresponsive, please let us know.

05 CHAPTER

Drone Model Resource Links

We’ve put together the following resources should you need to brush up on a particular DJI model prior to a training session.

Spark Series

Spark

Mavic Series

Mavic Mini

Mavic Air

Mavic Air 2

Mavic Pro

Mavic Pro Platinum

Mavic 2 Pro & Zoom

Mavic 2 Enterprise

Phantom Series

Phantom 3 Standard

Phantom 3 Advanced

Phantom 3 Pro

Phantom 3 4K

Phantom 3 SE

Phantom 4

Phantom 4 Advanced

Phantom 4 Pro

Phantom 4 Pro v2.0

Phantom 4 RTK

Inspire Series

Inspire 1 V2.0

Inspire 1 Pro/Raw

Inspire 2

Matrice Series

Due to the more complicated nature of setting up a Matrice, we only allow instructors who have had prior experience and expertise with the Matrice to help the student get set up with this model.  Be sure to let Judy know if you are willing to train on a Matrice, as often corporate customers are willing to travel in order to receive training.

FPV

We have not publicized training on the FPV drone, but have received inquiries.  A liability waiver will be included in any FPV training session.  Let Judy know if you are willing to train FPV, as students seem willing to travel in order to receive training.

06 CHAPTER

Pre-Class Preparation

Here’s a one-page training class checklist for instructors that might be helpful to print out and to reference during your class.

In advance of your training class:

  • Make sure you have the most current firmware installed
  • Charge all your batteries and devices
  • Power up your aircraft to make sure it’s working as expected
  • Double-check airspace (if using LAANC to get access to controlled airspace, make sure to unlock your DJI drone using their unlocking process)
  • Check TFRs / NOTAMs
  • Check weather

Before you leave, make sure that you’ve packed:

Equipment

  • Aircraft
  • At least 3 fully charged aircraft batteries (if you only have 1 or 2, let us know)
  • Transmitter – fully charged
  • Tablet / phone / monitor – fully charged
  • SD card
  • Cables
  • “Drone Pilot Ground School” launch / landing pad
  • Spare propeller blades
  • Aircraft user / operating manual

Regulations & Airspace

  • Remote Pilot Certificate
  • Registration number (should be on the aircraft)
  • FAA Waiver or Airspace Authorization paperwork, if applicable
  • Flight logbook or app
  • Map / Sectional Chart or app confirming the airspace of the class location

Clothing

  • UAV Coach lanyard
  • Weather-appropriate attire
  • Look casual yet professional

Optional

  • Tablet hood (sunshade)
  • Scene tape / safety cones
  • Radio / scanner
  • Lawn chairs
  • Consider printing out and bringing our one-page training checklist for UAV Coach flight instructors.
07 CHAPTER

Training Guidelines

To support our flight instructors, we thought it might be helpful to develop a set of training guidelines and standards. That’s what this section is all about.

Here is a sample class outline that is publicly available on our website. Please take a look.

And here’s a one-page instructor training list you might find helpful to print out and to bring with you to your training classes.

Meeting the Student

Please budget time for traffic and plan to arrive at your training site 5-10 minutes early. Look the student in the eyes with a big smile and introduce yourself!

Sound Bites

  • “Hey John, my name is Alan and I’ll be your UAV Coach flight coach today. I’m excited to fly with you. Let me show you where we’ll be flying, it’s about a 1-2 minute walk from where we’re parked here.”

Walking to Take-Off Location & Setting Up

It’d be great to be set up before the student arrives, but that might not be practical if you’re meeting at a parking lot that requires a short walk to the take-off location and don’t want to leave your gear unattended. Use good judgment. As you’re walking to the take-off location and getting everything out of packaging / bags, here are some things I’d consider:

  • Start to build a relationship with the student by asking questions
  • Feel free to ask the student to help you carry items to the take-off location if you’re walking. This is a good way for the student to get some “hands-on experience” right out of the gate! I know, I know. Bad joke.
  • As you take everything out of its respective box or packaging, use that as an opportunity to teach / explain what you’re doing.

