5 Components for a Drone Training Program
Drone operations are deceptively challenging. It's easy enough to get a toy from Amazon, charge some batteries and start zipping around your house. Now try doing that in an industrial setting. Try doing that every day. Try doing that every day 30 times a day. Drone operations get problematic. Fast.
Drone pilots need training, just like every other skill and judgment-based position in the professional world. But where do you start? The instruction manual that may or may not come with your aircraft? These are all readily asked questions we hear from our clients as the requirement for a drone program becomes more prevalent in various industries. At HAZON, we advocate for and consistently recommend a training program with 5 critical components.
Below is a breakdown of 5 components that comprise a successful drone training program.
Regulatory TrainingThe FAA Part 107 in the US didn't do us any favors regarding on-going training. It effectively set the barrier to entry into the unmanned systems business at a relatively low purely knowledge-based level, a rather significant departure from FAA norms where qualitative skill-based assessments have been the rule for years. That said, Part 107 must be trained to, passing the exam is table stakes in the business. There is also certain discrete regulation based items that should be regularly trained to, airspace integration for instance. These items tend to evolve rapidly and are difficult to keep up with without dedicated attention, time and effort.
Flight Operations TrainingWhen most people think of drone program training, what they're thinking about is the flight training. We recommend a hands-on approach and a progressive training model in which skills build throughout the syllabus. We also recommend a tiered structure that includes a solid foundation of basic training followed by advanced flight training that’s specific to your industry needs. Additionally, some organizations have elected to adopt the manned aviation practice of IOEs or Initial Operating Experience flights. In these scenarios, a senior operator or instructor accompanies a newer pilot on their first few production jobs or flights. The goal is to provide a safety backstop, minimize skill atrophy post training and re-enforce standards established in initial training.
Maintenance TrainingYour drones will break…that is as certain as death and taxes. If you expect to maintain a high utilization rate, your teams absolutely must be prepared to do some field maintenance. Additionally, routine inspections are a part of every professional drone operation, training on what to look for is critical to success here.
Software TrainingEquip your drone team with sufficient software training. Drone teams will have several different interfacing software packages. The team will use software to interface with the aircraft, software to pull and analyze data and perhaps even GIS software to store and recall data. There's a lot to it. Efficient utilization of your well trained and equipped teams is paramount; software training will increase their efficiency without a doubt.
Re-Current TrainingTraining atrophies over time. There have been countless studies. Hard skills are difficult to retain even when routinely practiced. Standards devolve without routine revisits into inefficient norms or worse yet, bad habits. Periodic retraining, re-standardization or refreshers can help minimize these negative trends. Setting and clearly communicating a re-current training plan will also reinforce a company's culture of training, safety and professionalism.
Incorporating these 5 components into your drone program will ensure ongoing mission success. At HAZON, we’ve partnered with many clients in various industries to assist in the evaluation and implementation of their emerging UAS program.