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UAV Pilot Training

UAV Pilot Training Basics 101

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Learn Tips From Our Professional Flight Team of the Safety Rules and Guidelines Associated with Flying

There is a lot of information out there about UAV or drone systems. With drone technology it changes every month in some cases, making it hard to keep up.  Proper UAV pilot training is so important and very necessary to ensure the safety of your drone and anyone else it may come into contact with. Even with the rules and regulations changing, every flyer needs to know their rights.  Soaring Sky’s professional flight team has described some of the most important things to take into consideration.  

Before Flight

Many states just recently passed new laws for drone use in their state. So before you head out to fly, be sure and check your state’s newest laws on flying drones in your area. Remember if you’re traveling to another state to check those rules as well because what may be alright for one may not be ok for another.

One of the biggest things is to know your limitations. What are you capable of doing with a drone. Can you safely fly the vehicle of your choice? Before you buy a drone, what do you want do with it? It is purely hobby flying. Or do you wish to capture video and still images from the drone? Once you have determined what drone to fly, then follow these basic set of rules to fly your new UAV safely.

Just as any pilot, thoroughly inspect your drone before and after each flight. Make notes of anything that looks out of the ordinary, such as cracks in the framework or the shell of the UAV.  Pay attention to detail, such as noticing any variations in the sound of the motors.  Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in the operation of the  UAVs.

During Flight

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has set guidelines for drones being used for hobby or recreational purposes.  Everyone is strongly encouraged to follow the list of rules below when flying.  

  • Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
  • Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
  • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
  • Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying
  • Don’t fly in areas with over 500 people or more
  • Don’t fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs
  • Don’t be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft

In addition to the first point on the list, you should not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.  This can cause issues with the Wifi and connection between your drone and transmitter.  If you want your drone to survive more than a few flights then I would take this pretty seriously.  You should also avoid flying over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.

This may seem self explanatory but another important fact is to not fly in harsh weather conditions. Make sure you know the capabilities of your drone. There are a bunch of free apps which can assist with current weather conditions in your area.  Along with weather it is also unsafe to fly around at night.  This goes with keeping your UAVs in eyesight at all times and using an observer to assist if needed.ASME

This is one of the most important rules to remember!  It is extremely important to not interfere with manned aircraft operations, you must see and avoid other aircraft and obstacles at all times. Most drones are equipped with software built in which will not allow a person to fly their drone in restricted airspace. For example, with our DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus, we cannot lift off within a specified range of major and regional airports.  Living in a place like Fort Myers Florida, there are many airparks which may not show up on any map. Knowing the area you are flying in is vital to make sure no mistakes occur.  If you encounter an airfield, you may want to contact the control tower and let them know of your intentions and flight path.  There has been so much bad press recently about drones near airports, but it is such a simple rule that no one should ever break!  

Keeping a flight log is also a very good idea. Not only will it provide you with valuable feedback, but also in case you are asked by local authorities about your activities you can show the documentation of your flight hours, locations, and details about each flight.

The last rule is to never use your UAV to conduct surveillance or photograph people in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission. In some states, not only is it illegal, but civil cases can be brought against the operator.  It is also important to not operate a drone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

 

Having the proper knowledge before flying a drone and knowing your limitations is very important and can help avoid any accidents.  Reserve your spot and sign up now for the Soaring Sky UAV pilot training at our facility today!

 

drone photography

Drone Photography Tips From Leaders in the Industry

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Soaring Sky’s Flight Team Instructor Gives 10 Tips on How to Capture the Most Epic Photos.

Imagine being able to capture your photography from a new perspective, capturing a bird’s eye view of your subject.  Some may think that drone photography is easy and all you have to do is fly up there and shoot.  You could get lucky and capture an amazing shot, but to get the best photo possible each time there is a lot to think about.  To help you out we interviewed Soaring Sky flight pilot and instructor, Donnell Field.  With 17 years of professional photography experience, he is here to give you some tips on capturing the best photo from the sky.  

1- How is taking photos with your drone different or similar from taking photos on land?  

Drones are a different piece of equipment for sure, but I still use some of the basic techniques when shooting from the air as I do on the ground. Most of the difference involves natural light because you’re flying above the clutter that we see around us. The drone also shoots at higher shutter speeds than the cameras I typically use.  You still want to add contrast, get interesting lines in your photo, and have those different textures. This can all be done to some extent based on white balance, ISO settings, and the angles with which we take the photos from.

