Sky-Futures UAS pilots enter UK training program

By Emily Aasand | April 21, 2015

Sky-Futures, an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) company offering inspections in oil and gas, has approved three new remote pilots under its Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) National Qualified Entity status. The CAA is the U.K.’s aviation regulatory body. The recent pilot certifications will not apply to U.S.-based UAS operations. The pilots received Sky-Futures Remote Pilot (S-FRP) certification following completion of Sky-Futures extensive in-house training course that includes ground school, flight school and industry specific instructions.

The new pilots were selected through a competitive employment process, two of which will join Sky-Futures following distinguished military careers, and the other joined from the Royal Marines. The pilots’ previous roles included the use of UAS for surveillance and reconnaissance missions, according to Sky-Futures.

The training program takes places in the U.K., with facilities including free standing structures over 100 feet. The facilities enable the S-FRP instructors to build up trainee remote pilots skills by simulating the complex and creating challenging and dangerous environments the pilots will likely encounter when inspecting infrastructure for Sky-Futures oil and gas clients, the company added.

“The team at Sky-Futures has worked very hard since we began UAS operations in 2011 to embed world-class unmanned aircraft training processes and provide the best training facilities for new remote pilots joining the business,” said Nick Rogers, Sky-Futures chief regulatory and training officer. “I commend the three new Sky-Futures remote pilots who have achieved a very high standard during an intense training process. During flight training, the new remote pilots flew in excess of 10 sorties per day in a variety of extremely demanding environments at our training ground. Our unique training center is further enhanced by highly operationally experienced remote pilot instructors.”

Sky-Futures is the third company in the U.K. to hold CAA NQE status, which enables the company to train remote pilots to a CAA approved competency level for visual-line-of-sight UAS operations.

In March, Sky-Futures’ U.S. sector, received a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration exemption to use Ascending Technology’s Falcon 8 drone for inspection services in the oil and gas industry in the United States.

Sky-Futures has had a strong presence in the global drone inspection market and has done work for companies including Chevron and Conoco Phillips, after getting its start in the U.K. Sky-Futures services include flare stack inspections as well as work on communication towers on off-shore oil platforms. “We can check under the decks, as well,” said Jason Forte, vice president of business development at Sky-Futures USA. “We can look at splash zones and see if anything has rusted or corroded.” Utilizing the UAS technology would reduce typical inspection risks, reduce inspection times and associated costs, which would provide significant savings, the company added.



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