ICARUS Ambassador Ricky Evans - Receiving his PfCO!

The highest (pardon the pun) point of this month came on the 17th of May when I received my confirmation from the CAA that my application had been approved and I was officially a certified pilot!! The sad news is that a couple of days before I had been approached to carry out a job locally!! A lady wanted some pictures taken of the land behind her house to see how best to go about building some runs for her horses and other animals. Still never one to miss an opportunity I carried out the work for her regardless. During our conversation we talked about my impending certification and how I couldn’t charge her as I didn’t have my commercial license but was happy to do the work ‘as a bit of promotion’ within the area. The job was really simple, up take some pictures and back down again producing about 15 images for her including a nice image of her house and the land she owns. I’m happy to say that she was delighted with the images but was not content without me leaving with a couple of jars of homemade jam and some free range eggs she had made herself! (well not the eggs!) Hopefully no-one will call this commercial gain although I may put on a couple of pounds if I eat all the Jam!! Luckily enough my first EVER paid job came through a couple of days after I had officially received my licence. A local businessman has been building a whisky distillery in my local area and called to say that the stills were being delivered and could I come and cover the installation on the ground and in the air. I had already produced a video of the site some months ago so had already undergone a site health and safety briefing and apart from filling in the necessary paperwork, I was ready to go! Again the job was fairly straightforward and the video should be up at www.lindoresabbeydistillery.com the site is also really interesting and tells the story of the first monks to EVER make whisky back in the 13th century.

Looking forward I have a rather tricky wedding to film from the air next month. The bride is wanting her arrival done completely from the air as she will be arriving in an open top Porsche! The venue is surrounded by trees however and I have already started my forward planning to ensure she gets the shots she needs……yes I have started praying to the rain gods!!

My website is still in development and should be live within the next month although I’m having some teething issues with the content and how it is laid out. I also need to improve my marketing strategy for Rickford Lyndon Aerial and really start to promote the business locally. No rest for the wicked!!!!

ICARUS Ambassador Rob Shoesmith - May 2017

Rob has won our seventh Facebook photo contest with his outstanding photograph.

In return for winning our contest and agreeing to champion the ICARUS course for the next 12 months, he's received a free course worth £999 and is now on his way to earning a PfCO.

As you'll be hearing a lot more from Ivan over the coming months, we thought we'd introduce him through some questions below.

 What drone was used to capture this photo?

I used a DJI Phantom 3 standard to capture the photo. It was in Fort William Scotland. Unfortunately at the end of my trip I had a crash with my drone deciding to autoland in a salt water Scottish loch! I was gutted to say the least as my drone had to go to drone heaven. The electronics were fried beyond repair. I'm just so happy that I managed to capture this photo. 

What other drones do you fly?

I fly a Mavic Pro and intend on eventually buying an Inspire 2 or a Matrice. I just need to save up some pennies first :). 

Where are you based?

I'm based just down the road from your Oxfordshire base in Coventry. I plan on moving to the Scottish highlands at some point as I love the drone photo and video opportunities there. Such a stunning place and I'd highly recommend drone flyers check the area out! 

What grew your interest in drone technology?

Visiting the Scottish highlands and a love of technology. I love vlogging and making little videos so thought a drone adds a totally different perspective. Plus when I was a kid I always wanted a remote control plane but never got one! I'm a kid at heart so owning a drone was a no brainer to me. They are so much fun and allows me to explore new places in the great outdoors which is a great thing!

What’s the most exciting/interesting thing you’ve photographed/filmed from the air?

I'd say a Scottish castle not far from Oban. It was the perfect day with great lighting. I also love finding weird / unusual patterns with the camera facing down. Abstract is something I love. I plan on hopefully filming / photographing some crop circles. I think it would look awesome! 

How long have you been flying unmanned aircraft (including model helicopters etc.)?

I got my first drone just before Christmas last year and am now totally hooked! 

What do you plan to do once you gain your PfCO?

'd love to sell some of my photos online mostly of landscapes, perhaps some event videos / photos and long term set up a drone hire centre where people can come and have a go. I'm keen to show technophobes how great drone flying can be! My background is in social media and PR so I'm thinking I can come up with some creative social media campaigns for clients with the drone and having a pro licence will most certainly open some doors for me. It'll certainly add a string to my bow!. 

Do you have a website?

