By: Mark Taylor, owner of Extreme Aerial Productions
It took some time to figure out the top skills and credentials to look for in new hires for my drone firm, Extreme Aerial Productions. While being a good camera operator and editor were obviously crucial, I wasn’t sure what else made a difference between a good drone operator and a great one. After eight years, I’m happy to say I’ve honed in on the skills and areas of knowledge that make a difference, not to mention the licenses I expect candidates to have as a baseline for applying to our company. Here’s my shortlist of what you should know and the credentials you should have to give you the best chance of getting a drone job.
Drone skills I’m looking for
I always look for the following in new hires:
An understanding of camera settings and video settings, and how the two are different.
Knowing how to film well in both and where each medium is best utilized is key for
creating work that the client will love.
They need to know how to photograph/film in real-time, not fix in post. That’s paramount.
If you want good pictures, you can’t just take mediocre ones and expect to make them
look good in post-production.
They should have an understanding of time of the day, and how the filming techniques
will change depending on it. For example, knowing how to fly with the sun behind you
and avoiding drone shadows in the frame, while also maintaining great exposure.
How and when to use ND filters and adjust accordingly.
They should have the ability to manually fly in a way that’s smooth and gentle, so that
when the flights are sped up, footage is perfect. A lot of people I interview fly automatic
missions, and that isn’t true artistry for the finished product.
I also look for personality traits such as loyalty, dedication to work, being flexible with schedule changes at the last minute, humility (we aren’t fighter pilots), a deep willingness to serve the clients and the company, and the ability to think out of the box.
They should also be skilled in the following programs:
Adobe Premier Pro
Final Cut Pro X
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
PIX4D, Drone Deploy, Ardupilot, PixHawk, MIssion Planner, Skyward (these are nice to
know, but not essential).
Licenses and types of insurance you’ll need
When applying to any drone job, make sure you have the following licenses and insurance beforehand. It will show potential employers that you’re a serious pilot:
A Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA (which you’ll need to renew every two years):
Don’t even think about showing up for a job interview without one. This certificate
demonstrates that you’re cognizant of operating requirements, regulations, and how to
safely fly a drone.
Drone Aviation Liability Insurance: While it isn’t technically required by law, drone liability
insurance keeps you protected against third-party claims of injury or property damage.
Like car insurance, it takes the financial responsibility off your shoulders. Your insurer
will pay out damages. However, it doesn’t exempt you from any and all responsibility.
For example, if you flew your drone in a restricted area, you could still be held financially
accountable for damages. Pay as you go insurance companies are not an option for us!
Hull Insurance: This insures the drones themselves against any possible damage. If you
accidentally fly your drone into a wall, you’ll be able to get partial or full-reimbursement
for a new one. Note that this only covers the drone, and not onboard equipment. If you
want to cover onboard equipment, you’ll have to consider getting a separate policy,
called payload insurance. This covers any equipment/ sensors attached to the drone.
Invasion of Privacy Insurance: This covers you in the event that you invade someone’s
privacy with your drone. For example, let’s say you fly your drone inside a policy
coverage area, film someone, and then post the video online. The person filmed then
elects to sue you. Your policy will help cover you for the damages (though plenty of
restrictions do apply).
Hopefully you’ve found this list helpful in determining the skills and certifications that will put you in the best position possible for standing out when applying for drone jobs. Good luck, and never stop working on improving your craft and fueling your passion for aerial work.