What skills are required to be a good drone pilot?
Hand-eye coordination is a must. It’s a particular strength we see in younger generations given their experience with video games and other digital technology. It’s simply amazing to see how fast they catch on – it’s second nature to them.
I think patience is important too. It’s a pretty fun job – but there’s a lot riding on it. You have a lot of responsibility because you’re there to get good quality data and to get it back to the business as quickly as possible. I love the job – but there’s a lot more involved than people think.
What does your typical day look like?
The first thing I do is make sure all the drones are ready to go for the day. I go through a checklist and function-test the drones. It’s like an assembly line – drones come in, get serviced and then go back out.
I then look at the jobs that need to be done and assign them to pilots, who are briefed and then sent out on the mission. We’re constantly getting requests and prioritising jobs. The pilots are coming and going throughout the day.
Once each mission is complete, the pilots come back in and we process the data and send it on to the relevant team. A lot of the information we send out is in the form of 3D models or “Point Clouds” of the pit that are accurate within centimetres.
I also conduct training – even fully qualified pilots need a refresher. After pilots have been out in the field for a certain amount of time they undergo remedial training. We also need to train pilots on how to operate new models and how to do certain jobs they may not have done before.
There’s also quite a bit of paperwork involved – we need to update our standard operating procedures, conduct risk assessments and undertake quality control checks to ensure our activities are meeting all necessary rules and regulations.