In coordination with DroneBase and the Drone Operators Federation, the Drone Operator Insight Series spotlights some of the people who are advancing the drone industry every day with their embrace of cutting-edge technology to do work better than ever. This week we hear from Saunders Staley, a pilot based out of Phoenix, Arizona who has been flying with DroneBase, since October 2016. We asked Saunders a few questions about the evolution of his drone pilot career, how drone technology is making a positive impact, and more.
What Interested you in becoming a Drone Pilot?
After attending film school in California and shooting professionally for over 20 years, I thought drones were a great tool to implement into my existing cinematography portfolio.
What is your favorite aspect about being a drone pilot?
Every morning I walk out the door my day is different. I shoot such a diverse array of different types of projects, it keeps you on your toes and motivates you to fine-tune your drone skills on a daily basis. From construction shoots to mapping missions, you have to make sure you have the right gear on-site to accommodate all types of properties. I just love the day-by-day operations, being able to work outside in Phoenix during fall, winter and spring, and the "in awe" expression people get when they find out I fly drones for a living.
Are there any existing rules or regulations you’d like to see adjusted to promote a more operator-friendly environment?
"LAANC automatic airspace authorizations need to allow 107.29 Daylight operation attachments for night flights. The LAANC system enables faster, and depending on the airspace, sometimes instantaneous approval to fly.
However, commercial drone flights at night currently require a waiver from the FAA where the approval process can take up to 90 days in order to be completed. This is in part due to the increased risk of flying at night, as well as the need for specialized operations and equipment, such as lights mounted on the drone for visibility.
"You have to apply for controlled airspace night operations as of now which can take some time. Allowing 107.29 waivers to be attached to LAANC operations would have a huge impact on turnaround times for flights."
What are your thoughts on how drone technology can improve workflows and fill gaps in everyday life?
I have been working through the pandemic and the technology has helped with social distancing on site. Being a drone pilot, you don't have to be in the exact location of the project to shoot the job and can keep your distance from everyone involved with the project safely. Of course, I always have a mask on hand to meet with any potential clients close up. Drone technology is also cutting down time-sensitive projects that would take days to complete and reducing it to hours or even minutes.