Last year I bought a small remote controlled helicopter for about $50. It was my initial forage into the world of unmanned flight and it went just like you’d think. 5 seconds after getting it off the ground it was stuck in a tree. Way up high and on a branch I’d never hope to reach. A couple hours later, after numerous attempts to hit it with a shoe and knock it from it’s foliage snare, it started to rain. The dream was over.

Months later I gave it another try; this time with a helicopter I could control using my iPhone via the app i-helicopter. This was more like it! That little helo flies like a dream but I still crashed it over and over again until I got used to operating the controls. It wasn’t an A.R. Drone but the concept is similar. App controlled flight using bluetooth or a wireless network.

Now that I’m moving up and thinking bigger a lingering fear is beginning to take root: what if I spent hundreds of dollars on a drone only to watch it fly off into the distance sky on it’s maiden voyage? Or I watched helplessly as it slammed full speed into the ground and busted into a thousand little pieces. Or worse, I was left disfigured for life as it flew right into my face a second after I turned it on! In a word, the mentioned scenarios would be a BUMMER!

So how can I avoid a disaster I’m sure happens more than drone owners would want to admit? The answer is rather simple – drone school!

I’m looking around now for a class/course/program/training that will get me some much needed experience flying a drone without actually flying a drone. There’s also the option of joining an RC club. Halifax has a couple available: Halifax the Radio Control Club, Helifax (Halifax Radio Control Helicopter Club), and the Halifax Electric Flyers Association. Nothing like some experienced people to help me out so I’m going to check them out. It would be fun and there’s nothing quite like like-minded people to offer me some advice. They also have places to fly!

Actual experience aside, and being a total nerd, I did what any nerd in these circumstances would do: I checked to see if there was an app for that. And there is: the Absolute RC Plane Sim by Happy Bytes LLC. While there’s no quad model the helicopter simulators are about as realistic as you’re going to get without flying the real thing. At least as far as using apps go. I do know I crash a lot so that must say something about how realistic the controls are. In the least it’s a lot of fun.

Absolute RC

Absolute RC for the iPad

Here’s a YouTube video of the app in action:

UAV University

UAV University

I also found the Unmanned Vehicle University located in Sarasota, Florida. The University “is the only university in the world licensed to grant degrees in unmanned systems engineering. Masters and Doctorate degrees are offered in Unmanned (Air, Ground, Sea and Space) Systems Engineering as a totally online curriculum. The school also offers technical training in Unmanned systems though Online Executive Certificate Courses and 3 day short courses. We just published the first University textbook in the world on unmanned systems.

They have a UAV Pilot Training Certificate. The course includes:

  1. A flight simulator will be mailed to your home
  2. On call instructors will teach you to fly the simulator on the phone
  3. Online ground school with 16 hours of videos
  4. Flight schools (3 days)

After completion of the simulator exercises and online ground school they schedule a 3 day basic flight training course in Florida. After graduation you will receive a UAV Pilot Certificate

The course covers both vertical takeoff and fixed wing UAVs which may include a quadcopter, helicopter, small, medium and large sized fixed wing UAVs and a hexcopter depending on location. Propulsion systems are both electric and gas.

Cool!