Drone technology has seen an exceptional rise in popularity in recent years, both as recreational and professional devices. With a variety of models to choose from, anyone with a passing interest in drones can buy a drone according to any budget range or set of desired capabilities. The continuous improvement in technology of drones only means that they will continue to become cheaper and have more advanced features in the future.
The future of drones is bright, and the time may come when being able to fly a drone is as common as being able to use a smartphone. Both casual and professional drone users nowadays are looking for ways to level up their drone skills. If you belong to this group of eager learners, you might be wondering: where can I go to learn about more advanced drone techniques? In this article, we provide a run down on what drone schools are, what they deliver, and the top drone flight schools that are currently operating.
What are drone flight schools?
Drone flight schools provide training courses on a variety of topics related to drone flight. Training schools have become a rising industry that came about as a natural consequence of the increasing popularity of drones. Depending on the flight school, training courses can be offered online or in-person.
Flight schools also differ in the range of the topics that they cover. Some schools only teach the basics, such as FAA regulations, Part 107 certification, basic drone controls, and drone maintenance. Other schools can provide more specialized training such as drone photography and videography, advanced drone maneuvers, mapping, thermal scanning, and drone business management. Students from any background are welcome, and drone flight schools have been known to receive trainees with backgrounds in photography, construction, rescue, law enforcement, and geology among others.
Why should I enroll in a drone flight school?
Drone flight schools can provide a comprehensive and organized training course facilitated by drone flight experts, FAA-recognized flight instructors, Part 61 certified pilots, and meteorologists. In other words, you get to undergo a training that is designed and supervised by the proverbial experts in the field. You can even interact with them and ask them questions on whatever topics you may be curious about.
Most drone flight schools also provide a wealth of study materials on the topics of your choice. Better yet, the subtopics are organized and presented to you in a manner designed to maximize understanding and long-term retention. To aid the learning process, flight schools use a combination of video lectures, reading materials, exercises, interactive quizzes, and knowledge tests. Some schools offer in-person training sessions, which may be very helpful for courses such as advanced flight training.
Having finished a training course in one of the many FAA-recognized drone flight schools will look great on your portfolio or resume. If you plan on running a drone business, having undergone a professional training course should go a long way towards creating an impression on your potential clients that you are a skilled and reliable drone pilot.
The top drone flight schools today
Drone flight schools have been popping up even before the release of the Part 107 regulations by the FAA. With the release of Part 107, drone flight has become more popular than ever. Many drone flight schools claim to have seen a month-to-month increase on trainees after the publication of Part 107. Listed below are some of the drone flight schools that have risen to the top.
1. Drone Pilot Ground School
The Drone Pilot Ground School prides itself in offering one of the most comprehensive Part 107 knowledge test preparation courses, with coverage of all 127 knowledge concepts. The course, which costs $299, consists of more than 30 video and text lectures which are accessible 24/7 on a computer or on mobile phones. The curriculum of the ground school was developed in partnership with certified flight instructors and a former chief pilot of a Part 141 flight school.
To verify the effectiveness of the training, you are also given access to 5 practice tests. If you wish to study beyond the training course, you will be given volumes of downloadable and printable reading material to read at your own pleasure.
As a bonus material, you will also be given a few videos that will give you an insight on how drone service businesses are run. Discussions on this topic will cover the legal factors you need to consider, how drones can be used to market real estate, the liability of drone business owners, and how you can successfully run a part-time or full-time drone business. If you are specifically geared towards someday running your own drone business, then this bonus material will be a goldmine of knowledge for you.
2. Drone Launch Academy
Drone Launch Academy is an online course that is based primarily on videos. It primarily teaches you about Part 107 rules and the course can be purchased for $179. There are over 200 sample questions that you can use to study for the exam. You have access to the course for a lifetime once you purchase it, which means you can use it to study once you need to retake the exam in two years.
DARTDrones is one of the most famous drone flight schools today due to a successful pitch in “Shark Tank” where Mark Cuban invested $300,000 to the company for 10% equity. Since the feature, DARTDrones has seen a rapid growth in terms of trainees, training staff, and curriculum. They currently have more than 40 training centers distributed across the United States.
