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Are you a Pilot or an Aviator?

Cookedinlh

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I'm doing some writing on the difference between "pilot's" and "aviators" which can be quite stark if you consider newbie drone operators (Aerial Camera operators) and seasoned commercial flyers who do it for a living with jobs like Police Fire and rescue, construction survey, geo-mapping or Agriculture, mining or cinematography, for example. If were already a pilot when you started flying drone or you've grown up around aviation, it's different than getting one for your birthday or your Real Estate business and learning to fly by watching YouTube videos or on-line courses.

What do you fly and what do you consider the essential elements of a qualified drone pilot to be considered competent, safe and/or exceptional. What is your definition of "Good Airmanship"?
a. Superior Flying skills and not aggressive except in say Sport Racing (always Flight Safety first)
b. Superior Knowledge, Airspace Aeronautics, UAV systems weather drone industry
c. Systems and sensor knowledge, data management productivity tools
d. Cinematography & Videography and creative skill
e. All of the above
Love to hear your thoughts and ideas of what makes a really great Drone Pilot - hint: I'm sure there's more than one answer.
 
In CANADA, in the early days of commercially available quad copters (2011), a distinction was made by the Regulator. Someone who flies a drone remotely is an Operator, as a distinction from a Pilot who is hands on sitting inside a ‘plane and flying it. As a pilot, I’ve always respected that distinction.
To operate a drone safely and legally you need a knowledge of the regulations, meteorology and the technology behind the drone. You also need to be considerate towards people and nature. Another factor rarely discussed are the illusions of flight, e.g. can you accurately judge the distance of your drone on a clear day, without referring to the controller? (the drone is closer than you think).
 
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I agree with you sir (Ralph thompson)


The FAA looks at anyone "flying" irregardless of the equipment as a pilot. I have been around a few pilots. They get upset if you use that terminology around them -- and rightly so. In my opinion (and please, no wars here), I believe you are an operator -- irregardless of your skill set. You are certified (not license) to operate a piece of equipment that is operational in a 3D, (x, y, z axis) exterior environment. This is no different than a heavy equipment operator.

It is unfortunate that the FAA takes the viewpoint that we are pilots. My guess is that they are trying to be inclusive and trying to bring everyone into one standard regulation set. That is almost impossible due to the differences between equipment, and the derived skills needed to operate each in their respective environments.

What makes a great drone operator? Primarily, it takes awareness of the regulations you are operating under, awareness of the local laws that you are operating in, and the skills to always operate a drone professionally and safely.

In my opinion

JT Bennett
 
I agree with you sir (Ralph thompson)


The FAA looks at anyone "flying" irregardless of the equipment as a pilot. I have been around a few pilots. They get upset if you use that terminology around them -- and rightly so. In my opinion (and please, no wars here), I believe you are an operator -- irregardless of your skill set. You are certified (not license) to operate a piece of equipment that is operational in a 3D, (x, y, z axis) exterior environment. This is no different than a heavy equipment operator.

It is unfortunate that the FAA takes the viewpoint that we are pilots. My guess is that they are trying to be inclusive and trying to bring everyone into one standard regulation set. That is almost impossible due to the differences between equipment, and the derived skills needed to operate each in their respective environments.

What makes a great drone operator? Primarily, it takes awareness of the regulations you are operating under, awareness of the local laws that you are operating in, and the skills to always operate a drone professionally and safely.

In my opinion

JT Bennett
Thanks for the feedback JT I agree as well. When I’m around pilots (civi mil private or commercial I find there’s little acceptance of drone operators as ”REAL pilots”…and distain from controllers alike as having to put up with us. I don’t take it personally but I think aviation generally needs an “attitude adjustment”!🤨 from both sides. Meaning flying camera folks as well, part of why I’m trying work on how best to integrate the appreciation from all forms of flying. Thanks for taking time to respond
 
Here’s a bit of a different take. Someone who steers a ship into port is also known as a Pilot. So there are different definitions. Being a private pilot, flying drones & Rc planes, I can see how people in the different disciplines see themselves as Pilots, although very different types of pilots. Certainly the knowledge required for each is somewhat different but certainly required to be the best you can be in each case.
Happy piloting to you all.
 
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According to Transport Canada I'm a pilot — it says so on my pilot certificate.

When flying I try to think of myself as a pilot, because it reinforces that my primary responsibility is flying, not taking nice pictures. To extend Petter Hornfeldt's maxim about priorities: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, Spectate.

Am I a pilot like a general aviation pilot? No. I have more restrictions in where I can fly, and I don't need (or have) nearly the same skill level. But because my drone is in the same sky I need to be aware of (and follow) the same regulations. There's knowledge I don't really need (such as the effects of hypoxia on vision, which was on my sRPAS exam) but there's a lot of overlap too.

