FPV Australia (one of our fantastic sponsors) offered recently to put Paul through one of their Flight Schools so that he can become a commercial Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Pilot. This certification means that Paul can capture images with his DJI Mavic Pro in areas where a hobbyist cannot fly.
The training was really thorough, as you would expect, considering that FPV Australia is certified by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to provide this course. Paul learnt heaps thanks to his instructor, Jason. The training included navigation, airband radio use, emergency procedures, charging batteries, weather predicting, aeronautical terminology, legislation and much more. It was the first time in nearly 18 months that Paul has had to concentrate full time on a course. He enjoyed it, but it was not without its challenges to his anxiety.
Luna joined Paul for the training and was a huge hit with the other students. Of course, as Paul was still on crutches for the first two days of the course, it was difficult for him to take Luna outside for toilet breaks, but thankfully the students kept offering to take Luna out at every break. In fact it appeared to be a competition as to who was going to offer first and take Luna for a walk! At one stage there was a tie so Alex and Zoe both took her out. Of course, Luna was not used to be without Paul, and on the first day of being taken outside by one of the course students, Luna zipped away and headed back inside towards Paul. The students trying to help, freaked out thinking that they had lost Paul’s assistance dog. As soon as Luna found Paul (inside the building), she dropped by his side and stayed there. Everyone was amazed at the bond between Paul & Luna, and her insistence on being next to him as much as possible. Of course, she’s not a pet, she’s trained for a specific purpose and was on duty.
Luna was also a huge hit with the staff at Club Marconi and the Star Buffet. It was great that FPV Australia had informed the club and restaurant that Luna was going to be there, so it was relatively stress free for Paul. The staff were fantastic with Luna and were all looking forward to seeing her each day.
As part of the training, Paul and the rest of the students had to fly a DJI Phantom and also perform the role of Spotter. This practical time was not about playing with the RPAS, but it was about honing our skills to become professional pilots.
Interestingly Luna, who loves to try to catch drones, behaved during the practical flying sessions. As you can see from one of the photos, there was one unit directly behind her and yet she stayed where she was told and performed the role of spotter perfectly.
Thanks to the excellent training, Paul was able to pass all the tests (aeronautical theory and practical RPAS flying) which means he is closer to gaining his Aeronautical Radio Operator Certificate (AROC), Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) and RPA Operator’s Certificate (ReOC). All we are waiting on now is the paperwork from CASA confirming that Paul is now a licenced RPA Pilot. We were also very pleased to hear that Luna had been accepted as an honorary student and actually received her own certificate when we visited their head office in Yass!
For Paul, drones are no longer a toy, but a tool of trade that will be used at every opportunity to capture what we are doing whilst on our event, and hopefully Paul will be able to pick up some freelance work to help us fund this journey that we are on. Now that Paul has completed this training, his letter to Santa includes list of bigger RPA such as the DJI Phantom 4 Pro or a DJI Inspire 1 or 2 Pro (or similar), so that he can capture the best quality images and video that he can. Kirstine isn’t sure if Santa’s elves produce them at the North Pole, but she’ll put the stamp on the letter for Paul anyway!
John, Chantal, Kim and Jason, THANK YOU for all your support of not only our event, but for supporting Paul through his training. He never felt like “just a number” on the course, and even when his anxiety had him struggling during the day (or panicking the night before), you made sure procedures were in place to ensure he had the best experience possible. He passed, and we are eternally grateful to you all.