Whether you're a project manager for a large construction project or a documentary filmmaker looking for some help with aerial video, it is important that you find the right drone pilot and don't make the mistake of taking on unnecessary risk. A qualified remote pilot in command can lead a safe and compliant aerial mission, but hiring the wrong drone operator can potentially put property and lives at risk. Keep reading and learn the right questions to ask before hiring a drone pilot.
1. Are you licensed to operate a drone commercially?
First and foremost you should find out if the person you are about to hire is actually licensed to fly drones commercially. To be considered legal, a drone pilot must pass a standardized called Part 107. After passing this test, the drone pilot will receive a license from the FAA. You should ask for a copy of the drone pilot's license before you hire them. If the person you are considering hiring does not have a Part 107 license than you cannot hire them as a legal commercial drone operator.
2. What are your capabilities and limitations?
Not all drone operators are the same. Drone image and data capture is being used in many industries ranging from aerial cinematography for film and television, project monitoring for construction, to professional grade surveying with LiDAR equipped drones. That being said, you want to make sure you match the right pilot with the job you have in mind.
- Does the drone pilot have the skills and equipment to complete your job?
- Where and when is the shoot scheduled? In many instances the pilot will need additional FAA waivers to fly legally depending on requirements of the job. For example, if the shoot is scheduled for at night, than the pilot will need a part 107 daylight waiver.
- What equipment does the drone pilot use?
- Do they have the right sensors and cameras needed to capture the data and imagery you are requesting?
- What type of weather could prevent or delay your scheduled drone mission?
- Is it safe and legal where I want the drone to be flown?
3. Do you carry Public Liability insurance?
Specialized aviation liability insurance is needed for commercial drone operations. We suggest that you request a copy of the pilot's current insurance. Keep in mind that it is possible to purchase on-demand drone liability insurance, so sometimes the pilot will not have proof of insurance until right before the actual scheduled flight. Make sure to get a copy of the policy before the drone leaves the ground. You don't want to be responsible if things go wrong.
4. Have you ever crashed during a shoot?
If the drone pilot says they have never crashed they are probably lying or the job you are about to hire them for is going to be one of their first shoots. Learning to fly drones takes practice, and mistakes are bound to happen. I've been fortunate enough to never crash a drone on a client shoot, but have had a couple mishaps while practicing my craft.
A follow up to this question is to find out what procedures they have in place for when things don't go as planned, and do they have any standard systems to help mitigate risk?
5. Do you have a contract?
Last but not least you should find out if they have a contract that fully outlines the services to be provided, cost, what's included, and time frame for completion of project. A legitimate company will have a contract ready to sign after the terms of the drone shoot are agreed upon.
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