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The Short Changing of Public Safety Drone Pilots and How You Got Screwed Over

The Short Changing of Public Safety Drone Pilots and How You Got Screwed Over

I’ve had the pleasure of running into so many good and amazing people in the public safety UAS world. People who are passionate about the public safety work they do.

It is truly a blessing to be part of this community even though I came in through the side entrance.

Growing up I thought I wanted to be a law enforcement officer or firefighter. I have always been interested in helping people. I even went so far as to take entrance exams for several police departments and fire departments but never could make the choice of where to go or what to do.

My life took a different path and instead of pursuing those ambitions I pursued my work in the medical field instead. Still helping people.

In 2014 I was tapped by my local fire department or I approached them, the memory is a bit foggy, to explore the use of drones in the fire service.

In the preceding decades I had become a pilot in 1988 and now looked at serving public safety from an aviation point of view. They like the fact I viewed the use of drones from that pilot experience.

Enough of the history.

Being an FAA certificated pilot since 1988 allowed me to reenter public safety with my head filled with years of good advice and instruction from great flight instructors.

The public safety drone pilot of today does not have that luxury.

The FAA praises the role of the CFI (Certificated Flight Instructor) by saying, “The FAA places full responsibility for student flight training on the shoulders of the CFI, who is the cornerstone of aviation safety. It is the job of the flight instructor. It is the job of the flight instructor to train the student pilot in all the knowledge areas and teach the skills necessary for the student pilot to operate safely and competently as a certificated pilot in the NAS (National Air Space). The training includes airmanship skills, pilot judgment and decision-making, and good operating practices.”

The FAA goes on to say, “This training involves presenting the students with realistic flight scenarios and recommended actions for mitigating risks.”

The public safety drone pilot of today has missed all of that groundwork for being safe pilots. They have either slid into flying under a COA agency or after completing a very basic Part 107 exam. Even worse are those people who rush to take a classroom-based pretest instruction think that is sufficient to be a good pilot.

Let me be clear, I’m not slighting the good people who want to be great pilots. I just think this current crop of rushed to market pilots has been set up for failure in a rush to get unmanned aircraft to the field.

As an example of knowledge that has been overlooked, pilots flying simply under a COA seem to have no idea of the massive liability exposure they face personally. But that’s the subject for another post.

The entrance to market has opened and now it is going to be up to all the Part 107 and COA pilots to try and figure out what they don’t know.

For my part, I will continue to try every day to be a professional pilot and help try to educate others. It is a special privilege to be able to help people becoming amazing public safety drone pilots.

About Steve Rhode

Steve is an experienced and certificated UAS pilot and aircraft instrument rated pilot. He is also the Chief Pilot with the Wake Forest Fire Department and North Carolina Public Safety Drone Academy.
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