DARTDrones has a wide range of topics covered in their training courses, from Part 107 test preparation to a professional drone pilot package. They even offer more specialized courses such as an aerial photography course, and courses on specific drone models such as those from the DJI Phantom and Inspire series. Most courses are conducted online, but in-person courses are also offered where appropriate such as in advanced flight instruction.
The prices of the courses offered by DARTDrones vary based on the subject matter and the manner of delivery. They have a $19.99 Drones for Beginner course that is completely video-based. If you want to experience the maximum training capability of DARTDrones, then you might be interested in their Professional Drone Pilot Package which you can get for $1450, and includes Part 107 knowledge test preparation, in-person flight training, and a bevy of their most popular online courses on drone photography, starting a drone business, and other topics.
4. Drone U
The Drone U flight school probably offers the widest range of training courses. From beginner courses to courses on drone photography and different drone sensors, you are sure to find a training course that is just right for your skill level.
The selling point of Drone U is their unique pricing model. Instead of paying an upfront fee for a single training course, they charge a $47 monthly fee for access to all their training courses: past, present, and future. You will also be a part of their private community of like-minded drone pilots, and have access to drone and business experts.
For those who cannot afford the monthly fee, the fine folks at Drone U also offer free content on their website. For absolutely no fee, you are given access to their video and podcast resources which should still prove to be valuable to you as a drone pilot.
5. Fly Robotics Ground School
The Fly Robotics Ground School has received the endorsement of DJI, the most popular drone manufacturer today, and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). Fly Robotics maintains a vast electronic library of study materials covering a wide range of topics – from basic aerodynamics, to air safety guidelines, and even ethical guidelines for drone photography and data collection.
Fly Robotics believes that nothing can beat the effectiveness of in-person training, so it has partnered with the various branches of the AMA to deliver in-person training to various parts of the United States. This is a multi-day mentor-assisted course, designed for maximum learning and creating a well-balanced foundation for future drone pilots.
The Part 107 training course is being offered by Fly Robotics for $249. The other courses are generally more expensive – $995 for the Public Safety Introductory Course, and $1295 for the in-person flight school. If you are not sure if the Fly Robotics Ground School is the right flight school for you, then they offer a free course – an Introduction to Unmanned Systems.
6. Unmanned Vehicle University
The Unmanned Vehicle University (UVU) is a full-fledged university licensed to grant Masters Degrees and Doctorates in Unmanned Systems Engineering. Their faculty consists of engineering PhDs and UAV instructor pilots with a combined experience of over 60,000 hours piloting various drone models. UVU operates on four quarters per year, with a quarterly tuition of $1600.
Aside from the Master and Doctorate programs, UVU also offers a remote pilot training that costs $3500, and includes an online ground school module, PC simulator module, and in-person flight training. This is a highly comprehensive and detailed course that covers topics on basic aerodynamics, remote sensing, aircraft design, and the applications of UAV technology. The in-person training module can be conducted in any one of their 9 training centers distributed across the United States.
Are there alternatives to drone flight schools?
If you have only read about drone flight schools in this article, then you have probably noticed a fairly obvious attribute: training courses can be quite expensive. Discounts and coupon codes can be found easily for many flight schools to lighten the high costs associated with courses.
If you’re a casual drone pilot and you are not too eager to spend cash for drone flight training, then YouTube has dozens of free video tutorials you can watch. Other free resources can be found in the form of podcasts, mobile apps, study guides, and reading materials. Not having extra cash to spend isn’t really a hindrance to learning; it only means you’ll have to be a bit more creative, resourceful, and willing to spend more time figuring things out.
Depending on how much you are willing to pay and how much time you have, enrolling in a drone flight school may be a very good idea if you are a drone pilot looking to improve your skills and knowledge. The level of popularity of drones today is unprecedented, and should continue to rise further with increasing applications and improving technology. Developing your drone flight skills now puts you ahead of the curve and places you at a better position to leverage your skills for commercial and recreational uses.