CEO & Founder of UAV Coach
Today, we talk to Drone Pilot Ground School/UAV Coach, CEO and Founder, Alan Perlman.
He is an online course creator, entrepreneur, and blogger.
Alan found a potential audience and an interest in drone training, and with this, he launched a successful company.
Within three days of his very first online course, he made $6,000 and since has been able to quit his job to focus on UAV Coach full time.
In this interview post, Alan discusses how he made his passion for drones into a successful business and reveals the different job opportunities that founded in the sUAS industry.
Here is what he got to say…
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become a drone fanatic?
I’ve always been interested in technology and RC cars, boats, helicopters, and airplanes. In 2014, I bought my first drone, a DJI Phantom 1, and unfortunately had a horrible experience getting it unboxed and into the air. After that, I spent plenty of time researching training options and the FAA regulations and had a hard time navigating answers to my questions.
So, I started UAV Coach as a way to inspire safe, competent drone pilots who were getting started in the industry just like me.
At the time, I had trouble finding drone-specific communities, i.e., people looking to push the drone industry forward responsibly and safely. UAV Coach was born out of the lack of quality resources out there, plus my own personal (and negative!) experience learning how to fly.
Drone Pilot Ground School offers a comprehensive FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Course. What are a few of the fundamentals, or most crucial points you cover, in that online course?
At Drone Pilot Ground School, we cover everything you need to navigate the FAA’s Part 107 certification process for commercially-inclined drone pilots.
We built our curriculum to match the FAA’s UAS Airmen Certification Standards and then went above-and-beyond to offer bonus lessons in topics like airspace research, mission planning, flight operations, insurance, legal considerations, and pricing & packaging for our more entrepreneurial students.
What are a few of the factors you look at while reviewing quadcopters? What have been a few of the preferred models that you have reviewed, and the reason?
I used to spend more time reviewing sUAS in the toy/hobby category, but these days I’m exclusively evaluating commercial models like the DJI Mavic 2 Pro and Parrot Anafi Thermal drones.
Like many others in the drone industry, I’m a big fan of the Mavic’s portability and DJI’s robust software system.
What gear and type of drones do you fly? Any ideas to upgrade?
These days, I mostly fly and train on the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. I have many other models, but that’s my favorite. We’re blessed to have a good relationship with DJI and have tested some of their prototype models in the past. I’m hoping that trend will continue as new models come out over the coming years.
Have you ever before crashed a drone? What has been your worst experience?
Yes – my first time flying back in 2014. I crashed my DJI Phantom 1 into the tire of a parked car. And it wasn’t even my drone! It was a gift for someone else.
It was an unpleasant experience for several reasons, and while I used to be ashamed to tell the story, that experience was ultimately the genesis that led to the start of our company.
What regulations and laws should drone operators and owners be familiar with?
The big thing to understand is that, and I’m over-simplifying here, you’re flying either as a hobbyist / for recreation, or you’re operating under the FAA’s Part 107 commercial rules.
To pilot a quadcopter as a commercial pilot (i.e., for business/work reasons), you are required to adhere to the FAA’s Part 107 Small UAS Rule requirements, including passing the Aeronautical Knowledge Test of FAA to receive a Remote Pilot Certification.
To fly a drone as a hobbyist, you are needed to register the drone with the Federal Aviation Administration and to stick to the FAA’s special rule for model aircraft. In order to fly a drone as a government servant (i.e., for a fire department or police), you may either fly under the FAA Part 107 regulation or get a federal COA (Certificate of Authorization).
More information on the FAA’s website over here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/
In the future, how much of an effect do you believe drones will have in our daily lives?
Drones will continue to get adopted in a wide swath of industries. Not just photography and videography, but inspections and surveys, search and rescue, insurance adjustments, package delivery, and hopefully UAS passenger travel as the industry continues to evolve.
For people interested in taking their aerial photography to a pro level, why is it an excellent idea to insure your equipment and drone?
While drone insurance is not mandated by the FAA, we highly recommend our students purchase it.If you’re offering aerial services to clients, getting drone insurance may help you close business – clients may not want to work with you unless you are insured. If anything, you have got peace of mind knowing you get covered in the unlikely event of an accident.
