Mike’s drone photography skills get off to a flying start


It was a blazingly hot morning when I set off on the longest journey I’ve experienced in a while: although it would be a tiring drive from my home in Wakefield to Devon, I was rather excited – and, as my trusty Kia Picanto fortunately has air-con, it wasn’t looking like an unpleasant trip.

I’ve always had the taste for adventure, trying new experiences and learning new skills and this was why I was so excited. I haven’t been working for Harris Creative for very long and unfortunately, soon after I started, COVID-19 infested the planet – but in the short time I’ve worked here, the team at Harris have not only welcomed me into the family but have invested in my personal development. Which is what this blog (and ultimately life) is all about!

When I arrived in Devon, I received a socially-distanced welcome from another Mike – Mike Green of Commercial Drone Training (CDT), who showed me around my digs for the next two days: what used to be part of the agriculture department of Plymouth University now serves as a residence for CDT.

For those unfamiliar with drone photography, to fly a drone commercially and legally, you need to obtain a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) certificate, issued by the Civil Aviation Authority, and gaining this was the purpose of my long trip. I was a bit apprehensive about the training, as with anything unfamiliar, but I’m a firm believer in that even if you fail at something, you learn from the experience and the fact that you gave it a go in the first place is what counts – even more so if you get back up and go at the task again with the powerful knowledge of your previous failings. So I was determined to give it my best shot.

When we began the first day of training, Mike talked me through his background (ex-pilot for RyanAir) and I told him about my background in film and TV. We soon delved into the course: Mike was a patient tutor and thoroughly explained in layman’s terms what all the legal terminology and requirements actually mean, and how that would affect me flying a drone for commercial purposes. After my first session, I had learned the legalities of the PfCO, how to read aeronautical charts, and how to understand different weather patterns and how they affect flying. It was a lot to take in but luckily, I had time to study for the theory test the following day. Slowly, but surely, it all started to make sense.

The following day I was apprehensive – had I done enough studying to pass the theory? Am I going to be able to fly the drone and pass the practical? These questions were racing through my mind – but, to paraphrase Mike: “we have plenty of time and if you don’t get it right the first time, we will try again until you get it right”.

Fortunately, despite my worries, I passed the practical first time. We then returned to the training room, where I finished the last of my lessons before my theory test, which was all about planning and risk assessments for flying a drone – for example, what if a client needs me to film an exciting new development and wants me to incorporate drone footage into the video? In this case, it is my responsibility to follow the laws and guidelines of the PfCO. This means I have to take into account restricted areas, people, property, and so on.

With any great project, the solid foundations of planning and pre-production need to be in place and rest assured, not only does our MD and resident photographer Jim know how to plan and legally fly drones for commercial use, but now so does the latest addition to the Harris family!

I’m proud to say that I passed the theory test with flying colours, and I can’t wait to get out into the field and start putting everything I’ve learned into practice for our clients.

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