5 Questions to Ask Your Drone Pilot
Thinking about hiring a drone pilot for the first time? Here are 5 questions you should ask your drone pilot!
1) Can I See Your License?
It never ceases to amaze me how many times I've been hired for a drone shoot without a single person asking to see my shiny FAA Part 107 license. It's disappointing in a way, especially since I would love to show it off from time to time. But if you're hiring a drone pilot you should most certainly ask to see that little green FAA card. After all, if it doesn't exist or it's expired you may be hiring an unlicensed and uninsured drone pilot! Since there's no picture you'll probably want to see some identification as well. I would make a photo copy of the license and verify the information against identification, but personally for the sake of liability I wouldn't necessarily make a copy of the drivers license unless you have a pretty secure environment.
TIP: A drone pilot is REQUIRED to carry their Part 107 license and any applicable waivers with them when flying!
TIP: Pilots Licenses don't have an expiration date, so do an additional check against the FAA Airman Registry to make sure their license is valid ( https://amsrvs.registry.faa.gov/airmeninquiry/ )
2) Can I See Your Insurance?
Insurance is another item that I'm completely shocked I've never been asked to provide. Now, to be fair, many drone pilots use on-demand insurance through services like Verifly that are valid for the area and duration specified. This insurance often ranges from $10 to $25 per hour depending on a variety of factors. Considering a lot of drone jobs are only netting around $100 per hour, that's a major cut for insurance, and you might understand why some drone pilots would prefer to skip the insurance from time to time. If they have insurance they should be able to provide it to you, or ask them to send you a receipt at the end of the flight so that you can be sure you're covered.
3) Do You Have Safety Gear?
This might not apply to a realtor getting some impressive aerials of that mountaintop mansion, but if you're in construction or work in a commercial environment then you'll want to make sure your pilot has appropriate safety gear. In some cases this might just be a yellow vest, and in other cases this might be cones to section off a landing zone, a hard hat, boots, and anything else required by the site. Make sure your pilot has these things. If they don't that's okay, just let them know what's required for your site.
4) What Kind of Airspace Is This?
This is a test question. Any professional drone pilot should be able to tell you about the airspace. They may not recall exactly if it's Class G or Class B at 5,000 feet, but they should be able to tell you the direction of any nearby airports, hospitals, schools, and stadiums. If they give you a dumbfounded look the flight might be in violation of several laws or in some serious grey territory. You won't be expected to know if the answer is correct or not, but ideally the pilot should overwhelm you with information about the area.
5) What's the Weather Like Today?
As part of the Part 107 process drone pilots are required to learn quite a bit about aviation weather. Personally I think it's overkill since weather is more important to a manned flight that require a runway and favorable conditions to land, but there are a few things the pilot should know. Any drone pilot should be able to tell you the wind conditions (calm, breezy, gusty), cloud coverage, and visibility. Wind is the biggest challenge to drone pilots, so most of us will be able to give you a pretty clear analysis of that. However, low clouds or limited visibility may mean the flight is not allowed.