2- Which kind of a drone with camera would you recommend? Fort Myers Beach 3

After testing many drones from different manufactures I’ve found that the DJI model’s offer the highest quality drone cameras.  At Soaring Sky we usually fly the Phantom 3 or Inspire.  DJI partnered with Sony to make their camera and I like what they have done. To have such a small platform perform as well as it does with the given distance parameters it works with, it has done a great job. Probably one of the biggest things I like is being able to shoot high quality photos on the go. It allows me to capture high quality images while I’m flying without having to stop.

3- What is involved with planning a shoot before actually doing it?

Knowing the capabilities of the camera is key. Second, making sure all the equipment is ready to go. Including clean lenses and memory cards (extra is always a given). Then knowing how to use the natural light to my advantage and being able to see not just my target but what is around me. This is because while being airborne the depth of field is so vast.  Sometimes this can be a distraction as well as helpful. By using the shadows cast by the sun’s light to capture certain scenes, you can create a whole new perspective with your photography. It is challenging and awesome at the same time.

4- What can you advise pilots to be aware of for camera settings in the DJI Go pilot app to get the best photos?  

A photographer can use basically the same settings for the DJI mounted cameras, as they do on the ground. With the exception that they have more available light once airborne.  What I mean by that is when you’re on the ground there is clutter from trees, houses or buildings, which can cast shadows and make your pictures dark. This can still happen from the air but not as much.  The photographer’s basic ISO settings of 100, 200 and 400 still apply both to the ground setting and that when they are in the air.  

Generally with sunny conditions and with the high shutter speeds that our drones shoot with, I generally tend to set my white balance to cloudy. And the Auto White Balance seems to work quite well.  Testing with different settings in the conditions that you are shooting in and adjusting from their is really the best way to find what works.  

5- What is the editing app that you recommend for pilots?

Photoshop is a great tool for any photographer. In fact most of the Adobe products are a great asset and I have been using them since the beginning. Not everyone can afford to have programs like Photoshop or LightRoom but a option is to find someone with older copies who want to upgrade to the latest version. Be sure the authorization key is still usable and you can buy their previous programs. There are many other editing programs out there for minimal cost that are available for photographers at any level.

6- Do you have any tips on altitude/ height/ or distance for how to get the best shot?

Unless you have permission from the local air traffic control always keep under 400 ft. Aside from that, it all depends on your subject and the effect you are going for. Photography is art, so therefore one person’s idea may not work for another. Knowing your light on a subject and the capabilities of your camera are a big part of what you shoot once you are airborne.  When I am out flying a drone for a specific project, such as maybe a real estate shoot I do have a height that works best for getting what we need.  I usually fly up between 90 and 120 feet, unless there is vegetation, and angle the camera down towards the house to get the best view.  

7- Any tips on the speed for getting the best photos?  Light house on Sanibel Island

Always start flying slow.  This allows for more contro.  Flying at a slower speed allows for the camera to take the best shot. Same as if you were shooting a photo on the ground. The shutter speed has the capability of shooting very fast, but if you are shooting on the fly, it is a hit or miss. Taking it slow and stopping to take the shot is the best bet when starting out. Always allow the camera to receive the signal from your controller to take the shot before proceeding onward. Otherwise, you may not get the shot you desired.

8- Do you take the sky into consideration when taking drone photography?  

You always have to take this into consideration when flying.  It’s always a good idea to check the weather before going out for a drone shoot.  The best lighting occurs shortly after sunrise or sunset where the sky has the most beautiful colors.  The lower angle of the sun makes for a more dramatic effect so use this to your advantage. That is not to say that’s the only time to shoot. Again, it all depends on what effect the photographer is going for, and the subject that they are shooting.

9- Any drone maneuvers that you would like to share that gives you some of the best shots?

A lot depends on the sun and the subject I am shooting. That will depict for me what types of angles will work best for me and if I need to take a high or low angle approach. A great tip is keeping the lens tilted slightly downward to keep from having lens flares and washing out the sky.

I sometimes compare action photography with hunting. You have to anticipate the shot and where your subject is going to be as you move. Sometimes I do shoot on the fly. Literally. Making you anticipate where my subject is going to be at the second I pull the trigger to get the shot. It takes practice, good timing, and good equipment.

10- Any other tips for getting the best drone photography?