I'm developing a website as we speak. I'm very active on Instagram where I'm vlogging about my experiences of getting my pro drone licence. It's a great platform to be inspired and to ask questions and share some of my work. Looking forward to sharing news of me winning your contest. I'm so delighted and look forward to the training course and meeting you guys! 

http://www.instagram.com/shoesmithdrones

 

ICARUS Ambassador Jamie Edwards - ICARUS Course Testimonial

Winning the ICARUS Ambassador program was a huge honour and was looking forward to the course weeks before I attended. The site was a gorgeous manor house and stables which made the perfect setting for such an exciting course. 

When I arrived we were greeting with a welcome smile and a well needed coffee from Gail and Ella. This was the first time all the students met and was a good chance to introduce and get to know each other. There were a multitude of backgrounds including surveyors, hobbyists and police men. 

Our instructor was Tom who was extremely knowledgeable and was very approachable. Tom explained the history of AMP and how they became market leader in their field. Tom then went on to explain his background in aerial filming and how long he has been training for. 

We were handed a very well played out training manual that outlined the whole course. At first it looked very daunting when I saw sections of the course labelled "Weather' and "Clouds" but Tom soon put us at ease. I cannot stress enough how well structured the material was and how Tom approached teaching was a joy to be a part of it. The day was broken up into small sections with many breaks to absorb the information and grab any refreshments that were required. 

Lunch was around 12/1pm depending on how the course was going and we were treated to a fantastic 3 course meal put on by the staff. There was a multitude of options from cold snacks and sandwiches to hot food such as fish pie and lasagne and all the food was included with the course.

After the first day some of the students decided to go to the local to socialise and get to know each other a bit more while other headed to their hotel and revised the material learnt that day. There are a lot of local hotels near by and some are even listed in the welcome pack that is sent prior the start of the course.

The second day was like being at school again knowing that you have an exam at the end of the day. I am not going to lie, I was a bit nervous as I am not good with tests. I kicked off the second day with a large cup of coffee and started to look over my extensive notes from the previous day. Tom outlined the final days work that included a revision period just before the exam. 

As the day went on the nerves started to build but Tom was ensuring we had the tools and the ability to pass with flying colours. After our revision session we had to leave the room as Tom needed to setup the room for a closed book exam. It was like being back at school with strict conditions. We entered the room and sat down while the rules of the exam were explained to us. We were given an hour to take the test but most finished it in around 40 minutes. The test was multiple choice which really made a difference. 

Safe to say all the students passed and thanks to Tom I would definitely recommend the course to anyone wanting to pursue their PfCO. 

Thank you everyone at Aerial Motion for their help and support.

ICARUS Ambassador Ivan Todorov - April Contest Winner!

Ivan has won our sixth Facebook photo contest with his outstanding photograph of the Circus, in Bath.

In return for winning our contest and agreeing to champion the ICARUS course for the next 12 months, he's received a free course worth £999 and is now on his way to earning a PfCO.

As you'll be hearing a lot more from Ivan over the coming months, we thought we'd introduce him through some questions below.

 What drone was used to capture this photo?

The drone I used to capture my photo was the DJI Mavic Pro in 4k.

What other drones do you fly?

None.

Where are you based?

I am based in London/Portsmouth.

What grew your interest in drone technology?

I first became interested in drones because of aerial photography and the amount of opportunities you get by using them. You can use drones for all sorts of commercial purposes for example; agriculture, construction etc..

What’s the most exciting/interesting thing you’ve photographed/filmed from the air?

This has to be Bodiam Castle in East Sussex!

How long have you been flying unmanned aircraft (including model helicopters etc.)?

I have been flying for nearly 6 months now.

What do you plan to do once you gain your PfCO?

Get some commercial work and carry on improving my skills and attracting customers for private events, like weddings and birthday parties as well as construction inspections. 

Do you have a website?

No not yet, but hopefully in the near future. 

ICARUS Ambassador Ricky Evans - Operational Evaluation (Flight Test) Testimonial

April has been another busy month in the development of Rickford Lyndon Aerial! On April the 5th I met up with fellow Icarus Ambassador Raymond Hosie to make the long journey down to Oxford for our flight evaluation and test on the 6th of April. Raymond lives quite a few miles from me and started his journey at 6.30am!!! Luckily for me I didn’t need to leave till after 9! We had spoken a few times via skype about the upcoming test, the equipment we needed and putting together all the paperwork but it wasn’t until we were headed down the M6 suddenly everything started to feel more real. We stayed in a Travelodge just outside Bicester pronounced Bister not bi-ses-ter I was soon to realise! Who said people only struggle with Scottish Pronunciations!! That night we sat and went through our paperwork one last time before trying to get as much rest as possible for the day ahead.

