What first sparked your interest in drones?
I began flying a remote control aircraft when I was about 3 years old with my father, who is a professional pilot. I grew up surrounded by model aircrafts and soon developed a deep passion for aviation. When I was 3, my dad set me up on a simulator on the computer and I practised continually until he let me fly a real RC plane outside. At around 6 years old, I became the youngest RC pilot in Australia. During late high school, I was thinking about how I could turn my passion for model planes into a career. I was introduced to Paul, who owned a drone business in Adelaide, and knew instantly that I wanted to pursue working with drones. These days, I fly anything from small racing drones to jets with real turbine engines burning jet fuel the same as a Qantas plane would!
How would you describe a typical work day?
There's no standard day for a drone pilot; whether you're on a gas plant or completing aerial surveys of a river system, there's always something exciting in store. Most days start off with a pre start meeting to ensure everyone is up to date with what’s happening during the day. Final checks are required for all preparation paperwork, location drawings and equipment before mobilising from the office to the job site. Weather updates are also checked.
Once on site with the gear assembled, we run through a pre-flight checklist and evaluate the area for any potential risks that we haven't already implemented controls for. Once we are sure the operation is safe to continue, the flying can begin. Post operation, we check over the equipment to ensure there was no damage caused before packing it away. In the office we begin the data transfer of information; whether it be regular high resolution photos, thermography, GPS data or LiDAR laser scanning. Handling the digital data is a systematic process as we sometimes capture 20 to 30 gig of data per day. Recharging the batteries and any daily reporting occurs before we go home to do it all again the next day.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
One of the things I enjoy the most about being a UAV pilot in a high paced industrial environment is the variety. Drones can cover a relatively large area of asset over one day, and before we know it, we’re off to the next job which could be completely different. With technology changing so quickly, there’s always new bits of kit coming onto the market that can help our operation become quicker, smarter, more efficient or capture completely new information.
Any finals words?
People often ask me if I've ever worked a day in my life playing with my toy helicopters – there's definitely still tough days but I wouldn't want to do anything else!