In some instances, you might also need a minimum level of insurance coverage to take on a project, whether it’s needing to secure a city film permit, or working with a larger company which requires insurance for each of its vendors.
All serious drone pilots have liability insurance. It’s a powerful, credible indicator for your business prospects. Insurance shows that you’re professional and reputable.
I’ve enjoyed conferences like InterDrone and AUVSI’s Xponential. Those are lovely events, where we learn about what’s happening at the forefront of the drone industry but also get to connect with our students, flight instructors, partners, and industry friends.
The civilian UAV market is reported to be increasing faster. The FAA claims the commercial UAV market would triple in scale by 2023. Why are quadcopters so popular between civilians? What is the reason for all the buzz?
There’s been a ton of momentum in the drone industry, not just on the hardware and software side of things, but with the FAA’s regulations opening up and maturing.
There’s more and more clarity around where we can and cannot fly. More and more industries drones getting used. We yet got a long way to go when it comes to figuring out the best use cases and ROI of the technology.
Even just looking at adoption in the public safety sector, it’s wild how much opportunity there still is to get this technology out there to save lives. The excitement is in the possibility, but it’s also in knowing how well sUAS is already working for so many businesses and organizations.
What is the demand for drones today? How has it changed since you launched your business?
The job market is hot. There are a ton of opportunities out there. Here’s a guide to drone jobs that my team spent dozens of hours putting together.
It walks through different industries where drones are getting used and showcases available jobs for not just pilots, but folks getting involved in a dynamic and growing industry.
Things have changed much over the last five years.
What are a few of the most innovative ways you have seen UAVs used?
Lifeguards using drones to do shark monitoring. Ecologists using drones to conduct aerial vegetation mapping. Police departments using drones for accident scene reconstruction.
Roof inspectors and insurance adjusters are putting away their ladders and using drones to inspect residential and commercial roofs. A drone with a decoupled cage that is used for cramped indoor inspections in places such as flare stacks and boiler rooms.
What advice will you give new drone pilots on getting the most from their investment?
Read the frickin user manual. Unlike other consumer electronics equipment like phones and laptops, where you can power it on and figure it out along the way, drones can be dangerous without proper training.
I highly recommend reading your sUAS user manual front-to-back and taking those first few flights in the backyard or your local park slowly. No need to bring your drone up to 395 ft. AGL on day one. Take your time!
In your opinion, what are a few industries or fields that appear to be adopting drone technology extensively?
Filmmaking, construction, insurance, and public safety are the big four that come to mind.
When you first began operating drones, did you follow any courses or anything? How much time did you have to train before you eventually felt comfortable flying your drone?
Not at the time. I started with a DJI Phantom 1, then reverted to a toy drone for a few months to get more comfort on the sticks before upgrading back to a professional model.
I’ve flown 70-80 hours at this point and still consider myself to be a novice – the technology continues to evolve, and while I feel comfortable behind the sticks and navigating various emergency scenarios I’ve been exposed to in the past, staying current and confident requires ongoing learning.
Where do you find drones heading in five years? ten years?
In the U.S., we’ll see more missions beyond visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS). We’ll also see wider adoption among public safety agencies – there’s no reason each one should have access to sUAS technology.
I also hope to see more development on the package and passenger delivery side of the industry as well.
Many people consider you as an expert in the drone arena; who are a few people you feel others should take a look?
I like to read what Sally French writes over at The Drone Girl. She’s a journalist who seems always to be breaking the news when something new and exciting is out there.
I also really like Chris Korody’s newsletter over at DroneBusiness.center. I also like the Inside Drones newsletter for week-to-week updates as well.
When you are not operating drones, where can we find you?
I’m usually hard at work, improving our systems and growing our company over at https://uavcoach.com and https://dronepilotgroundschool.com.
I am based out of Nashville, TN with two young kiddos, so when I’m not working, I’m typically spending time with them. Too young to be behind the remote control just yet, but we’re getting close.