We could not have asked for a better day for the flight test, glorious blue skies with not a hint of wind and not a cloud in sight. Perfect conditions for drone flight! It was good to see the guys at AMP again and Tom quickly sat us down for our morning brief and let us know how the day would go and what would be expected of us. We were given time to set up before the Exam and make any last minute changes before Tom arrived for our on-site briefing.  It was squeaky bum time!!

The evaluation part of the test went well with Tom directing me to take specific shots as set out in our project brief. He was pleased with how I had set up my TOLP and surrounding area, my flight planning and subsequent aircraft checks and flight briefing. We moved onto the dreaded ATTI flight test. The Inspire felt a bit skittish under my controls during the test (maybe it was nervous like me!) and being honest I didn’t feel that I flew it to the best of my abilities but Tom was on hand to give me some pointers on how I can practice to improve and also to let me know that my flying was fine and not to be too hard on myself. When all post flight safety checks had been done Tom got us together and told us we had passed and that AMP would be recommending us for PfCO!! He also gave us great feedback about how we had done in our test and some pointers for the future.

We both said a quick cheerio to Gail, Ella and the rest of the AMP team before we headed back up the road to bonny Scotland!

No sooner had I arrived back home when I received an email from AMP which included all the relevant details for my application to the CAA for PfCo approval. I filled in all the details and sent it away ASAP. I am currently still waiting for the certificate to fall through the door so hopefully sometime in the coming weeks!

In the meantime I’m still trying to put together a website to promote my work and wedding season has begun. I am also speaking to a motorhome company about some promotional material for their website which may well be my first job as a qualified pilot!

 

ICARUS Ambassador Raymond Hosie - Operational Evaluation (Flight Test)

 

Since I wrote my last blog, I'm pleased to say I successfully completed the flight assessment section of my course with Fly Icarus and my application for my PFCO has been sent to the CAA. I can't wait for my PFCO to be issued and begin my career as a UAV pilot.

I also have to thank everyone at Fly Icarus for all their help, the quality of the training was excellent and the whole way through the process of gaining my PFCO the knowledge and expertise they shared along the way has made it so much easier to progress from being a hobby pilot to a commercial operator in the future. 

I highly recommend them to anyone looking at gaining their PFCO.

My Flight Assessment:

Myself and fellow Icarus ambassador Ricky Evans, teamed up to do our flight assessments on the same day at Fly Icarus HQ in Wallingford.

We are both from Scotland and knew each other years ago when we lived in the same small town, so it made sense to join forces for the trip down South.

The journey down the motorway gave us ample time to review our simulated commercial task and our planning, as well as testing each other on our emergency procedures and flight reference cards. Ricky is also very used to filling out risk assessments at his day job, whereas I have never had to use them before, so I used this time to pick his brains and gain as much knowledge as possible for completing them in the future.

By the time we arrived at our hotel near Wallingford I think we were both pretty frazzled with the journey as well as all the revision we'd done, so we decided to chill out for the rest of the evening and be fresh for the morning.

On the morning of the flight assessment, the forecast had been for light winds and some cloud but when we arrived at Fly Icarus the sun was shining bright, barely a breath of wind and hardly a cloud to be seen, I couldn't believe my luck!

We were met by the always friendly Ella at reception, and Tom the instructor. We helped ourselves to tea and coffee and then Tom gave us an outline of the day ahead and what to expect.

So it was then time to head off out to the flying site and complete our pre-flight assessment and risk assessment, Thankfully the only hazards in the field were some friendly cows and the occasional Red Kite overhead. We then returned to the office to report our findings and delivered our task plan and briefing to Tom, happy with our work, we headed back out to the field to complete the practical part of the assessment.

We placed our warning signs at the access points, placed our landing pad and cones out at the take-off & landing point, and prepped my aircraft for the flight.

I decided I would like to go first, I didn't want to wait for Ricky to do his assessment and maybe get more nervous as I watched.

As I said previously, the conditions were as near perfect as you could have asked for, and it made flying the simulated commercial job with in-flight emergencies fairly straightforward. It was then on to do the ATTI mode maneuvers, starting with hovers at different orientations, figure of eights and orbits. Again all of the time spent on practice flights plus the light winds made it relatively easy, it was time then to land and shut down.