Keep practicing and trying different settings at different times of the day. It’s like anything else, you want to practice to be good at something. The more time you put into it, the better you can be. I have been doing this for more than 15 years and still encounter situations I have not seen before, which can be challenging.  Having a background and experience will help you figure out those challenging moments and to make it work

 

If your a beginner pilot make sure to check out the Soaring Sky Academy or call 239-333-2447 to learn more about training.

quadcopters

Are Quadcopters The Same As Drones?

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If you’re new to the drone industry then you might be a little confused like I did with all of the different terminology and you just want to scream out “WHAT IS A DRONE”?  Is it called a UAV, a drone, how about a quadcopter.  And what the heck is a UAS?  Don’t worry, after reading this, you will have everything sorted out and be a drone wiz!  

Is it okay to say drone?

Some people get scared of using the word “drone” because of the negative perspective that comes along with it.  They act like they are in Harry Potter and it’s the same as saying “Lord Voldemort” which is forbidden.  For Soaring Sky that is not the case at all!  We encourage people to use the word drone because in reality the positives heavily outweigh the negatives and they are actually life savers!  parrot-bebop-4000x2733-dji-inspire-one-drone-quadcopter-hi-tech-news-3040

Some may think that saying UAV or UAS is less offensive, when in reality all three of the terms can be used interchangeably.  I looked up all of the words on dictonary.com and found the definitions below.  A quadcopter is also a drone, but a more specific kind, we will get into that later.  

  • Drone: an unmanned aircraft or ship that can navigate autonomously, without human control or beyond line of sight.
  • UAV or unmanned aerial vehicle: an aircraft that can navigate without a human pilot onboard; a drone.
  • UAS or unmanned aerial system: an unmanned aircraft along with the equipment necessary to operate it.  Check out the Ultimate UAV dictionary here for more terms! 

Drones Vs. Quadcopter

Now let’s soar into the details!  When using the term quadcopter you are getting a little more specific into what kind of drone it is and how many motors it has.  So when you are talking about a drone with four motors and 4 propellers, you are talking about a quadcopter.  This is the most popular type of drone for recreational purposes.  The DJI drones that are sold on our website, such as the Phantom 3 and Inspire are both fall under this category.  

There are also remote helicopters that are considered drones, which has two propellers and motors.  Can you guess how many motors are on a tricopter?  You got it… three! The list goes on and on for all of the different types of drones that you can purchase! Check out the Soaring Sky’s ultimate UAV dictionary and become a pro at drone terms and see the extended list.  

The moral of the story is that drone is a general term that can be replaced with UAV or UAS to mean the same thing.  A quadcopter is a little more specific and refers to how many rotors are on that vehicle.  Click here to check out our online store and get your quadcopter today!  Soar with the best.  

The Ultimate UAV Dictionary

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Become a Pro With This UAV Cheat-Cheat

If you are new to the drone community, then you might be like me and get so confused by all of the different terminology.  There are countless ways to say UAV or drone that all pretty much mean the same thing.  To help you out and make things a little easier for you, we have included every different name that you can call drones and what the acronyms stands for, as well as some basic drone terms.

Other Ways to Say UAV:

  • Helicopter: drone with only two motors and two propellers.
  • Multicopter: Same thing has multirotor.
  • Multirotors: a helicopter designed for unmanned flights that has more than two motors.
  • OCTO: Aka octocopter, a drone that has 8 motors all on the same level.
  • Quadcopter: Drone with 4 motors all on the same level.
  • RC: Radio Control, can be used to describe any type of vehicle in the radio controlled hobby family. Including RC cars, boats, planes, or multirotors. 
  • Tricopter: drone with 3 motors, all on the same level.
  • UAS: Unmanned Aerial Systems.
  • UAVs: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
  • V-Tail: drone that has 4 motors, 2 are tail motors that form the shape of a V.
  • X8: drone with 8 motors in the shape of a X, with two 4 on the top and 4 on the bottom.
  • Y4: drone with 4 motors, it looks like a tricopter because the two tail motors are on top of the each other in the back.
  • Y6: drone with 6 motors, 3 on the top and 3 on the bottom.

