The Flight Skills Test is the final hurdle for obtaining your Permission from the CAA for Commercial Operation. This guide will help you to prepare for the Flyby Technology Flight Skills Test.
The Flyby Technology Flight Skills Test is your opportunity to put into practice everything you have learned. If you have prepared properly it will be a an amazing few hours. We know that you may be new to drone flying and so we maximise the effectiveness of your time. We also teach you a few things during the test.
Study and Administration
Make sure that you have logged over 2 hours of flight time, on each drone to be tested, in the last 3 months. Ensure you have logbooks showing the record of the flights and battery charging. The Flight Skills Test is Flyby Technology's final check that you are capable of flying to the required standard. We are also checking that you are able to fly within the description of the processes contained in your operations manual. Make sure you practise your flying following the exact letter of your manual and that you are getting all of the callouts correct. Read the emergencies section and make sure you can react properly to every simulated emergency in that section. We will have sent you a site guide before your test and you should study the area properly; looking for threats and hazards that could affect your operation on the day. Pay particular attention to signs that there may be aviation taking place in the vicinity, and the routing of any public rights of way.
The evening before the test you should obtain an accurate forecast of the weather, check for NOTAMs and take a look at any environmental influences such as satellite availability. Nothing is more embarrassing than getting to the test venue without all of the equipment and make sure you follow every item in your checklists before leaving home. You may need spare batteries or a means of charging in the field because most of our test sites are remote and have no power supplies.
Make sure you have warm clothing in layers for you and your team; your performance will decline as you get colder.
This is your opportunity to showcase your new found expertise. We recommend that you practise every manoeuvre repeatedly, in all modes, until you are completely comfortable with taking the test at the maximum windspeed described in your operations manual. Do not be tempted to take short cuts in the preparation; do everything as if you are on the test. If you continue that philosophy when you are fully qualified it will stand you in very good stead. Never forget to do a control check in a stabilised hover; it is a pass or fail item.
Try to get out in all suitable weathers and windspeeds, so that nothing catches you out, and before going to your own site, follow your operations manual to the letter every time. This will build familiarity with it and might highlight any modifications you need to apply before submitting the final copy. If you are going to perform the test with an observer, then take them with you when you are practising. That way you will become a well-oiled machine when you experience test conditions.
There is nothing to be afraid of in the test itself. The manoeuvres have been designed to be realistic yet challenging, but also achievable.
The most common mistake is to rush the manoeuvre and fly it in too small an area. Take your time and fly large, flowing patterns, but at a speed that is suitable and manageable. You will not be criticised for flying too slowly. Most video work needs slow and carefully flown transitions and translations.
We also recommend that before each manoeuvre, you think about what effect the wind will have and how you intend to compensate for it. When flying turns into wind you will need to reduce the rate of turn to fly the correct ground track. The opposite is true when starting the turn from a downwind heading. Do not worry, if you need advice the examiner will be on hand to offer some top tips.
Another aspect which is often forgotten is height keeping. Some aircraft are better than others at maintaining height. For the manoeuvres that are flown at constant height, we recommend you consider what that means to your power control at different stages. Take your time, we would sooner see you abort a manoeuvre and start again, than continue with a difficult situation. We all make mistakes and you will undoubtedly make some on the test. It is how you deal with those mistakes that we are most interested in. Our advice is to recover and move on. Do not dwell on a mistake as it will effect your workload management and could introduce others. Remember the lessons you learned in the Pilot Skills Module about workload management and apply strategies to keep things manageable. If you do that on the test you will certainly attract praise and higher marks.
This is one of the hardest elements to perfect in drone piloting. It is not just good enough to scan the horizon and then behind the pilot before take off. You must be able to scan around the flying site whilst flying the aircraft in dynamic flight. If you elicit the help of an observer, then include in your briefing how and when you will change responsibilities for lookout; notwithstanding that the ultimate responsibility ALWAYS sits with the pilot. Before you ever take off, have a plan for the flight and how you will perform your lookout scan and identify points in the flight where that may be problematic. Then put in place a plan to cover those occasions where lookout could increase pilot workload, much like the mitigating of risk in the Air Law Module. In fact you are indeed mitigating risk, by having a plan to reduce the threat and the likelihood of a collision or AIRPROX.
You will be asked to demonstrate your procedural knowledge, by being given a few simulated emergencies to deal with. Make sure you have practised every emergency from Module 7 and that your team is aware of the actions you will take. If you bring an observer they may be asked questions about typical emergencies that could influence their role. This could be incursion by a member of the public, or it might even be something like pilot incapacitation. Do they know how to activate the Return to Home facility?
At some point you will have to demonstrate, on each test aircraft, a loss of control link. We are not just checking that the aircraft performs as it should, but also that you are performing as you should. Make sure you follow the emergency procedure laid out in your operations manual.
The reason you chose Flyby Technology was because you wanted to be trained properly and to set very high standards. That means that you will have approached your training with the same correct mindset. Whilst you are being assessed on your flying skills, we are also obliged to make sure that you have a professional approach to your flying. If you follow our training, and approach the test in the way you intend to do your everyday flying, then we will be delighted. At that point you will also be the newest professional pilot in the UK. You will most certainly be worthy of our recommendation to the CAA for issue of your Permission for Commercial Operation.