Category Archives: Drone Operator

Drone Course Offers PWK Pilots New Opportunities

Vortex Drone session, 5/30/15 at Atlantic Aviation, PWK.

Vortex drone demonstration by Vortex UAS at Atlantic Aviation, PWK

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The notice that Vortex UAS was going to hold an introductory course for drone pilots at Atlantic Aviation on Chicago Executive Airport confused some and concerned others.

Vince Donohue, a corporate pilot and president of Vortex UAS efficiently explained that as the rules exist today, to be used for commercial, for-hire purposes, a drone must be operated by an FAA certificated pilot.

Nodding toward his multi-rotor and fixed wing drones on the table, Donohue said their operation had little in common with the aircraft the half-dozen pilots in the course flew. But drones are aircraft that operate in the National Airspace System, and the participants’ pilot certification demonstrated their knowledge of FAA regulations—and first-hand experience—of operating in it.

The educational goal of the 4-hour course was to introduce the pilots to the growing aviation opportunities drones represent. The participants were evenly divided between recent and just-about-to-graduate collegiate aviators and veterans a generation older. Donohue explained the history of drones, the elements of unmanned aerial vehicles, and the components of an unmanned aircraft system, which includes the ground control station.

Addressing the legal landscape, Donohue said commercial drone operations exist today, work under case-by-case approvals, which his company will soon receive from the FAA. Flying them is a part-time opportunity, but that will change significantly when the FAA issues the final drone operating rules in the next year or so.

Before addressing current drone technology, their capabilities, and coming career opportunities, Donohue demonstrated the precise control of two camera-equipped multi-rotor drones in an adjacent hangar. One of them barely filled his hand. In the classroom, videos demonstrated a number of drone applications that shared the safe and economical flight of various sensors that accomplish hundreds of different missions.

Vortex UAS has three missions, Donohue said, training pilots to operate drones, to facilitate commercial drone missions, and to advocate for their safe and efficient integration into aviation. As it does in other industries and aspects of aviation, success in the infant drone industry hinges on the unified employment of knowledge and skills, networking, and experience, said Donohue. Vortex UAS offers all three, with expanding opportunities now that the company has earned its 333 exemption from the FAA.

Vortex’s next drone pilot class begins at KPWK on September 19. More information’s available at the VortexUAS training site.