 Terms and Acronyms:

  • ACC: Accelerometer, a device that is used to measure forces of acceleration.
  • AH: Altitude hold, a flight mode that keeps the aircraft at the same height using a BARO sensor.
  • AIL: Ailerons, another way to say roll, a flight control.
  • ALT: Altitude, this is the vertical distance that you are from the ground, sometimes shorted in your drone apps.
  • ARFT: Almost ready to fly, this type of package usually includes all of the equipment that you need to fly but requires some type of easy assembly.
  • AUW: All up weight, the max weight of the drone including the battery and all other parts that are attached when in flight.
  • ELEV: elevator, another way to say pitch, a flight control.
  • FAA: Federal Aviation Administration, The department of Transportation Agency that has the authority to oversee all parts of American civil aviation.  They regulate and construct the guidelines for flying drones that must be followed.  
  • FOV: Field of View, measurement of how much of the observable world or the environment that you can view through your camera lens, measured using sensors.
  • FPV drone: First Person View, a popular technique using a first person camera you can see through the camera of the drone all that it is capturing.  By streaming live video to your monitor or FPV goggles you can see it all.  
  • GCS: Ground Control Station, how you monitor your flight, for example the DJI Pilot APP.
  • Gimbal: a special camera mount that helps keep it stable and the footage smooth when in flight.  It allows the camera to stay in the same position even when the drone is moving.  It can be controlled by the gimbal controlling on your transmitter, when using a drone like the Phantom 2.
  • Props: another way to say propellers, the blades that are put on over the motors to have lift off during flight
  • LIPO: Lithium Polymer Battery, aka LiPoly, the most common type of battery for drones now a days because they offer a high energy storage density to weight.  
  • LOS: Line of Sight, when you fly your drone by watching it directly in the sky versus in first person view.  The FAA guidelines also state that without the 333 exemption you must be able to see your drone at all times when in flight, keeping it in your line of sight.  
  • OSD: On screen display, hardware that shows data and the live video streaming.  For example when using the DJI Pilot App the OSD is on your smartphone or tablet placed on the transmitter.   
  • RTF: ready to fly, when you buy a drone package it comes with everything that you need to start flying right when you take it out of the box.  Just open it up and charge the batteries and you’re ready for flight.
  • RTH: Return to home, a GPS feature that allows your drone to automatically fly back to the “home” position.  For example, on the DJI Phantom 3 and DJI Inspire One there is a RTH button on the transmitter, it will also RTH if the battery is about to die or the connection was lost with the transmitter.  
  • RTL: Return to landing, same thing as return to home.
  • RX: Radio receiver, devices on the drone that receives the information sent from the transmitter.
  • Throttle: control from the left joystick, ascends the aircraft up and down.  
  • TX: Transmitter, the remote controller for the drone.
  • Yaw: control from the left joystick, spins the aircraft left and right.

What to learn everything there is to know about drones and how to fly them?  Call 239-333-2447 or sign up for the Soaring Sky Academy today! 

drone technology

The Past, Present, and Future of Drone Technology

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Drone Technology Soars

Over the last year it feels like drones have been popping up everywhere .  You see them flying at the parks, hear about them on the news, and even see them in commercials.  The reality is that drone technology has been around for a while and every day they continue to advance even more.

Did you know that the first recorded uses of drones dates all the way back to 1849, when the Austrians launched over 200 pilot-less balloons into the sky in their war efforts against Venice?  You’re probably asking yourself how is a hot air balloon considered a drone?  To get technical the true definition of a drone is any unmanned aircraft that can navigate autonomously beyond human control or beyond your line of sight (so that includes air balloons).  

Past

Drones were originally designed and used for military purposes dating all the way back to the 1800’s.  Nikolia Tesla made a huge leap in the drone industry with his invention of a remote controlled motorboat using radio waves back in 1893.  It’s pretty crazy to think that they had remote controlled equipment all the way back then!  

The United States military worked on developing drone technology for years and in 1917 invented the first automatic airplane.  As the technology continued to advance, so did the industry with the first robotics company founded in 1986.  After decades of drone technology being limited to just the military the commercial side finally started to take off!  They realized that drones could be beneficial to many other industries and started testing wSeattle-Police-Dronesith different applications.  

One of the first commercial flights in the United States was back in 2007.  In Washington they used a drone to help the local police with find a suspect who was running from them.  After seeing how helpful drones could be, more and more people started flying and coming up with new uses.  In the next few years drones began being used for aerial cinematography, photography, and many other drone services, but this was only scratching the surface of the possibilities for drone technology.

Present

Fast forward to January 2013, the year that leading drone manufacturer DJI released their first UAV, the Phantom drone!  From here the commercial drone market started to soar.  With the huge drone boom that started to occur, the government soon realized that these flying aircrafts need to be regulated. The next year in 2014, legislation restricting drone use was proposed in 43 states.  The FAA soon came up with a  procedure to approve companies to fly drones as a service with the 333 exemption.   

