News & Blog

Every now and again we come across a video that really shows someone who has extraordinary drone piloting skills. This video has to be seen to really appreciate such skills. Enjoy...

Drones, or remotely piloted aircraft, have been around for quite some time now, and have within the past couple of years, not only started to make an impact in TV and cinema but also in many areas of industry. From spectacular cinematic shots and real estate photography through to topographical data capture and thermal imaging, there are becoming fewer and fewer applications that cannot be successfully utilised by most businesses and industries.

So, what response should you expect from a drone operator when you make that initial enquiry. More importantly, what should you expect after having commissioned the operator to undertake work for you.

At Rockliffe Aerial Media we operate in a concise and professional manner. Most of our enquiries are via emails, if that is the case we would follow up the enquiry with a phone call, as we always prefer to discuss a project directly with the client. While on the phone we can usually ascertain whether the job can be flown legally and within the relevent CAA regulations by referring to the task site with Google Earth and cross referencing it with our topographical air chart. By doing this we can usually get a pretty good idea as to the viability of the proposed task.

Once we have established the job as a 'goer' and following any further project details, we then submit a formal quotation. We always suggest a contingency date, as UAV operation is generally weather dependent, to a degree, and so having an alternative is extremely important. We conduct a pre-deployment survey from the office, where we research the task area and ensure any relevent permissions for flying are obtained, check any obstacles with the aid of an OS map and any local activity that may prove a concern. We cross reference the task area with our topographical air chart, ensuring we are not infringing into any airspace. This is normally not an issue, as we have found if we contact the relevent air traffic control, the response has always been very positive and helpful. Even in areas of high intensity military activity permissions have been granted.

Once basic research has been completed, we then cross reference the weather forecasts in preparation for the selected task date. Once we're happy with the weather, we usually arrive at the task area 30 minutes to an hour prior to flying and undertake a site safety survey. Once satisfied that safety to property and individuals in the immediate area is secure, we would then and only then undertake the set task.

It's important to remember that the operator in control, the UAV pilot, not only takes into consideration the safety of everyone in the area, but also the integrity of the aircraft and so the final decision on any flying rests with the pilot in charge. Except for the smallest of jobs, we always fly as a two man crew, either as a pilot + camera operator or as a pilot/cameraman + flight observer.

I am proud of Rockliffe Aerial media's pedigree and believe strongly in safety at all times. With competition continuing to rise in this fascinating and exciting industry, it's important for those hiring a drone operator to consider only those who display a professional approach to flying. A commercial drone operator should be qualified with the relevent qualification, have Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval with Permissions for Commercial Operation (PfCO) and be fully insured to a minimum of £5000,000 public liability.

As in most industries, it's always tempting for those doing the hiring to cut costs, but when dealing with aviation, cutting costs should be an option which is given careful consideration.
Report C/O: Commercial UAV news

At every Commercial UAV Expo, either in the USA or Europe, there are always innovative technologies that catch our eye. This was the case during the recent Commercial UAV Expo Europe in Amsterdam when we walked into the booth of Drone Rescue Systems, an Austrian-based company that has developed an ingenious parachute system to keep multi-copters from crashing due to in-flight malfunction.

Andreas Ploier is the CEO of the company while Markus Manninger is the CTO, and we were able to connect with both for a long and detailed discussion about what makes their solution different. They explained the basics of their technology and what drove them to start Drone Rescue. “I have a manned aviation background, and when flying UAVs I got tired of losing valuable drones to malfunction during flight, three in a year to be exact,” Manninger told Commercial UAV News. “So I began sketching alternative ways of bringing
an unmanned aircraft back to Earth in one piece after there had been a malfunction that prevented the flight from continuing. Our DRS-10 parachute system is the final result of those early efforts,” he mentioned while holding a small canister in his hand.

“We have two alternatives for multi-copter platforms,” he continued. “We are brand independent, as we manufacture solutions which can be installed on any UAV. For drones weighing between 3 and 7 kilos (6.5 to 15 lbs) the entire ensemble weighs 280 grams (about ½ lb) and for drones up to 15 kg (33 lbs) the solution weighs 350 grams
(less than 1 lb).” “We knew we had to stay away from pyrotechnics,” Ploier mentioned. “People are traveling with their drones and doing jobs in jurisdictions where flying with explosives on board might be a problem, so we selected an innovative system with high-powered rubber bands and a very light canister holding the parachute and the electronics.The added advantage of not using pyrotechnics is that our solution is lighter. In UAVs, every gram counts.” The Drone Rescue booth was always busy and the impressive display of the large red parachute fully opened on top of the heavy black drone caught the attention of anyone who walked by.

“The success and rapid acceptance of our solution is based on the sensors we developed and the fast reaction to catastrophic malfunctions while in the air,” Manninger said. “Our system deploys in just a few meters of rapid descent so that the drone glides slowly down to safety.” On a personal note, for many years I flew a Cirrus SR-20, the first manned aircraft with a fuselage parachute, so I’m keenly aware of the benefits of flying knowing that there’s recourse in case something goes wrong while airborne. In a few years after its inception in the market in 2000, sales of Cirrus aircraft overcame the decades-long leader Cessna and empirical and anecdotic data showed, at the time, that pilots and their spouses felt safer knowing they had an alternative way of coming back to Earth once a catastrophic event took away the ability of the aircraft to keep flying.

I asked Andreas and Marcus about their plans for a fixed-wing solution. “We decided to focus on multi-copters because of the size of the market and the fact that any malfunction would produce a crash, while fixed-wing aircraft have the alternative of gliding and having a less destructive landing,” Ploier explained. “Also, adding a parachute solution to a multi-copter is just a matter of designing and installing a few external components, while installing an effective system in a fixed-wing aircraft, where aerodynamics are essential to fly, would require an entire re-designing of the vehicle to maintain its flying capabilities,” Manninger further clarified. “But we are definitely working on it.”

With solutions like Drone Rescue and the leaps and bounds in other safety measures such as detect and avoid and UTM, we can clearly see how the industry is getting closer and closer to the full integration of manned and unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace. If you want to more about Drone Rescue Systems, check out the interview which was conducted at the event:
On February 6, EHANG announced that the EHANG 184 Autonomous Aerial Vehicle has achieved a series of manned flight tests carrying one and two passengers, including EHANG CEO and all executives, as well as many Guangzhou government officials.