Sound Bites

  • “How’s your week going?”
  • “Have you ever been to this location before?”
  • “I read that you’ve never flown a drone before…you excited? How’re you feeling?”
  • “I read that you’ve flown another model before, let me tell you a bit about the one we’re flying today.”
  • “This is the extra battery, this is the transmitter, this is the camera and gimbal, etc.”

Introducing Yourself

Make sure to introduce yourself.

Tell them about your experience with sUAS and why you like to teach. Build some credibility and show the student that you know what you’re doing, but more importantly that you’re excited to dive deep into some drone training over the next couple of hours 🙂 Students can feel that energy and passion, and it starts with a kind of formal, “Hey, this is who I am and what I’m excited to teach you about today.”

Setting Agenda & Reinforcing Goals

It’s really important to set an agenda for the training session. This is an outdoor flight training session, so there won’t be PowerPoint slides with bullet points, but try to set some expectations about how the next couple of hours will go. You’ll fly and talk and fly and talk. You’ll be performing beginning AND advanced moves. And you’re not just practicing flight proficiency, but operations management and what to do before and after your flights as well. In case you missed the link above, here’s a sample class outline that is publicly available on our website for students to see.

This is also a great opportunity to reinforce the student’s primary goal for the training.

Ask them to clarify their biggest challenges / goals for the training, and let them know you’ll be going over exactly that during the class.

Sound Bites

  • “I read that one of the biggest things you’re hoping to learn today is ___________, can you tell me more about that?”
  • “We’ll be going through some great flight sequences that you can practice at home, and we’ll go over some of the more advanced flight modes too — things like “Return to Home” and learning to fly some of the DJI Intelligent Flight Modes.”
  • “One big thing I’d like you to think about today is having a pilot mindset — where safety and risk management and really understanding every possible thing that could go wrong, how that’s a huge part of being a safe and competent sUAS operator / drone pilot.”
  • “This is a 2-hour class, and a big chunk of that time will be spent flying. We’ve got three fully charged batteries here, which gives us about an hour of flight time. My goal is to use all three batteries :)”

Training Guidelines

There are infinite ways to successfully conduct a two-hour flight training session.

We’re not here to be prescriptive. At the same time, we recognize that it might be helpful to have some general guidelines or an outline of how an ideal class might look.

That’s the goal of this section.

Over time, as we get more students and learn more about what’s working for each of you as flight coach, we’ll improve our training guidelines and set of resources below.

First, we’ll start with some general best practices, then offer an outline of core training topics.

General Best Practices

  • Set clear flight boundary expectations with the student. Point to specific trees or other landmarks where possible. Make it really easy for the student to know where they should and should not fly.
  • Bring your own stories into the training. Have you crashed before? What happened? What kind of commercial work have you done before? Any fun stories or specific examples go a long way with helping students to digest concepts and to remember the important stuff.

Class Flow

Not every class needs to have the same flow, but here’s an example of what most of our coaches do:

  • 5-10 minutes — Introductions and walking to the take-off location
  • 10-15 minutes — Show them what they will be flying and walk through the hardware components. Show off the aircraft and remote control and talk about how drones work.
  • 15-20 minutes — BATTERY 1
    • Pre-flight checklist and inspection
    • Powering up and getting into the app
    • Compass calibration and basic introduction to the DJI Go 4 app
    • Talking about “Return-to-Home” and how it works, setting RTH altitude
    • Taking off and hovering
    • Pitch and Roll, Thrust and Yaw
    • Another quick look at the DJI Go 4 app…have student practice aircraft + app awareness, meaning the art of looking at the aircraft and then back down at your screen and then back up at the aircraft. Most new pilots have trouble being comfortable with looking back and forth. It’s a good thing to start practicing in this first battery
    • Practice other basic flight maneuvers (see notes below) until battery 1 gets low and RTH is triggered.
    • Have student take over manual controls by pressing the red X once the drone approaches landing zone
    • Land manually (not with RTH or other auto-land button)
  • 5-10 minutes — Flight debrief! Did anything surprise the student? Is it what they were expecting? What would they like to practice more doing in the next couple of batteries? Use this as a good opportunity to take a pulse on how things are going. Feel free to chat about the Part 107 regulations (some students come certified but many do not), scene safety, mission planning, local regulations, etc.
  • 15-20 minutes — BATTERY 2
    • Pre-flight checklist and inspection
    • Powering up and getting into the app
    • Taking off and hovering
    • Repeat of 1-2 basic exercises to get warmed up
    • Practice 2-3 new exercises (use the list below for inspiration)
    • Introduce Intelligent Flight Modes and do at least one of them!
    • When battery starts beeping, have student pretend like they forgot to set the RTH altitude and to go into the app to program it. Keep flying until RTH is triggered, let student take over manual controls again and land.
  • 5-10 minutes — Flight debrief! Another opportunity to talk with the student and to gauge their reaction. Are they excited to keep going? Needing to hang back and work something through? I like to check the time here as well. You should be at about an hour and fifteen minutes, maybe an hour and thirty minutes.
  • 15-20 minutes — BATTERY 3
    • Practicing more intelligent flight modes
    • Diving deeper into Photo / Video settings and recording some photos and videos for the class!
  • 10-15 minutes — Class debrief and wrapping up. Talk about logging flights, post-processing, traveling best practices, and anything else you feel like you have time for. Let them know that they’ll receive an email from UAV Coach after class providing some helpful links, as well as an opportunity to provide feedback on the class.

Core Training Topics

Here’s an outline of core training topics and guidelines:

AIRCRAFT + TRANSMITTER OVERVIEW // HOW DRONES WORK

  • First, the aircraft — point out and talk through the propellers and how to take them on and off, the motors, the LED lights, the battery and how to take it in and out, the SD card slot, etc. Point out the aircraft Power button. Have the student practice turning the aircraft on by pressing and then pressing again and holding. Listen for that classic DJI start-up sound. Show the student the battery status indicators.
  • Then, the remote control — point out and talk through the two joysticks (how your thumbs correspond to the multirotor movements…make sure they understand thrust & yaw and pitch & roll) and any key buttons. Different models have different transmitters, but make sure to point out all the important stuff, like the Pause button, the RTH button, the photo / video button, any other knobs, etc.
  • Then, the monitor — talk through how you can use different phones and tablets, and some models have built-in screens as well. Talk about flight software, and that today we’ll be using the DJI Go 4 app, what the majority of the industry is using right now.

DJI GO 4 APP

I like to start at the top left of the app screen (the DJI logo), and work my way clockwise around the screen, from the logo, to the green / yellow / red status indicator, to the top icons and General Settings menu, to the Photo / Video settings, to the map and telemetry data on the bottom part of the screen, to the take-off, Return-to-Home and Intelligent Flight mode buttons on the left side of the screen. There’s a lot to teach here.