Following a tense wait of 20 minutes or so, while Ricky completed his assessment, Tom eventually put us out of our misery letting us know we had both passed! 

I must also commend Fly Icarus for their help in the application process, the information and assistance provided has made the initial application to the CAA a lot less daunting than it could have been. I hope to have my PFCO from the CAA in a few weeks time and I relish the opportunities the future may bring as a result. 

ICARUS Ambassador Adam Blackmore-Heal - Shooting in London

London This month I was fortunate enough to be able to fly in London, specifically Hyde Park. It all started a few months ago, when one of the Officers in my Regiment approached me and asked if it were possible to film the Major General’s Parade. Having never thought about flying in London before, and knowing that the area of London is subject to much more regulation than your average Class D airspace – I said I’d look into it.  After a week of casually asking around different forums, I wasn’t getting very far on the matter. So relating back to the training we received at Icarus, I dug out Information Notice 2014/190, which relates to ͞Small Unmanned Aircraft Operations within London and Other Towns and Cities͟. A comprehensive title if I ever did see. Within the notice, it explains that the area I wanted to fly around was within Restricted Area EG157 (it’s a large chunk of central London extending up to and beyond of Hyde Park). Luckily, it also explains that if I wished to make a flight there I would need to make an application for an ͞Enhanced Non-Standard Flight͟ (ENSF) via the NATs website. The application is easy enough, filling in all the details of where, when, why etc. It states that this has to be done no later than within 28 days of the flight, so did it at the 30 day mark, for fudge factor. I wasn't expecting to hear anything for some time, but within a week I had a reply, yes. They agreed to all but one of the days I had requested for. The agreement from NATs as they say is ͞in principle͟, which means that it can still be cancelled by the relevant authorities at any time.  With the airspace secured, time for the ground. Hyde Park is owned and operated by the Royal Parks. After shooting out an email making my request to one of the liaisons with our work, I eventually got a phone call. After talking them through the purpose of the flight, exact locations etc. They agreed, as long as I could give them in advance my risk assessment and a clear list of my control measures for safety purposes.

Of course, I did this straight away for them and once again I had a yes.  Airspace secured, land owners permission secured... now just to wait for the flight days (I planned to film several rehearsals before the main event). Day one comes, rain. Typical! No worries, two days later and my second opportunity comes around, the wind was on the high side but not beyond the safety limits. After conducting a quick test flight, I felt happy to go ahead. Horse and troops arrive, I take off and start filming. I did require one battery change change mid way through, but luckily there was a lull in the parade when I was able to do this.  Please note that when working with not just horses, but people riding them, it is incredibly important to keep communication with those involved. Also be constantly aware of your distance to them and note any reactions that might seem out of the ordinary.  With the parade ended, and satisfied with the variety of shots I had gained, time to land and pack up. The third day, second time flying, went pretty much the same and allowed me to get a different variety of shots. I did have another day booked in, but it was decided that it wasn't needed, so I utilised the time to get some video from the ground.  Overall, a success. The raw Video was clipped together the same night and sent to the Officers for training purposes. I then made a more creative product that was used on the Regiment’s Facebook page to promote the event. The whole experience from beginning to end went pretty well (other than one rain day). I honestly had been expecting to meet more resistance than I had when flying in restricted airspace within London, but between NATs, Met Police, Diplomatic Protection Group and

London ATC, the whole process was made easy. I must also thank Royal Parks for making their process simple enough.  Granted, I was flying in Hyde Park therefore didn't have the congested area problems someone might have, but if I could give any advice, it would be to make sure you have all your own paper work in order before you start making applications. This will just make the process that much more fluid, it also helps to show the relevant authorities that you know what you're doing.

ICARUS Ambassador Ricky Evans - Operational Evaluation Preparation

So this month I am happy to say that I eventually finished my Operations Manual. It took longer than I was expecting but I was determined to get the wording of certain sections suitable for the work I will be carrying out in the coming months. I have also been preparing job booklets including everything I will need for my first client from pre-site surveys to risk assessments all in one handy booklet that I can take on the job with me.  Another onerous but needed task was preparing my flight reference cards which I would love to say are in handy pocket sized form but sadly my admin skills aren’t up to it so they will have to remain in A4 size for the time being! (Any budding admin peeps feel free to lend a hand!) I’m happy with how everything is looking but I have time to make improvements where needed. I have also now managed to collect all the gear I need to start my business, lipo safe bags, fire extinguishers and all manner of other accessories have been given a new home in the loft alongside my other camera gear!