A big milestone in the community was made by Pictorvision, the first drone company to ever be approved in September of 2015.  Today, just over a year later, the FAA has approved over 1,800 companies to fly commercially!  With a new drone application and benefit coming out left and right those businesses will be much needed!  

Just to give you an idea of how fast this market has grown, back in 2010 the FAA estimated that by 2020 there would be as many as 15,000 drones flying in the United States.  Today in 2015 more than that number of drones are sold each month!  And that’s only in America, people from all around the globe are flying and becoming enthusiast.   

FutureDelivery-drones

The possibilities are endless for what is in store for the future of drone technology.  There is a new drone, application, or regulation coming out what seems like every day.  The battery life of drones are getting longer and the technologies are advancing!  I’m sure you have heard about the Amazon Prime Air that they are testing by using drones to deliver packages within 30 minutes or less.  And that is only a glimpse of what drone technology can do!  

There are also plans for the future regulations of drones.  The FAA is planning on having drone regulations finalized by late 2016 or early 2017.  Drone traffic airways are even being developed for the future! I know what your thinking and no there will not be little stop lights floating around in space, but I guess with thousands of drones above us at once they will need to figure something out.  

 

If you’re not using drone technology in your business yet, then you should start now and lead your industry into the future!  Call us today at 239-333-2447 or click here to find out how Soaring Sky can take your company to the next level.  

drone

What To Know Before You Fly Your Drone!

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Drone Safety Is the Key to Flying!

The only thing scary about drones, is when someone who is uneducated about them is flying.  Soaring Sky believes that with the proper UAV pilot training, anyone can safely fly a drone!  The major problems that you hear on the news with drones usually involve someone flying in a prohibiting area.  Which can easily be avoided if people did a little research before they took off!   As drone enthusiasts we need to understand that flying our quadcopters is a privilege and be respectful of the aviation space we are given.  The following information is a brief overview of what you need to know before take off with your UAV.

FAA Guidelines:

The first step to drone safety is following the regulations that have been set by the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA.  Soaring Sky strongly recommends that you know these guidelines before take off and follow all of them throughout your flight.  

  • Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
  • Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
  • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
  • Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying
  • Don’t fly near people or stadiums
  • Don’t fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs
  • Don’t be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft

Where Can I Take Off?

As you can tell from the rules above, the area in which you are flying is extremely important!  So how are you supposed to know where you can and can’t take off?  web_horiz_FAA_NDZ_red

Know before you fly provides a very useful map that you can enter in the address that you will be flying around or even sync it to your current location!  It locates all of the airports, prohibiting airspace, national parks, temporary flight restrictions, and marine protected areas. Click here to check it out!  

You always need to check with the specific laws in your state because each may vary.  Especially if you’re bringing your drone on a vacation to a new location.  Click here to view the specific regulations throughout the United States.  

Some drones, such as the Phantom 3, are extra smart when it comes to knowing where they can fly!  For example, the Phantom won’t even take off if it’s within five miles of an airport.  There’s also a cap on the how high the drone will fly, it physically won’t even go any higher than 400 feet.  

Soaring Sky’s Pre- Flight Checklist

The Soaring Sky flight team uses the following checklist before taking flight or even calibration.  Even as professionals, we still make sure that we are always double checking our work and take flying seriously.  

  • Batteries charged
    • Transmitter
    • Aircraft
    • Wifi extender PL
    • Tablet/ smartphone
  • Propellers & Motors
    • Mounted securely
    • No defects
    • Rotate normally
  • Transmitter
    • All switches in upmost position
    • Transmitter throttle to zero
  • Aircraft
    • No defects
    • Camera gimbal connected correctly
  • Systems
    • All switches in upright position
    • Power on your transmitter
    • Powers on wifi extender- PL only
    • Power on your craft and wait for LED lights to flash green, indicating that your craft has achieved its GPS signal
    • Connect wifi via mobile device
    • Open DJI application on mobile device
    • Perform a compass calibration
    • Set capture settings on camera
  • Flying filed
    • Open area- no distractions or obstructions
    • Verify your intended flight path – Know where you can fly
    • Verify weather conditions – wind, visibility, precipitation, temperature
    • With the craft on an even surface at least ten feet away from you, start the motors
    • Start Camera
    • Press up on throttle for takeoff – Hovering at 3-5 feet check controls
    • Stay Below 400 feet
    • Complete Pilot Log

 

Give our team a call at 239-333-2447 to learn more about the Soaring Sky Academy training courses.