Aerobotika soaring after announcement of UAV training academy

By Luke Geiver | January 29, 2015

Paul Bennett has not let his competitive nature get in the way of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) commercialization progress. Starting in February, Bennett and his team based in British Columbia, Canada, will begin a monthly unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) pilot training academy. The decision to offer UAV pilot training and information wasn’t easy for Bennett. In 2013, he helped formed Aerobotika Aerial Intelligence, a UAV firm focused on developing platforms and consulting services for clients interested in integrating UAS into day-to-day operations.

In the beginning, he said, the company was working to find an efficient way to function within the Canadian government regulatory framework during its own UAV operations and flights. “We ended up designing very succinct operations guidelines for our business. At first we were very competitive-minded and didn’t want to share what we had developed,” he said, “but we saw there was such a need for organizations interested in UAV operations and we wanted to help get them there.”

The Aerobotika team has designed a three-day UAV training course that offers instruction on ground control, in-flight operations and the basics of integrating and utilizing software designed for UAV use. A local flight school instructor helped the team to formulate teaching material and structure the training course. According to Bennett, much of the teaching material and lessons to be taught were based on the regulations and interests of Transport Canada, the main regulating body for Canada’s UAV industry.

Training course attendees will be given access to multiple UAV platforms during the event, all provided by Aerobotika. The company has already connected with 3D Robotics, Precisionhawk and Altavian to provide the UAVs. Working with and experiencing the capabilities of the platforms will help attendees understand why UAVs would be good for business, Bennett said, and also give them the chance to experience how a UAS-equipped business could function.

Following the announcement of the UAV training courses, Bennett said the activity level and number of calls received by the team can be described with one word: wildfire. “It has been hard to keep up. We have had 12 inquiries a day and most are serious and involve lengthy conversations,” he said.

Classes in the Canadian metro areas of Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto are mostly booked already, he said, each class already past the minimum class size required for the reservable classroom space.

The majority of participant interest can be categorized into one of three business segments: mining, precision agriculture and photographers or cinematographers. Many of the photographers signed up for the classes have established businesses, Bennett said, but they recognize that they need to start adding UAS use.

Although the training courses are only currently running in Canada, interest from U.S.-based firms has still been strong. “Not surprisingly, we have had a number of American companies reach out to us, not only about the classes, but to ask if we are going to work with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to help provide future training in the U.S. when the regulations get figured out,” he said.

“We have also had calls from L.A.-based film companies wanting to know what they need to do to operate in Canada.”

Even Transport Canada has taken interest in the training courses. According to Bennett, officials from the regulatory body will be in attendance for the classes. At the end of each three-day course, participants will take an exam that Bennett hopes could someday act as a certification for pilots and UAV operators.

“What we like to relay to our prospective customers and the industry in general is that we are about enabling organizations to get more data in a safe and compliant manner,” Bennett said, explaining the company’s attitude change since it first began three years ago. “It [UAV operation] doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. We are making this easier for companies to get into.” 


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