Flying a drone as a hobbyist. Is it worth it?

Updated: Dec 12, 2020

Drones are becoming popular, a new hobby for many. With the experience of being a commercial UAV Pilot, I'm offering my insight. Firstly I work as part of the Phantom Drone Media team, so I'm CAA trained, I, therefore, don't follow the so-called hobbyist guidelines, its a different set for me. Flying for fun on personal projects is possible, but id still do the surveys and risk assessments. I've been programmed to do this now, it's in my DNA. It would make no sense to stop, after all, it's for my safety too. So when clients ask me if its a hobby too, the answer is mostly no. I almost always fly for Phantom Drone Media. I like it this way too, permissions and insurances are always in place, and spotters easily available to me. So pulling away from my situation, your a drone enthusiast, have been since your childhood years. You approach your late teens, where most of us start to become financially independent, and in some ways free to start making our own decisions without parent interference. This period almost always begins during your first job, money creates freedom for sure. So this means you have the funds for your first drone, hopefully, it's a DJI! Should you go right out and buy one? First off drones are amazing, up there with the very best of products. Viewing the world from above is breathtaking, inspiring, something most only do during the take-offs and landings of commercial flights, as part of their holiday. As a hobbyist you can reach 120 metres too, that's insane for a legal maximum height, even as a commercially trained UAV Pilot you can't top that! Now, this is the point in my article where things take a downwards spiral. To fly as a hobbyist you have a set of guidelines to follow, the government refers to this as the 'drone code'. I'll get straight to the rules, and I've numbered them to keep things simple. 1) Landowner permission is required for your chosen take-off and land area. 2) A 50 metre surrounding distance must be in place from people and properties, in congested areas this increases to 120 metres. 3) A maximum height no greater than 120 metres (this one is awesome!). 4) Always keep VLOS (visual line of sight). 5) Do not fly in restricted zones ( an example of this would be airfields (plenty of apps to help with this, NATS Drone Assist is superb and free). 6) Register your drone with the CAA (civil aviation authority) and complete the basic drone flying knowledge test (very easy to pass, with basic revision). Now three to six are acceptable, no one should argue with those. One and two, not so much. If my experience as a commercial UAV Pilot has learnt me anything, its that you'd struggle to find a location, besides a large family home with vast amounts of land, where you could genuinely abide by them rules. It's near impossible. I'll happily give you an example. This is most likely always going to happen when flying as a hobbyist. So your online exam is passed, the flyer ID is on hand and you know the in-flight rules such as VLOS. Take-off is going to be your local park, there is a green section around 60 metres in size. The council has given its approval. To the difficult part now, distances. No properties or people are situated within 50 metres of the take-off point and you have pre-planned to fly a straight vertical line to 120 metres and take one photo at the top. It's all set then! Sticks are pulled inwards on the controller and the propellers are forced into life. At that very moment, a group of walkers have now entered your 50 metre take-off zone. Legally you can no longer take to the sky. The waiting game begins, it could be seconds, minutes, or even hours in certain cases. You see propellers are very noisy and attract a lot of unwanted attention. What would happen to my team in the same situation? To be at that location taking aerial media, we would have been called out by the council. Standard protocols for us is to get an appropriate area coned off, with the shared agreement that nobody is to enter, a completely different situation. With the examples I have shown, you can understand why flying as a hobbyist isn't too appealing. If you have access to land or live in the wilderness, you could have some seriously good fun and remain legal. In towns and cities though, most likely not, I'd recommend other activities. But it's your passion, you dreamt about drone flying as a kid, well go commercial then. You have found your dream job! Ultimately though, it's for you to decide. Love the content, subscribe, and never miss our weekly posts. #drones #dronepilot #dji #blogging #blogger



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CAA (Civil Aviation Authority)

Drone Pilots trained by HELIGUY to Civil Aviation Authority requirements. All our crew is insured by Flock.  Prior to any project, initial flight surveys and risk assessments are always completed and can be requested by the client. Due to the strict guidelines set out by the 'CAA', the Phantom Drone Media team has the right to cancel on project day if the situation does not match the agreed brief.



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