I am often asked if it should be required to have a pilots license to fly UAS commercially. As the FAA moves forward with integrating UAS into the NAS it does appear that an online certificate will be made available. The real question is what value do you put on safety?
On the surface it might appear that all of the safety requirements we put on manned aircraft pilots are not necessary for UAS. As a certificated pilot with over a thousand hours flying UAS I firmly believe that FAA regulations to have a pilots license should remain in place. The skills required to pilot UAS safely a few hundred feet above the ground are no different than those required to fly cross country. The reality is that to fly a UAS commercially, a pilot should have the same knowledge base and experience whether she is flying a UAS or fixed wing aircraft.
I learned to fly with Paul Hamilton at the Sport Aviation Center in Carson City, NV. I believe that the experience has made me a better UAS pilot and added depth and a greater appreciation for safety.
Realistically, the effective elimination of the pilot license requirement for commercial UAS will happen sometime in 2017, and any businesses involved in commercial operations ought to plan accordingly. For many operations, this may mean running only a small test program for the next 12 months with the more expensive pilots, and then scaling the business fully once the requirements change. For others, it may mean holding off on their UAS operations altogether, as the cost structure just doesn’t work under the current regulatory system.
Getting a sport pilot’s license cost me approximately $10,000. Was the experience and maturity I gained worth that investment? Absolutely.
Are you interested in learning more about how to operate commercial drones safely? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.