  • Status indicators
    • Green is “good”
    • Yellow is “Hey you might want to look at this”
    • Red is “You can’t fly. Please fix.”
    • When you click into the status indication screen:
      • Calibrating the compass — this compensates for magnetic variation in a given area, as well as any magnetic / electromagnetic background noise. The software will prompt you to calibrate, but generally speaking, it’s good to calibrate before each new flight location. Don’t calibrate near metal objects like cars or bridges.
      • Setting Max Flight Altitude (even if you set settings to imperial, it’ll show meters here)
        • 120 meters is about 400 ft.
      • Some other cool stuff on this screen — use good judgment when it comes to how deep you should go
  • Other Top Icons
    • Flight Mode Icon — discuss your aircraft’s flight modes and how they work!
      • Flying in ATTI mode is a great way to practice what could happen if the GPS signal / satellite connection fails mid-flight. It’s much different than flying in P mode, where GPS is locked in.
      • In Sport mode, the aircraft responds more quickly, flies faster, and obstacle avoidance is turned off. I like Sport mode when I need to fly somewhere further away and to get there more quickly.
    • Satellite Icon — shows satellite connection strength; a higher number of GPS bars, the greater the positioning accuracy of your aircraft
    • Visual Navigation Settings Icon — shows status of obstacle avoidance sensors. Most people leave all this stuff on. White is on. Red is off. FYI that this is all turned off when sUAS is in Sport Mode. I usually tell students to never fully rely on obstacle avoidance and that this is more of a marketing claim than a safety feature.
    • Remote Icon — displays connection strength between remote control and drone
    • HD Icon — displays connection strength of image quality being sent back to your mobile / tablet device
    • Battery Icon — shows how much time your aircraft battery has
  • General Settings
    • Tap the 3 dots in the top-right corner of the app screen to enter. See how each section corresponds directly with the top icons? There’s a bit of synergy happening here.
    • I usually only point out a few things in this section — mostly the low battery warning settings, which I usually set to 20-25%, and what that actually means / how it’ll show up during a flight.
  • Time Remaining / Battery Bar
    • Shows how much estimated flight time is left — this is constantly being recalculated during your flight, it’s not just a count-down. So based on how hard you’re hitting the motors, what your density altitude looks like that day, the temperature of the battery, how windy it is — this all influences your battery life. I once saw a battery drop from 18 minutes left to about 7 minutes left over about 10-15 seconds. It was extremely cold that day 🙂
    • Three dots — Critical Low Battery, Return-to-Home, and Low Battery
  • Photo / Video Settings
    • Viewed at a glance, you can see ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture, Exposure Value, and White Balance. Learning how these things influence the quality or style of the photo or video you’re taking can really help you take your photo and video quality to the next level. Don’t feel the need to be an expert in this— just help the student understand where to find it, and if you feel comfortable sharing a few tips / examples, go for it.
    • Two pieces of info about SD card — the format you’re shooting in, and the remaining capacity
    • AF/MF and the Auto Exposure Lock — turn this on if you don’t want your exposure to change mid-shot
    • Photo vs. Video mode — photo is white and video is red
    • Changing the camera settings — that’s a whole separate skill set! Don’t feel the need to get into
  • Map & Telemetry Data
    • Show the compass and the arrow and explain how to use it to navigate. I like to spin the Remote Control around to show the arrow moving while I’m explaining. Show them the map as well. This can be turned off, but most folks like to fly with it there just for stronger situational awareness.
    • Teach them the word “telemetry” and show how this is the easiest way to see your altitude at any given time. You can also see your speed, and the distance the aircraft is from the Remote Control.
  • Left Side of the Screen
    • Show them how there are two ways to take off — by clicking the button, or by turning the motors on manually by positioning your two joysticks correctly at the same time. Mention that the student will practice doing each of these.
    • Explain how you can manually trigger the RTH process if needed by clicking this button. Mention that the student will practice doing this.

PRE-FLIGHT CHECKLIST

While there’s no one catch-all pre-flight checklist that’ll work for every pilot and every sUAS model, hopefully the below bullet points help you better understand the best practices around powering up your aircraft and taking to the skies. First, let’s assume:

  • You’ve done the appropriate airspace research and secured any authorizations / waivers or local permissions if needed.
  • You have a list of shots / data you’re looking to capture and have thought through how you’ll be spending time in the air.
  • You’re mentally and physically fit to fly.
  • That if you have a Visual Observer or other crew members, that you’ve communicated the flight mission with each person and are all on the same page (VO training guidelines available over here)
  • Everything is fully charged and your SD cards are formatted.
  • Your system’s firmware is up-to-date.

You’ve just rolled up to the site location and are getting out of your car.

Here’s a checklist of things to consider as part of your pre-flight ritual. Again, these are not exhaustive and might change depending on the specific model you’re operating and type of flight missions you’re conducting.