I bought my drones to take pictures — flying is just what I need to do to get the images I want. But while flying I'm controlling an aircraft and so have all the responsibilities of a pilot.

In terms of your list:

a. Superior Flying skills and not aggressive except in say Sport Racing (always Flight Safety first)
b. Superior Knowledge, Airspace Aeronautics, UAV systems weather drone industry
c. Systems and sensor knowledge, data management productivity tools

Knowing about the drone industry isn't really part of being a pilot, nor are things like using productivity tools. They help running a drone business, but not flying the aircraft. Likewise cinematography/photography skills and creativity.

TLDR: I'm a 'real pilot', but the most limited and restricted kind of pilot recognized by Transport Canada.
 
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Hi Robert . . thanks for that detailed response and comments. It's a more complex topic than I realized when I was actually flying in the RCAF (yrs ago). And talking to people on this board has been really enlightening. . . including yours. Do you run your own company or just fly for hobby or contract work . . or all of the above? I always liked that "all of" in multiple guess exams. Staple of RCAF testing when I was learning.
 
I fly to take pictures for my own enjoyment. My drone is a camera on a 120m tripod. :)

My brother-in-law thinks I should make it a business, but I'm afraid doing that would suck the enjoyment out of photography — I used to enjoy coding before I got a job as a programmer, and I don't want to do the same thing to another hobby!

I do think that drone sales, at least of 250g+ models, should be at least somewhat more regulated. They require a sRPAS certificate to fly, and there should at minimum be a requirement that the purchaser acknowledges that. Currently you can walk into a big box shop and buy a Mavic 3 for an 8-year-old and never be told that the drone needs to be registered and the intended user needs a certificate they are too young to have. Drones are sold as toys which encourages people to treat them as RC flying cars when legally they are aircraft that require registration and a certified operator. But that's a separate rant.

Another thought, half-formed because I'm only on my second cup of tea: being a pilot is a matter of responsibility, not prestige. A pilot's primary responsibility is safety, of themselves and more importantly others. All the skills and knowledge they get tested on is what they need, but what they do is keep people safe.

And that half-formed thought is why I consider myself a pilot: because when flying my primary responsibility is safety.
 
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That’s an astute observation “what they do is keep people safe” and it’s hard to teach responsibility over capabilities or thrills…. Definitely part of airmanship so thanks for for that…and I’d say keep enjoying the photography as primary while you’re becoming a better pilot.👍
 
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Definition: Pilot (noun) - a person who operates the flying controls of an aircraft. By this definition, we are pilots. Although, this definition doesn't differentiate from where the aircraft is being controlled (inside or remotely) and, the FAA designates a drone as an aircraft.
For me, though, as a recreational flyer, I usually say I fly a drone. I rarely use the term pilot because I have LESS aviation knowledge than someone who sits at the controls of their own private plane or the controls of a commercial airliner and, quite frankly, those who have passed the Part 107 test in the US. I understand the rules for recreational flight which means, for me, I know my place in the "aviation" world. It doesn't seem right call myself a pilot.
 
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I've been an RC pilot for 40 years. I fly RC with, and I am friends with several "real pilots" who have NEVER taken offense to anyone flying a balsa wood and paper plane or a high tech drone calling themselves a pilot. It is a descriptive word, I "pilot" a remote flying machine, therefore I am a pilot.
My Aunt had a successful business running a pilot car service for large loads. She had a fleet of cars and drivers - I'll have to ask her if anyone took offense at her "piloting" a wide load to its destination....LOL.
 
I think there is a definite distinction between d (cinematography & videography & creative skill) and the rest. You can be an amazing pilot but have no skill at all in framing a good photo or video. If you can frame great shots and video, you can still be a horrible pilot.

Skill in flying, knowledge of the systems of the craft you are flying, and knowledge of rules, regs, and environmental issues that can impact flight are all important. Data management and knowledge or productivity tools aren't really important in terms of flying a drone.

I understand why pilots of airplanes look down on drone folks calling themselves pilots. Yes, the FAA calls us that...but there really is no comparison on many levels. I suspect the FAA uses the same terminology to drive home the point that we are all sharing the same airspace and there are some common things we all need to be knowledgeable of. It also tries to impress upon people that fly drones that there is a lot of responsibility in sharing that airspace and that there can be unfortunate consequences if done without any regard to that.

Drone pilots acting like they are in the same class of pilot as an airplane pilot is just being obnoxious, similar to a small Cessna pilot acting like they are in the same class as a passenger jet pilot.
 
