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Part 1: My Journey from Drone Hobbyist to Part 107 Pilot

11 mins
Drone Blog
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Today, were taking a flight back to the past, so aim right for that electric fog that mysteriously popped up out of nowhere and let’s get going.

For myself, the journey to becoming a Part 107 UAS Pilot began several years ago. To be more precise, it was in 2016, shortly after Part 107 came into effect.

I was among the first ten-thousand hobbyist pilots to take the initial Part 107 test. I scored a 98%. I missed the one on MOA or Military Operation Areas.

To this day, believe me, if I had that one question come up again, I’d nail it.

Since that time, I’ve had to take the recurrent test a few times. I’ll say I’ve retained the information well.

This isn’t about now though; this is about the past, and what led me to the choice of moving from a hobbyist to a Part 107 pilot.

My Pre-Drone Background #

For myself, I was looking for something more exciting and newer in my life. Call it a mid-life crisis if you want.

I was doing well on my current course, which was that of an eBay Seller. I specialized in vintage/retro items with a splattering of antiques.

You’d be surprised at how well 1940s and 1950s small kitchen appliances sell.

It was one of those side gig sorts of things when it started but ended up being more than a full-time job, with an average day consisting of shipping 30 to 50 items and always listing and sourcing new ones, working from a 3400 sqft warehouse that was crammed full.

It had gotten to the point where it was overwhelming. I had to make some tough decisions, such as do I hire someone to help? Is it sustainable? Did I even want to continue doing it?

After all, it was going on ten years, and I did just recently discover something new, and it was exciting, and the potential was there for it to really become something.

Now delving even deeper into my past, I grew up with a few things.

One was a great mother and father who worked very hard to provide a good life. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

My mom was professionally trained as a teacher but had always had a love of photography.

So, when an area Portrait Studio came up for sale, she and my dad bought it, and it was a family business for several years.

This means that even as a small child, I was working around cameras and helping around the studio. Which eventually led to being an assistant on shoots as I grew older.

So, photography had been in my blood since those early days.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of eBay selling was taking the listing photos and the return to photography.

My Dad on the other hand was a Tool and Dieist by trade and a carpenter by love.

There was no project too small or too large for my dad. He had me building and helping him on projects my whole life till his passing.

We had built a few homes from a hole in the ground to remodeling several others. It was his influence that led to me becoming a professional flooring installer and later a Fire and Water Restorationist.

These are the jobs I did prior to the eBay thing.

The thought of going back to one of those jobs was just nightmarish. Not when you had found what I found in that something exciting and new.

» MORE: Commercial Drone Pilots in USA (Ultimate Guide)

Exciting and New! #

That something new and exciting was drones. From the first moment I picked up a controller and attempted my first flight, I was hooked.

Right at that moment, it was like I had found myself, finally.

First off, you need to remember this was 2011, 2012 right in there. Drones were all the rave at the time, and new prospects for their use were everywhere.

Things have changed quite a bit since then. The drones we were seeing in those days were junk, really, they were.

They lacked just about everything we’ve now grown accustomed to seeing in a new modern-day drone system.

No, those drones took some real skill just to keep them in the air, let alone actually fly them in any controlled fashion.

They lacked any form of obstacle avoidance or autonomous flight modes.

Most didn’t even have a camera, as stable flight was unheard of at that time. They were just pricey toys.

That changed, though when DJI introduced the Phantom. From the first time I saw it advertised, I wanted one.

So, I scrimped and saved, and by the time I had enough to make the purchase, the Phantom 2 was already released.

This led to me purchasing the Phantom 2 Vision+.

At that time, and with that new piece of amazing technology, I knew that drones and droning was something I wanted to keep in my life.

It opened up a means of seeing the world through a whole different set of eyes.

No more were we limited to fighting the flight for every second, and anyone could see then the potential these devices had.

Looking back now, it’s sort of comparing a gaming system to a Commodore 64, I suppose. Back then, though, it’s what really led the way for drone industrialization.

In 2015, the Phantom 3 really showed just how game-changing these devices could be and it was around that time drones became more mainstream.

They were gaining in popularity, and the technology had advanced light years from just that of a few years before.

I skipped the Phantom 3. I was still learning to fly and do the things I wanted to do with my Phantom 2 and making another investment like that just wasn’t possible.

It was through the Phantom 3 line that we saw the most improvements made in a single system and the first time we were introduced to a 4K system.

Very exciting times for all of us back then.

» MORE: Become a Commercial Drone Pilot in 6 Easy Steps (Beginners Guide)

Changes a Coming #

It was also through this period that commercialization started to gain steam. One of the first industries to adopt drone use was that of real estate.

