Scott’s biography: I serve as a coordination point for all communications, reporting and deliverable in the company. I have helped integrate processes and systems that have improved efficiencies, mentor staff members and target plans of attack. Together with the Managing Director we project the plans for the company and drive new concepts through to fruition.
Scott’s perspectives on UAS in the next years: We will see a greater integration of drone technology in everyday life. The goal will be a drone ecosystem including advanced hardware utilising multiple sensors, software which is intuitive and reliable, and finally Artificial Intelligence. If we see the development of systems that are Intuitive, reliable, robust, adaptable and cost effective. Then drones will be a no brainer for commercial purposes. What do you think will be the biggest challenges: On-boarding industry verticals with drone technology. Making the technology a staple for data acquisition. A comprising UAV-related punch line: Minding my Drone Business
How did you become interested in drone technology?
Heliguy started life in 2008 as an RC Helicopter specialist in rural Northumberland – England’s most northerly county – before expanding the business into the emerging drone market. The owner of Heliguy recognised the massive potential of drones from their very earliest stages of development and has since built a team which is driven to remain at the forefront of the growing UAV market.
Well-renowned in the industry, Heliguy has become the UK’s leading drone supplier, establishing itself as a one-stop-shop drone expert, offering sales and aftercare, training, repairs and research and development. Heliguy is one of DJI’s largest and trusted European enterprise channel partners and is recognised as a Gold Partner, certifying that Heliguy can provide expert knowledge and services to enterprise customers.
What is the market for drones right now? How has it changed since you started your
The evolution of drones has been staggering. In recent years, there has been a major shift in drone operators, moving from hobbyists and commercial photographers to those utilising unmanned aircraft for more industrial purposes, such as mining, agriculture, construction and public safety.
This drive towards enterprise is illustrated by this industry breakdown, taken from a 2018 report by Skylogic Research.
The results showed that commercial photography/video leads the way at 18%, but surveying and mapping follows closely behind at 13%. Other industry sectors such as asset/infrastructure/facility inspection, agriculture/farming and emergency services and search and rescue also feature in the chart – giving enterprise a really strong presence in the results.
Reflecting on this shift in use cases, Brandon Montellato, DJI’s programme manager for enterprise, told a recent webinar: “The technology has definitely been evolving from consumer/prosumer to enterprise solution.
“Ultimately, we are seeing this evolution from photography and cinematography – which has a fairly low-barrier entry and is easy to use on site – to more advanced data deliverables, like surveying, mapping and asset and infrastructure.”
This changing pattern – from consumer to enterprise – appears to be accelerating and the market is strong, albeit with a shift in use cases.
How are business owners using drones today?
Drones are becoming a valuable tool for business owners across a range of industries, such as public safety, construction, infrastructure, energy inspections and the media – helping to save time, improve safety, reduce costs and provide quick and accurate results.
In public safety, for example, drones – which can be integrated with thermal and/or zoom cameras – are being used to look for missing people, carry out aerial surveillance and analyse crash scenes from above.
There are many success stories within public safety which showcase the use and benefits of drones. For example, Lincolnshire Police’s drone unit earned its first prosecution after the drone uncovered a cannabis farm inside a property. Using a thermal camera and flying above the house, the heat source from the drugs farm was detected, as the image below shows. The filming from the drone took one minute and 20 seconds, and it was only in the air for five minutes from start to finish.
Another example is in construction, where drones are being used for quicker stockpile measurements, informative aerial progress reports and accessing hard-to-reach areas. Infrastructure group, Balfour Beatty, is benefitting from drone technology, supplied by Heliguy.
Explaining some of the benefits of drones, Craig Matthews, Balfour Beatty UK’s Principal UAS Manager, said: “The drones are a great time saver. Take a recycling compound for example. If we were to measure stockpiles with traditional survey tools, it would take a lot longer to measure the site and gather the data, whereas drones enable the team to do fairly rapid measurements of different types of materials and earthworks.
It would take a surveyor, using traditional handheld equipment, about a day to measure the stockpiles and process the data. But using the drone, we can fly over the compound in 15 minutes and process the model in about two hours.
“The drones also make it safer to gain these quantities. To put it simply, drones help unbelievably with health and safety, taking people out of dangerous situations.”
What are some of the most innovative ways you’ve seen drones being used?
Drones are being used in many innovative ways and are helping to provide information which previously wasn’t possible.
For instance, earlier this year, a team of scientists used drones, including a DJI M600 Pro supplied by Heliguy, to complete the most comprehensive survey of Chernobyl’s Red Forest – one of the most radioactive locations on Earth.