Definition: Pilot (noun) - a person who operates the flying controls of an aircraft. By this definition, we are pilots. Although, this definition doesn't differentiate from where the aircraft is being controlled (inside or remotely) and, the FAA designates a drone as an aircraft.
For me, though, as a recreational flyer, I usually say I fly a drone. I rarely use the term pilot because I have LESS aviation knowledge than someone who sits at the controls of their own private plane or the controls of a commercial airliner and, quite frankly, those who have passed the Part 107 test in the US. I understand the rules for recreational flight which means, for me, I know my place in the "aviation" world. It doesn't seem right call myself a pilot.
That’s a rational answer and I appreciate your condor… there’s all sorts of implications to the definition and how one is perceived by aviation community, and the public not to mention legal responsibility… it’s worth a lot more discussion and public exposure. Thanks for your input
 
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I think there is a definite distinction between d (cinematography & videography & creative skill) and the rest. You can be an amazing pilot but have no skill at all in framing a good photo or video. If you can frame great shots and video, you can still be a horrible pilot.

Skill in flying, knowledge of the systems of the craft you are flying, and knowledge of rules, regs, and environmental issues that can impact flight are all important. Data management and knowledge or productivity tools aren't really important in terms of flying a drone.

I understand why pilots of airplanes look down on drone folks calling themselves pilots. Yes, the FAA calls us that...but there really is no comparison on many levels. I suspect the FAA uses the same terminology to drive home the point that we are all sharing the same airspace and there are some common things we all need to be knowledgeable of. It also tries to impress upon people that fly drones that there is a lot of responsibility in sharing that airspace and that there can be unfortunate consequences if done without any regard to that.

Drone pilots acting like they are in the same class of pilot as an airplane pilot is just being obnoxious, similar to a small Cessna pilot acting like they are in the same class as a passenger jet pilot.
I agree with your cinematography comments and after all that's the reason some folks are up there being creative but they often fail to acknowledge the responsibility that goes along with it . . just like cars only much more so. I also understand Pilots Looking down on drone guys. I once gave a presentation the the senior Air Staff of the Canadian Airforce (RCAF at the time) but these were fellow pilots and HQ staff looking as what to replace the F-18 with ( this was 1988) I suggested that the F-18 was the last manned fighter Canada should buy . . the next fighter should be a drone "unmanned" . . well THAT fell on deaf ears and they virtually handed me my lunch and asked me to go and sit down. I was no longer one of the "pilots" they associated with. . . It takes time for change to be accepted ;)
 
I've been an RC pilot for 40 years. I fly RC with, and I am friends with several "real pilots" who have NEVER taken offense to anyone flying a balsa wood and paper plane or a high tech drone calling themselves a pilot. It is a descriptive word, I "pilot" a remote flying machine, therefore I am a pilot.
My Aunt had a successful business running a pilot car service for large loads. She had a fleet of cars and drivers - I'll have to ask her if anyone took offense at her "piloting" a wide load to its destination....LOL.
And why do they call a trial script on an new TV show a "Pilot Program"?
 
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I'm doing some writing on the difference between "pilot's" and "aviators" which can be quite stark if you consider newbie drone operators (Aerial Camera operators) and seasoned commercial flyers who do it for a living with jobs like Police Fire and rescue, construction survey, geo-mapping or Agriculture, mining or cinematography, for example. If were already a pilot when you started flying drone or you've grown up around aviation, it's different than getting one for your birthday or your Real Estate business and learning to fly by watching YouTube videos or on-line courses.

What do you fly and what do you consider the essential elements of a qualified drone pilot to be considered competent, safe and/or exceptional. What is your definition of "Good Airmanship"?
a. Superior Flying skills and not aggressive except in say Sport Racing (always Flight Safety first)
b. Superior Knowledge, Airspace Aeronautics, UAV systems weather drone industry
c. Systems and sensor knowledge, data management productivity tools
d. Cinematography & Videography and creative skill
e. All of the above
Love to hear your thoughts and ideas of what makes a really great Drone Pilot - hint: I'm sure there's more than one answer.
 
The FAA uses the term
“Airman certificate”
That's a good point of distinction. Transport Canada calls it "sRPAS Certificate" (small Remotely Piloted Air System Certificate) trying to be totally universal, with basic and advanced levels of competency . . but still implying the are certifying "Pilots" without saying so. I think a lot of commercial and military pilots only scratch the surface when they call themselves pilots . . They often boil it down to "I can handle my aircraft in ANY type of situation and bring the aircraft home in one piece . . That was me in my early years flying in the military . . I think they ignore a lot of what it actually takes to do that consistently under all conditions every day on every flight . . .or what it really means practice "good airmanship"
 
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