While formal drone training is critical for professionals, hobbyist need drone training too, even if through an informal relationship or mentor
Yes, we are slowly building a list of professional training programs and encourage those of you that have programs to let us know and get added (it’s only $10). With that cheap advertisement out of the way lets move onto the meat of this article.
Our friend, Kevin McCarthy of SkyLab Flight Systems has once again raised an important point, that being the importance of providing informal drone training through mentoring relationships. We hope you read, enjoy, comment, and share his thoughts with others.
I have noticed lately that there is a lot of talk on various social media outlets about educating drone owners. One thing that I don’t see when it comes to educating drone owners, new or existing, are options for that education. As of now, the only way for a drone owner to become educated is to seek out a high-end, military style training program that is usually very expensive and contains little real world content OR drone owners can educated themselves. To do that, they rely on a lot of different sources of information like online forums or YouTube. While the online forums used to be a great resource for all hobbies, most today are filled with people who have no idea how to treat others and will, more often than not, berate the newcomer for asking a question that might be obvious to someone with experience. That is not to say that there are not members of the forums out there interested in helping others. The problem really is that by the time those people are able to answer the question asked by the “newbie” or “noob”, the person that originally asked the question is no longer monitoring the forum because of the bad treatment they received initially. I’m not going to talk too much about YouTube. There are a lot of good videos out there that answer questions someone new to the drone world might have. But they have to sort through all of the bad ones to reach the good ones and by the time they find the good video, they have already taken bad advice or lost interest.
That leads to what used to be the only way we learned about our new products and that is by trial and error. This has it’s own pitfalls and I am pretty sure that I don’t need to delve into all of them. If I did, well, you would lose interest and move on before I was one paragraph in to it! Here is what I will say about the trial and error/self taught method, some manufacturers make it easier for a customer to do that than others. All manufacturers provide user manuals for their products. Some are far better than others. Some of the manufacturers offer online tutorials of their products. That is typical of the open source type products. Other manufacturers rely solely on their distributors for customer support or education. What is the best way? I hesitate to even answer that question as I think it’s the wrong question. I think the correct question is “How can we safely & properly educate drone owners to ensure they operate their drone as intended?”
I have a lot of opinions about that question. But rather than debate those opinions with others, I’ve decided to do something else entirely. I’ve decided to help new drone owners myself by sharing with them what knowledge I have. I’m NOT AN EXPERT! I need to say that right away. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything or any drone system. However, I do have a lot of operating knowledge gained from several years of building, flying, crashing, buying and rebuilding various drone systems. So I have shared that knowledge with others whenever they have asked me to do so.
For example, this past weekend, I spent Thursday through Sunday sharing my knowledge, providing some informal drone education, with a gentleman who recently purchased a 3D Robotics Iris+. This particular person is 60 years old and has a lot of RC experience. He admittedly could have spent time and effort learning how to fly the Iris+ on his own. However, he wanted to get in the air safely and quickly. He thought the best way to do that would be to find someone with experience flying the 3D Robotics Iris+ and ask them if they would be willing to teach him. He found me through an RC forum and over several months of emails, phone calls and Skype sessions, we became friends. So when he asked me to teach him, I agreed immediately. Now, this person lives in Ohio and I reside in Maryland. He volunteered to come to me as I have a shop and plenty of wide open flying space.
So my friend and started his training Thursday. I would have normally spent the entire first day going over the equipment, flight theory, battery safety and other important items but this person demonstrated that he had most of that well in hand. We were able to move a little faster than if he had zero prior experience. One danger of someone having prior RC experience is that they have become used to the type of vehicle that they used to operate. So it is imperative that this kind of person be willing to set some of that prior experience aside as it does not correspond to the drone world. I didn’t have that kind of a problem with this person though. He was a very quick study and by the end of the first day he was taking off and landing his Iris+ smoothly.
On the next day of training, we had planned to go to flying field so we could continue the training. However, Mother Nature decided that she wanted to blow the trees around with 17mph sustained winds and 28mph gusts. I couldn’t allow a new operator to fly in that. So, we visited some of the other important safety points like the current hobbyist flight limitations. I also took this time to introduce him to the Hover App! That app is handy for new operators and experienced alike! I’ve already published a post on it so there’s no need to blather on about it. But I LOVE it and so did my new drone operator.
We spent the next two days at the flying field learning about what the Iris+ can and cannot do as well as more safety. This is the best part of the training for me. This is when you can see the lights come on in the person’s eyes that you are teaching. Suddenly, everything you taught that person in the shop/classroom clicks! They make all of the connections and things start working for them. Seeing a new drone operator smile when they do something that they considered difficult for the first time is reward enough for me. It’s so awesome to watch them enjoy the hobby that I love so much.
Speaking of rewards, teaching a new drone operator is an amazingly simple way to make yourself a better operator. I learn a little something from each person I train. Everyone has a different style or outlook on what they are doing. Listening to someone that is learning explain why they would do something different can teach me to look at something differently than I would have on my own. The training reinforces what I know already as well. I learned a few things from my time in the military. Those of you that have served will know exactly what I’m talking about here. I cannot tell you how many times I stripped my rifle to clean it and then reassemble it only to repeat the process. By the end of that training, I could clean my rifle in my sleep and I probably did a few times too! The point is the more you do something, the better you become at doing that thing (normally, that is the rule and there ARE exceptions to every rule). The more I teach someone, the more I seem to remember those things. I love it.
This is the fourth person that I’ve shared my 3D Robotics knowledge with in the past 8 months or so. I’m happy to do it. The first three people are still happily flying their aircraft and are safe too! I have no doubts that I’ll be able to say the same for my friend from Ohio 6 months from now. I have told all of these people that they are welcome at my place anytime and if they have any questions, they can call or email or text me any time. Some of them have sent me various follow up questions. They all stay in contact though! I’ve made four new friends and at the same time, I’ve helped introduce four people to the drone world in a safe and encouraging environment.
The point of this entire post is that if you have the knowledge and know a new drone operator, offer to share that knowledge with them. Help them be a safe drone operator so we don’t read about them in the newspaper or see them on the local news because they did something silly or because they tried to do something that they didn’t understand how to accomplish in the first place! So share your knowledge! Be patient and understanding. Don’t demean the person you are sharing your knowledge with and don’t expect that they know a fraction of the things you know. Always ask them if they are aware of something and then move forward with the subject. You will find that you the entire experience is as rewarding for you as it is for the other person!
I snapped some photos of my friend from Ohio at various points during his drone training and have posted them in a gallery below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed training the person you see in the photos!
As always, thank you for your time and FLY SAFE!
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