Okay, let’s dive in:

WEATHER & SITE SAFETY CHECK

  • Chance of precipitation less than 10%
  • Wind speed under 15 knots (less than 20 mph)
  • Cloud base at least 500 feet
  • Visibility at least 3 statute miles (SM)
  • If flying at dawn / dusk, double-check civil twilight hours
  • Establish take-off, landing, and emergency hover zones
  • Potential for electromagnetic interference?
  • Look for towers, wires, buildings, trees, or other obstructions
  • Look for pedestrians and/or animals and set up safety perimeter if needed
  • Discuss flight mission with other crew members if present

VISUAL AIRCRAFT / SYSTEM INSPECTION

  • Registration number is displayed properly and is legible
  • Look for abnormalities — aircraft frame, propellers, motors, undercarriage
  • Look for abnormalities — gimbal, camera, transmitter, payloads, etc.
  • Gimbal clamp and lens caps are removed
  • Clean lens with microfiber cloth
  • Attach propellers, battery/fuel source, and insert SD card / lens filters

POWERING UP

  • Turn on transmitter / remote control and open up DJI Go 4 app
  • Turn on aircraft
  • Verify established connection between transmitter and aircraft
  • Position antennas on transmitter toward the sky
  • Verify display panel / FPV screen is functioning properly
  • Calibrate Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) as needed
  • Calibrate compass before every flight
  • Verify battery / fuel levels on both transmitter and aircraft
  • Verify that the UAS has acquired GPS location from at least six satellites

TAKING OFF

  • Stand behind the drone, nose pointed forward — if windy, a good best practice is to take off with the nose facing into the headwind.
  • Take-off to eye-level altitude for about 10-15 seconds
  • Look for any imbalances or irregularities
  • Listen for abnormal sounds
  • Pitch, roll, and yaw to test control response and sensitivity
  • Check for electromagnetic interference or other software warnings
  • Do one final check to secure safety of flight operations area
  • Proceed with flight mission

FLIGHT OPERATIONS // PROFICIENCY

This is the crux of the training! Actually getting up in the air and flying. Use good judgment when it comes to assessing the comfort level and skill of the student, and try to strike a balance between being safe / conservative and pushing the student outside his or her comfort zone.

Here are some sound bites that we’ve heard from our coaches:

  • “You’re going to be doing all the flying today.”
  • “We have a number of beginner-friendly flight patterns, and plenty of ones that are more advanced, so as I see you progressing with your comfort level and flight skills, I’ll keep pushing you to do more.”
  • “Knowing what to do with your thumbs is relatively straightforward. But understanding how to use the software and how to get really smooth shots, and combining those skills with a layer of safety and emergency situation risk mitigation — that’s what makes a really strong and professional sUAS operator.”
  • “Today we’ll be going through a series of flight patterns that you can practice on your own at home. A great place to practice is a field just like this, or if you can find a baseball field or tennis court, it’s nice to have those ground lines and markers to use to help you trace them with your drone.”
  • “Flying inverted is tricky, but let’s spend some time doing it so we can start to build your muscle memory.”
  • “Take your thumbs off the sticks…see how the drone just hovers there? It’s locked into GPS and sits there like an airborne tripod. Look how stable the FPV footage looks when we look at the monitor.”

And here’s a list of flight patterns and challenges you can do with the student, from the most basic to the more advanced:

  • Get the student used to taking off and hovering at eye-level, and looking not just at the drone but down at the screen to see if we’re locked into enough satellites, what flight mode we’re in, and how much estimated battery juice we have.
  • Have the students practice each of the four joystick movements, thrust, yaw, pitch and roll.
  • With yaw, have the student think about your rotations like the face of a clock. Take your left thumb and move the joystick to the left and to the right to hover at 10 and 2, then more extreme at 9 and 3. Finally, try a full 360° degree yaw to the left and then one to the right.
  • Fly a square (no yaw) — try it just with the right thumb and practice pitching and rolling smoothly in a square. Try flying the square in both directions.
  • Fly a circle (no yaw) — same idea as the square, except that instead of a rigid flight path with distinct turns, you’re flying in a smoother, circular pattern. Again, just try this with the right thumb where you’re keeping the nose pointed away from you at all times. Try flying the circle in both directions.
  • Out-and-back — fly out away from yourself, rotate the multirotor 180°, and then practice flying back towards you and landing. Remember that as you fly back towards yourself with the nose of the multirotor pointing towards you that your controls will be inverted. With enough practice you’ll be able to fly just as well inverted as you can in normal, nose-forward orientation.
  • Fly a square (with yaw) — with this square pattern, you’re rotating 90° at each of the square’s turns, which means you’re pointing the nose of your multirotor in the same direction that you’re flying. Fly the square in both directions.
  • Fly at max altitude — it’s helpful to get a sense of what flying at 400 ft. AGL feels like. Have the student bring the drone straight up to 400 ft. AGL. Talk to them about the regulations, about situational awareness and how it’s helpful to have a Visual Observer. I usually tell the students not to use their right thumb, and to just bring it up to max altitude until they get the DJI buzz / warning notification, and then to yaw around a bit and to move the camera so they can explore the sky from that perspective. Good opportunity to snap some pics / get some video footage!
  • Practice triggering RTH — remember that RTH can be triggered in one of three ways — 1) manually by pressing the button in the app or on the transmitter; 2) when the battery drops to a certain level; or 3) when the aircraft loses signal with the transmitter / Remote Control.
    • Talk to the student about setting the RTH point and the RTH altitude and why it’s important to think about programming it to a certain height before flying. You’ll have an opportunity to practice RTH when the battery drops to a certain level, but it’s helpful to manually trigger RTH as well to show the student how it works.
    • Generally speaking, I never like to let the RTH land for me. I always like toggling back to manual controls and landing myself…show the student that you can do that, and have them practice it both ways.
  • Practice smooth camera work — slow and steady movements are hard for beginners, and those tiny little jerks show up in the video footage and can feel really amateur.
    • Show them Tripod Mode — practice doing a few basic video shots like:
      • Panning left to right
      • Flying forward and slowly tilting the camera up or down to reveal an object / landscape
      • Taking a dronie, where you start by hovering at eye-level and having the camera face you, then slowly fly backwards (inverted) and upwards. This is harder than it looks! You’ve got to not only fly back and up at the same time, but you need to control the camera to stay fixed on yourself.
      • Try an orbit, where you’re orbiting manually around a fixed point (can be you, or a tree, or some other object). This is like that classic movie hero shot, like in Lord of the Rings where they’re running along a cliff.
      • Try a birds-eye view shot — if you plan to do any kind of aerial videography, this is a nice shot to have in your wheelhouse. In a birds-eye view shot, you position your gimbal to face downward, and you slowly throttle up. As you gain elevation, yaw ever-so-slightly…this adds a nice dramatic effect to the shot without being too dizzying.
  • Practice Intelligent Flight Modes — It’s really important to explain why these exist. I like to explain that these modes help to reduce the pilot workload and to obtain performance characteristics that might not be possible or extremely difficult with manual flight. Each DJI aircraft offers different Intelligent Flight Modes. Not all models offer Home Lock, as an example. And the last thing I like to teach here is that students should be prepared to immediately exit an Intelligent Flight Mode to avoid obstacles or hazards and to be aware of the limitations of each mode. No need to go through every single mode, but depending on how much time you have and what the student is interested in, here are the ones I like to have the students practice programming and running.
    • Tripod Mode — great for slow and smooth shots; mutes the controls and slows everything down
    • Course Lock— one of my favorite flight modes; by activating Course Lock, the controls will be set to be relative to your aircraft’s current path. This easy navigation allows you to fly in a set direction as you fly alongside moving objects or across scenes
    • Home Lock— fixes your controls to be relative to the Home Point. Easily pull back on the control stick to bring the aircraft back home, or push forward to fly farther away, no matter which way it is facing. A nice safety feature if you lose sight of the drone and don’t want to trigger a full-on RTH sequence.
    • Point of Interest— set a specific building, object, or location as the “point of interest” and the aircraft will continuously circle around it as you record photos / videos. Much easier than flying a manual orbit!
    • Waypoints— you can set multiple GPS points, and then the aircraft will automatically fly to each point while you control the camera (many folks like using other apps like Litchi for this)
    • Follow Me / ActiveTrack — self-explanatory and a fun one to try with students; have them set it up in the app, have them hand you the controls, and then have them run around the field while you monitor the transmitter in case you need to take over controls. But show them that you’re not touching anything and that the drone is doing all the work.
    • Asteroid Mode — a fun and creative flight mode to share with students; here’s what it looks like.