Realtors everywhere were coming on board to the idea that these types of aerial photos would really help in selling a property or home.

This was a good time to be a drone pilot, as the technology was so new and there were only so many people to have it and be able to use it.

Demand was ridiculous, and you could name your price.

It was a quickly inflating bubble that would only be short-lived as more and more people gained an interest.

These were also the days when there wasn’t any distinction between a Hobbyist and a Commercial drone pilot, as this was a time prior to the implementation of the Part 107 rules.

Although there was a means of flying commercially even then through a Section 333 waiver, it was a lengthy and convoluted means of a type of waiver.

As a matter of fact, although there were some rules on the books, such as the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, there was no real pushing of those rules in any way.

It’s one of the reasons for this period of drones being referred to as the wild west of droning.

Many of the rules we have today, stem from the need then to reel us drone pilots back in.

As a pilot who was there, I can tell you, we goofed it all up. It was new, and the rules hadn’t caught up to us yet.

A concept such as safety was not one of the primary focus points for us back then, although it should have been.

Flying over crowds, not even a second thought. We were flying everywhere back then and doing a lot of things that, well, we can no longer do. We’ll leave it at that.

The fact is we were like kids in a candy store, and the regulations that came from us acting like that were not only justified but they were also needed if drones were to become a real part of the National Airspace system.

To elevate themselves from more than just some person flying a toy for fun.

Those of us in those days saw the writing on the wall and knew these devices were the future.

None of us could tell you precisely what that future might be, just that in the future, there would be drones.

Some, like Elon Musk, saw drone delivery. Others, more down-to-earth types, saw continued use and growth in real estate, which it has.

Others saw use for blockbuster video production, which it has.

The uses much like then are still being found today, with more and more uses for drone technology being discovered even now.

» MORE: How to Become a Commercial Drone Pilot (in 7 Easy Steps)

The Part 107 #

As I come from the period before it was implemented, studying and obtaining my Part 107 was always on my list of things to achieve since I first heard of it.

It wasn’t about the one term in there about “In the furtherance of a business,” although it did play a part in my consideration for getting it quickly, as I had already performed some paid work and was thinking of pursuing that even further.

No, for me, it was about being recognized for the long way that I had come.

It was about knowing that you know what you need to, to be considered knowledgeable in the subject.

It was an opportunity to be seen and acknowledged by your peers, much like a high school or college graduation.

It was an achievable goal to set and then to achieve. Which in turn opens a world of new possibilities.

It all started with the publication of a 624-page document by the FAA, the Office of the Secretary of Transportaion and the Department of Transportation.

This document, worthy of a page count of a masterpiece novel such as War and Peace, had none of the fine writing skills such an author would have employed.

Nope! It was a dredging 624-page legalese document that only those at Harvard Law School would be proud of.

Contained within it, though, were the newest rules for a drone pilot.

Those safety and operational requirements are basically the same drone laws that have been in place for hobbyists since 2012. 

Part 107 merely relaxes the more stringent rules of commercial drone flights and allows the FAA time to observe the safety and public impact of commercial drone deployment.

It was ground-breaking and finally allowed an easy-to-access system for commercial drone operations.

Taking the Test #

One of the hardest parts about the Part 107 back then was finding the study material.

This was before Greg over a Pilot Institute or Jason at Remote Pilot 101 had even opened up their training programs.

There were a few places where reliable information could be found, and that was about it, with far more just looking to gain access to your wallet.

I spent many a long night pouring over sectional charts and trying to understand them or figuring out the code writing of a METAR.

Then there was the moment of scheduling my test, and finding the nearest location for a testing center, in my case, roughly 60 miles away at an airport.

I remember the drive, second-guessing every answer to every supposed question.

I was nervous, so very nervous. The idea of failure lingered in the back of my mind. Then I was through the doors in a small waiting area.

I had signed in, and they were about the call me into the testing room.

In a room with four ancient computers, I was told to have a seat, and the rules of the test were explained.

Away I was into analyzing every question and providing the answer my research had stated was correct. Then, it was done. Pass or Fail, I had taken the Part 107 exam.

In a very short while, the test administrator came out from her office and I was certain the news was bad.

There was no reading the woman’s expression, as she crossed the short distance from her office to the main counter.

She called my name to come up to the counter, and when I got up there, she gave me the warmest largest smile ever and said, “Congratulations, you passed with a 98% percent, one of the best scores we’ve had.

You missed one question. Here’s your temporary certificate. You’ll receive your actual certificate in the mail.”

I was ecstatic; I had done it and was now a Part 107 UAS pilot. It was official.

The drive home was bright and joyful, and the doors of a new life were opening.

Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!

» MORE: Drone Jobs – How to Find Work as a Commercial Drone Pilot


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