Flying a range of multi-rotor and fixed-wing aircraft, the scientists from the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics (NCNR) created 3D maps which not only provided up-to-date information on the sites with the greatest contamination, but also revealed previously
undetected radiation hotspots.
Detecting these hotpots was a good demonstration of what can be achieved with drones, instead of conducting manned aerial surveys or ground surveys, and showed that monitoring radioactive sites and responding to nuclear incidents can be done without exposing humans to risk.
Elsewhere, Amazon has said that it is planning to use drones to deliver packages to customers.
Why should drone owners/operators consider getting insurance for their drones?
Drone insurance covers you for damage to your drone, or against claims made by someone whose property your drone may accidentally damage.
Legally, insurance requirements differ dependent upon whether you are a commercial or recreational user. Hobby drone pilots do not need insurance, but commercial drone pilots do. At the minimum, if you’re caught flying an uninsured drone as a commercial user, you may face fines.
However, if you are a hobbyist, it is still wise to cover yourself, just in case the worst does happen. There are two ways of paying for drone insurance. The traditional, annual policy, or a new method is known as pay-as-you-fly (PAFL).
What are the risks of not protecting your investment?
Not having insurance could be a costly affair.
After all, drone insurance covers you for damage to your drone, or against claims made by someone whose property your drone may accidentally damage. So, if you lose control of the drone and it falls on to someone’s car, you’ll be covered for both the damage to the drone and for the claim from the driver.
Commercial drone insurance policies vary between providers, but most include personal/public liability cover if someone does make a claim against you for damage or injury. You can also include cover for the theory and practical exams involved in becoming a commercial pilot.
What are the most common errors you see operators making with their drones? What is the fallout from these mistakes?
Some of the common mistakes include a lack of pre-flight planning, such as not checking the weather forecast and not being aware of the airspace and relevant rules and regulations.
A pre-flight checklist is important for all drone pilots to complete before beginning every flight, helping ensure you bring all of your equipment to your flight, fully charged and ready to go, as well as avoid issues that could lead to a drone crash that could have easily been prevented.
What type of training should drone operators get before they start flying their drones?
What are the benefits of this training?
In the UK, drone pilots who are wanting to fly commercially need the PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operation). As an accredited NQE, Heliguy delivers these training courses across numerous stunning UK venues. The PfCO course gives candidates the chance to learn the ins and outs of commercial drone operations. Heliguy’s PfCO Course includes guidance on night-time permissions and support in building the all-important Operations Manual – a document required by the CAA for all commercial drone operators.
What do drone operators need to know about FAA registration and compliance?
It is crucial for all drone operators to be aware of FAA registration and compliance, to ensure they are flying legally and safely.
The rules and regulations are split into various categories, including hobbyists and those wanting to fly commercially.
As a hobbyist – also known as a recreational flyer – you need to register your drone and mark it on the outside with the registration number (PDF). You must also adhere to a number of rules, such as:
– don’t fly your drone at or below 400 feet when in uncontrolled airspace.
– don’t fly in controlled airspace (around and above many airports) unless you have received an airspace authorisation for operations in controlled airspace through LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability), or you are flying at a recreational flyer fixed site that has a written agreement with the FAA.
– Keep your drone within your line of sight, or within the visual line-of-sight of a visual observer who is co-located and in direct communication with you.
Hobbyists should also be aware of new laws coming in the future, which will mean that drone operators will need to pass an online aeronautical knowledge and safety test and carry proof of test passage.
For Certificated Remote Pilots including Commercial Operators, there are other things you need to be aware of.
If you have a small drone that is less than 55 pounds, you can fly for work or business by following the Part 107 guidelines.
However, some operations are not covered by Part 107 and will require a waiver. Some examples include operating from a moving vehicle or aircraft, operating multiple small unmanned aircraft systems, or operating over people.
You will also need to pass a knowledge test to receive your remote pilot certificate.
Once you have done this, registration costs $5 and is valid for three years. Once you’ve registered, mark your drone (PDF) with your registration number in case it gets lost or stolen.
What advice can you offer new drone operators on getting the most out of their investment?
Operating a drone can sometimes be tricky. So to avoid any silly mistakes, it’s essential to read the product’s manual and pay close attention to pre-flight preparations. After you understand your drone’s capabilities and limitations choose a safe test flight zone and practice some basic manoeuvres before you take the leash off.
Additionally, remember to take advantage of free online resources and contact Heliguy for any help/advice.
Also, check the weather and don’t fly in adverse conditions; ensure your battery has enough power for your return flight; and don’t fly too aggressively.