POST-FLIGHT OPERATIONS

  • Flight Logging — A lot of third-party apps for this. You can also use a Google Spreadsheet or a printed out flight logging book. Really up to you, the FAA doesn’t have specific rules around this. I tell students that even if they’re just flying recreationally, to get in the habit of logging flights. It’s nice to know how many total flight hours you have! Here’s a list of what should be logged:
    • Date
    • Flight location
    • Purpose of flight operation
    • Remote Pilot-in-Command name and pilot’s certificate number
    • Other crewmember names (if appropriate)
    • Take-off and landing times
    • Duration of operation
    • Battery cycles used
    • Weather Conditions
    • Issues to address before next flight
    • Safety/mechanical issues
    • Details of any lost-link or other emergency experiences
  • Photo, Video and Data Processing — I like to remind students that one of the (sometimes sad) realities of flying drones is that very little of what you’re doing is flying. A lot of the real work is in mission planning and airspace research, and then on the tail-end, the data processing. It’s helpful to set that context and to talk through how this process looks. It can also be helpful to discuss data organization and redundancy. Many use a combination of cloud storage like DropBox and external HDs that are kept in a fire-proof lock box.
    • Photography — Adobe Lightroom and other tools
    • Video — Apple Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere, iMovie, so many tools out there 🙂
    • Mapping & Modeling — DroneDeploy, MapsMadeEasy, Pix4D, SkyCatch, etc.

Wrapping Up

As you wrap up the training, thank the student for their time and let them know that they’ll receive an email from UAV Coach after class providing some helpful links, as well as an opportunity to provide feedback on the class and that if they aren’t already getting our weekly industry update emails, they’ll start to get those on Saturday mornings.

08 CHAPTER

Post-Class Items

After your class, please fill out this short Training Complete Form.

https://uavcoach.typeform.com/to/PEsE2k

Completing this form accomplishes a few things:

  • Tells us the class has been completed!
  • Let’s us know to pay you.
  • Prompts us to send a follow-up email to the student to share links, gather feedback and get them subscribed to our newsletter.

Best practice is that you fill out this form the same day you do the training.

You’re welcome to follow up directly with your student following a training session, especially if you spoke to specific apps or links during the training. Or you can let the student know they’ll receive the following email from UAV Coach.

09 CHAPTER

Instructor Relations

We couldn’t run our flight training program without you!  Although our network of flight instructors are throughout the U.S., we make every effort to keep you connected.

Sharing Photos/Videos

We encourage our instructors to take photos and videos from each of your training classes!

You can send any media to judy@uavcoach.com.

Quarterly Meetings

We host meetings (via Zoom) with our instructors on a quarterly basis to discuss a variety of topics and general team building.  Attendance at these meetings is not mandatory, as we understand that you have obligations outside of UAV Coach.  We’ll always provide a link to view the recorded meeting so you can keep up-to-date with content.

Information about the quarterly meetings will be published within the monthly newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter

The first week of each month, an email newsletter is sent to you containing items such as upcoming events (like a quarterly meeting), photos from previous training sessions, pro tips, feedback from students and statistics on flight training students and classes.

If you come up with topics you’d like to share/highlight in an upcoming newsletter, you can send them to judy@uavcoach.com.

Mentorship Program

We offer a mentorship program to help support new flight instructors as they begin training with UAV Coach.  As part of the onboarding process, a mentor (current flight instructor) will be made available to you to provide assistance and guidance.  A mentor would be available to walk through the training outline prior to your early training sessions, debrief after a training session or just provide a few pro tips along the way.

The mentorship is intended to last your first 90 days as a flight instructor, or after you’ve trained your first 3 students, whatever happens later.

Reach out to Judy for more information on how you can volunteer as a mentor with this program.

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