Top tips for hiring a drone operator
Drones are an efficient, cost-effective way of capturing aerial footage and photographs. But making use of this technology is still an investment, and you want to make sure you’re hiring the right person to do the job – an operator who won’t just help you achieve an outstanding end result, but who’s also got all their ducks in a row when it comes to safety and compliance.
So, before you pick a drone pilot to work with, carefully evaluate their credentials and ability to do the job by first asking the candidate the following six pertinent questions.
QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE HIRING A DRONE OPERATOR
1.ARE YOU SACAA-APPROVED?
Before anyone can legally fly a drone for commercial purposes, they need to obtain the proper (recognised) training and acquire the relevant accreditations and certifications, including a Remote Pilot’s Licence (RPL), a Remote Operating Certificate (ROC) and a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) licence. All drones being used for business purposes also have to be officially registered. Failure to obtain these approvals and remain on the right side of the law could lead to harsh fines from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), so you definitely don’t want to work with an operator who hasn’t made compliance a priority. Plus, without the above, you also can’t trust that the candidate is going to achieve the desired results for you.
2. ARE YOU COVERED BY INSURANCE?
Operating a drone is an inherently risky endeavour. Accidents happen, and when they do, they can cause significant damage to property and seriously injure people on the ground. Make sure that the drone operator you choose has a public liability insurance policy that’s comprehensive and current, and that’ll cover any mishaps that might arise during the execution of your project.
3. WHAT SORT OF HARDWARE DO YOU HAVE?
Drone technology is constantly evolving, so you want to make sure that your service provider has the latest and greatest hardware available, along with all the required accessories and equipment for your project and its unique needs. Do research into the kind of gear you might need to successfully achieve your objectives – be it a high-performance zoom camera, 4K aerial filming equipment or state-of-the art multispectral and thermal vision sensors – so you can specifically ask the operator whether this sort of hardware exists in their product inventory.
4. HOW EXTENSIVE IS YOUR EXPERIENCE IN MY INDUSTRY?
Operating a drone for aerial mapping or surveillance purposes is very different to flying one to capture live stream footage from above a large public event. Each sector brings its own unique challenges and opportunities, so ideally you want to work with someone who has experience doing something at least fairly similar to what you’re hoping to achieve. It means they’ll be aware of the specific risks involved and know how to navigate all the unique idiosyncrasies that come with shooting from a drone in your industry. Plus, if aerial filming or photography is required, you’ll want to know that they’re highly proficient in capturing and producing quality images and footage, too. The best way to get a feel for a drone operator’s skills and specialities? Ask to see samples of their previous work.
5. WHAT’S INCLUDED IN YOUR FEE?
When comparing the services of different drone operators, you’re naturally going to want to know about the costs involved. But don’t base your decision on the package price given before asking additional questions, like “Does your fee include VAT and cover travel and accommodation expenses, if there are any?”, “Will I be required to cover the costs of extra batteries and spares, if these are needed?”, “What are the costs involved if the projects runs over the allocated number of hours?”. Doing a bit of extra digging will give you a much better sense of how much a particular operator’s services are really going to set you back, and this way, you can do a more accurate comparison.
6. IS MY PROJECT DOABLE, AND WILL SPECIAL APPROVAL HAVE TO BE OBTAINED?
Even operators that are legally allowed to fly drones for business purposes are still bound by certain limitations and will need to get special permission in order to operate UAVs in controlled airspace, within 50 metres of buildings or people, or within 10 kilometres of an airport. Check that the pilot you choose is able to secure this approval for you, and discuss all the particulars of the job with them to ascertain whether they’re capable of devising a plan to achieve your goals.
Currently looking for a drone operator that ticks all the boxes? Talk to us. We are fully licensed and insured, and can connect you with reputable accredited drone operators in your area who have extensive aerial filming and photography experience and all the right hardware to get the job done.