20 Dec

7 things to consider before hiring a drone operator

Thinking about using an aerial drone for your next project?

Aerial drones are now being used for all sorts of commercial applications. They are an extremely nimble aircraft which means they can provide safe access to difficult sites. Add to this the ability to carry a variety of payloads, and you have a very useful tool at your disposal.

But not all drones or drone operators are equal. So how can you be sure you’re choosing the right drone operator for your project?

You’ll need to make sure any contractor you hire has the necessary skills and operational procedures in place to ensure your project goes smoothly.

For agencies looking to hire a drone operator as an Approved Contractor, here are 7 things to consider…


7 things to consider before hiring a drone operator

1. What are the capabilities and limitations of the drone services?

It’s important to understand the capabilities and limitations of the drone services that can be provided. Basically, does the contractor have the skills and equipment needed to complete your project?

  • Do they have expertise relating to the project?
  • Can they carry the required payload or equipment?
  • Are the camera specifications adequate?
  • Can they cover the distance required?
  • Is the imagery geo-referenced to the required accuracy?
  • What weather conditions limit the operations?
  • What capacity does the business have for the volume of work that needs doing?

2. Is the drone pilot certified?

Currently drone pilot certification is required only in certain aviation control zones. However, for commercial operations, you may expect drone pilots to be certified as confirmation of their ability to fly drones anywhere.

Certificates under Part 102 of the Civil Aviation Authority Rules are required for any drone flying that is outside of the normal flying limits for drones under rule Part 101.  A Part 102 certificate is necessary for any flying above 400ft, at night, beyond line-of-sight, over people and property without their permission, or for releasing hazardous substances.  The certificate also ensures that safety systems are in place for all flying scenarios.

3. Does the operator have public liability insurance?

Aerial drone operations require specific aviation public liability insurance. Request a copy of the current insurance certificates.

4. Are there specific aviation policies and procedures in place?

For commercial applications, drones must be treated as aircraft – not toys.

Request confirmation that there are policies and procedures in place to ensure safe drone-flying operations. Operators should follow aviation rules and have procedures for flight plans and flight logs, as well as understanding how to manage any potential privacy issues.

5. Is there an aircraft maintenance plan in place?

As with all aircraft, preventative maintenance is imperative to ensure safe flying at all times. Aerial drone maintenance programmes are part of good aviation practice, and evidence of this should be expected from any commercial operator.

6. Have they signed the UAVNZ Code of Conduct?

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles New Zealand (UAVNZ) is the Industry Group for commercial drone operators.  They recently introduced a Code of Conduct for members in order to ensure safety and professionalism in the industry.  This is a membership that should be expected of a professional drone operator.

7. Does the operation have a comprehensive Health and Safety Plan?

A Health & Safety plan is compulsory for any Approved Contractor.  Be aware of the new requirements of Worksafe coming out in April 2016.  Also, the jurisdiction of safety is split between Worksafe when drones are on the ground and Civil Aviation Authority once they are airborne.

And lastly, are they proficient? You may want an aerial drone demonstration to get a feel for how an organisation operates in the field before hiring them.


Talk to us

At Flightworks, we use aerial drones as a revolutionary tool to complement our expertise as ecologists.

We offer the following services:

  1. Aerial mapping and 3D imaging
  2. Weed and threatened species analysis
  3. Precise aerial spraying
  4. Aerial project monitoring

Call me (Hamish) on 07 394 4394 if you have any questions about this article, or if you’d like to discuss your project requirements.