On top of all the paperwork needed to obtain my PFCO I have also booked my flight test for the start of next month.  Any fine days here in Scotland I have been out practicing my ATTI flying. I’m slowly but surely getting better and flying the flight paths needed for the exam can be a bit tricky, especially in windy conditions, here’s hoping for a good day in Wallingford!! I have done everything I can to get ready so fingers crossed and hopefully in my blog next month I’ll be able to call myself a PFCO holder.

In amongst all this I have managed to do my first wedding of the year and I am busy editing that for my clients as well working on producing logos for my company and a friends. I also threw together a small video of the footage I have been taking whilst practicing with the drone. If you desire you can watch it here…..

 

 

https://vimeo.com/209756193

It’s a mix of drone stuff with some handheld osmo and timelapse with a canon 5d featuring some of my favourite areas around where I live and work 

ICARUS Ambassador Ryan Howell - ICARUS Course Testimonial

I attended Fly Icarus HQ near Oxford towards the end of February to start my journey towards achieving my PfCO with the CAA.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I read as much as I could before I got there, using the Fly Icarus’ websiteand blog entries as a starting point. I’m glad I did, because I felt better prepared for the two day course, as much as I could be anyway!

I travelled there on the morning of the course, arriving early enough to get breakfast and a coffee before heading to the site, which is beautiful!

I was warmly welcomed by Ella and Gail and there was coffee waiting for all of the students.

We were in a fortunate position to have Matt Williams as our course instructor for the two days. Matt is the Company Director and has a huge amount of experience and knowledge on all things aviation. I could pick his brains for days.

The course was very well structured and the pace was perfect, giving us enough time to take things in, ask questions, have discussions and work on some group exercises. The mix of these different things meant that the whole group were engaged the whole time.

All of the students were from a mix of backgrounds, from production, architecture, Armed Forces, Emergency Services and even some foreign students. This variety meant we could all learn something from each other and we did as the course progressed.

I left the course at the end of day two after learning a great deal of knowledge and having a real great understanding of some things I wasn’t sure of before.

Now I just need to work on my Ops Manual and then come back for my flight evaluation.

I’d recommend the course to anyone thinking of working towards the PfCO, it’s clearly a cut above the rest.

ICARUS Ambassador Raymond Hosie - Operational assessment preparation

At the time of writing this blog, I have just a week to go until I sit my operational assessment and the nerves are starting to build slightly.

I have, however, been out practicing as much as the Scottish weather has allowed. The switch in mindset from being a hobby flier to that of a future commercial pilot has been the biggest change for me. 

I was so used to just grabbing my backpack with the Phantom inside, whenever the weather was good, and just heading out wherever I wanted to fly. My only concern was that I had a battery or two charged and the area is was intending to fly in wasn't going to be in breach the 50m rule. 

In fact, I only realized a few weeks ago that in almost 3 years of flying DJI Phantoms, my Go app had not recorded a single flight, I'd never checked it! 

I hadn't signed in correctly to the logbook section of the app, and I had no record of my flight time at all, not good!

This is where the training and the fundamentals taught by Fly Icarus have changed my whole approach to flying the quadcopter, whether it's just for a hobby flight or going forward for future aerial work. 

I now sit before each flight and take the time to research the site, double checking my distances and any potential hazards. I have been taking all the ancillary equipment with me too, and setting up as if on a commercial job. So the cones are out, landing pad in place as well as warning signs.

The quadcopter is now checked over thoroughly, where as before a quick glance would do.

The flight times and battery logs are updated at the end of each flight and all the other relevant housekeeping duties done also.

While at first it seemed a lot to go through just to get the bird in the air, practice and repetition has made the whole process fairly quick to get through , and I now have my own wee system mapped out for use in the future. 

In terms of the flying, I've almost exclusively used ATTI mode for each flight. I've lost count of the amount of figure of eights I've done,  plus orbits, hovering at different orientations and the big one for me landing manually. I always used hand catch the drone for fear of it tipping over on landing, but I'm pretty confident in landing on the pad now without any issues. 

As I stated before I'd unknowingly not been logging my flights previously, so I could only guess how much flight time I've amassed in three years. The last 6 weeks however I've managed to log 17 flights and just over 3 hours in the air! Which I hope will be enough to see me through on assessment day. 

Hopefully my next blog post will be as a newly qualified pilot!