Top 10 steps you can take becoming a drone pilot in Vancouver
Being a drone pilot in Vancouver can be an incredibly rewarding and fun career choice. There are a ton of opportunities to generate a substantial income if you target the right clients and develop the skills to deliver exceptional value. In this post, we will discuss the top 10 things we’ve learned along the way and how we’ve built a successful drone photography company from the ground up. Pun…intended.
#1 Choose your industry
There are countless sectors you could potentially work in as a drone pilot in Vancouver. From real estate, to surveying & mapping, lidar, photogrammetry, film & photography, inspections, agriculture, construction, energy – the list goes on. The first step would be figuring out which industry interests you most. Choose one that you’re passionate about or already have some natural talent in,
#2 Job shadow another drone pilot in Vancouver
A quick Google search will bring up which drone companies in your area are working in the industry you’re interested in. Do a little research. Find out who the owners are of each company and reach out to them. Tell them you’re interested in learning more about becoming a drone pilot and ask if you can attend a shoot to volunteer as a ground supervisor. All you have to do here is keep your eyes on the drone so the pilot can focus on flying. You’ll learn all about safety procedures, take off and landing and experience how a crew operates in a real environment.
#3 Know the regulations
Before you attempt flying a drone in Canadian airspace make sure you understand all the regulations from Transport Canada. They consider a drone to be an aircraft, and you – a pilot. That means you’ll have to familiarize yourself with weight and altitude limits along and airspace classifications. The fines for operating a drone illegally in Canada are hefty, plus you wouldn’t want to endanger the lives of anyone on the ground or any other aircraft in the air. Don’t do anything stupid!
#4 Get your drone pilot certificate
In order to fly a drone that weighs 250 grams legally in Canada, you’ll need to at least have a basic drone pilot certificate. You can find everything you need to know about the small basic exam here. However, in order to work as a commercial drone pilot in Vancouver you will definitely require an advanced operations certificate. This will require taking a course from a drone flight school, studying, passing a written exam, and completing an in person flight review with an examiner. You will have to demonstrate your knowledge of meteorology, aircraft systems, navigation, human factors, air law, radiotelephony, flight operations and theory of flight. You can find more information on the exam for advanced operations here.
#5 Buy a drone
In order to get started, you’ll obviously need to learn how to operate and fly a drone. We would recommend purchasing the DJI Mini 3 Pro. This drone comes in under 250 grams, meaning you won’t require a license to learn how to fly it. It’s the perfect drone to learn on. It’s also relatively inexpensive so if you crash it, you won’t break the bank. We will get into learning to fly and walk you through the basics of setting it up in a future blog.
#6 Register your drone
This is a very basic step and can be done in 5 minutes or less on the Transport Canada website here. The fee is $5 and is a legal requirement for any drone weighing above 250 grams. Don’t forget to register!
#7 Get insurance
If you’re serious about being a drone pilot in Vancouver you will most definitely need to purchase insurance. In the case of an accident it’s important to have liability insurance to protect you and your client. Coverdrone is an insurance company specializing in drone insurance who we would highly recommend. You should also create an account with WorkSafeBC so that you are covered in the event of an accident on a construction site.
#8 Incorporate your company
Due to the risks and liability associated with flying a drone commercially we would recommend setting up your company as a corporation rather than a sole proprietor This essentially means that should anything happen and you end up getting sued, your personal assets are protected. The corporation is a separate legal entity and provides limited liability. Also, the tax rates are lower.
#9 Create a website
If you want to wow potential clients with your awesome work this one is a no brainer. You’ll have to create a sleek and modern site to show off your skills. We recommend purchasing a domain name that eludes to the services you offer, and then use WordPress or Squarespace to create your site. The steep learning curve of website building is worth the effort. Figure out how to do it yourself. You will likely be uploading new work to your site monthly, so you want to be able to do this whenever you want. Otherwise, you have to rely on someone else and their schedule – which is not ideal. Nobody will care as much about keeping your site updated and running smoothly as you, so be prepared to do it all.
Take every opportunity you can to fly your drone. It needs to become an extension of yourself. Become a smooth operator. Fine tune your skills so that every movement is just a small correction and not abrupt or jarring. Imagine that you’re a real pilot carrying mini passengers aboard your drone. You want to give them the smoothest flight possible so nobody throws up in your cockpit and ruins your day. Most likely, the first few jobs you will get (and a good entry point) as a drone pilot in Vancouver will be shooting for realtors. And nobody wants to watch a jerky video. Even the smallest little bump of imperfection will be noticeable and scream novice filmmaker. Buttery smooth is the key. Try to incorporate multiple movements in a few of your shots. For example, increase in altitude while moving left, yawing to the right and panning the camera down while staying locked on a subject. Shots like this are dynamic and fun to watch for the viewer. However, don’t over to it. Keep most shots to one or two slow movements in order to get that cinematic vibe. Less is usually more. We will do another in depth post on film and camera settings for the ultimate cinematic shots, along with some basic drone moves that your clients will love. Flying smoothly is just the first part – you will also need to become an expert at all things film and photography. Remember, your drone is really just a tool to get your camera into the right place.