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Expert Interview Series: Abby Speicher of DARTdrones Flight School on the Benefits of Professional Flight Training

Professional flights

Abby Speicher is the CEO and Co-founder of DARTdrones, a national flight school for drone pilots. We recently asked her a few questions about drone technology and the benefits of professional flight training. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us about DARTdrones. What services do you offer?

DARTdrones is the only national flight school for drone pilots offering courses in 36 cities via our 27 expert flight instructors who together have over 250 years of aviation experience. We currently offer courses for hobbyists, commercial users, and police and fire departments.

Who are you serving? What types of people/industries have you found are most interested in drone flight training?

Due to current regulations, we focused primary on recreational users. The FAA is supposed to change the rules for commercial drone operators within the next month. We have made a major shift in our company to offer more custom tailored courses for corporate clients and police and fire departments as the regulations change.

What are some of the most unique or innovative uses of drone technology have you’ve found people or businesses using?

Many police and fire departments are starting to realize the lifesaving potential of drones. By adding a FLIR camera to the bottom of the drone, police and fire fighters can search for missing persons, find hotspots in fires and get better situational awareness.

Why should drone pilots consider getting professional flight training?

Many people assume that its easy to fly a drone, and in some ways it is very easy. The difficult part is when this complex technology suffers from an error or the pilot gets in over their head. The drones are such advanced technology that new drone pilots need to understand all of its capabilities to fly is safely. Also, many insurance companies are requiring professional flight training.

What flight concepts should all drone pilots understand?

All drone pilots need to have an understanding of aviation and airspace, emergency procedures, and fully understand the complexities of their equipment.

What do you find are the biggest misunderstandings novice drone pilots have about flying their devices?

The biggest mistake is pilot disorientation. Most models are designed to be flown with FPV, First Person View. When using FPV, if you face the camera towards you and move the drone left, it will go to the right. It takes a lot of practice to learn how to fly FPV and it causes many people to panic and crash during their first few flights.

What are the risks to pilots for not having a complete understanding of their drones?

Like any technology, drones experience glitches. Without professional training, most new drone pilots have no idea how to respond and regain control during one of these glitches. Our classes teach new drone pilots how to respond in an emergency.

How can drones be damaged by inexperienced/untrained pilots?

Many people that come to our class admit that they are on their second or third drone. Many new pilots crash into trees, lakes, pools or their own home. After replacing their $1,000 drone twice, they start to realize the importance of professional training.

Why should individuals and businesses consider purchasing insurance for their drones?

For commercial users, insurance will be a requirement, not just an option. Hobbyists however can be covered by becoming a member of the AMA, Academy of Model Aeronautics.

What considerations should they make when shopping for insurance?

Right now, commercial drone insurance is very expensive. We pay up to $1,200 for a year of insurance on a $1,200 Phantom. Liability insurance will not cover drone flights. Drones are considered aircraft and will require specific aviation insurance.

Learn more about our policies for UAVs and drones.

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