Drone workshops & training

Interested in drones, but don’t know where to start, or how to tell drone fact from fiction?

Or you have a drone but:

  • You have unanswered questions
  • You have problems with drone hardware or software
  • Or you’d like more information so you become a better drone pilot, increase your business ROI, or you want to become a better aerial photographer?

I run unique, practical & comprehensive drone masterclasses across Australia via the Rural Drone Academy.

This drone training will give you a solid base for useful, enjoyable, safe & legal recreational or commercial drone flying and a leg-up to another level if you already have a drone. The time covered is usually one full day but this can be shorter or longer, as required. Full day drone workshops are well worth travelling to attend – a huge amount of good information is covered.

Why is this drone training unique?

I focus on aspects that other drone trainers aren’t covering and include a plethora of practical tips.  I’m not a fan of jargon but ‘holistic’ is really the most apt description for all the workshops I run.  I’ve attended many drone training sessions in Australia and overseas; this has enabled me to learn and also means I know what else is on offer. I run drone training that is practical and accurate; what I would love to have attended myself when I was starting out as this would have saved me a massive amount of time and energy. To obtain the knowledge I have, I’ve had to do a lot of training in a wide variety of places and spend thousands of dollars and fly drones for many hours. You get the benefit of my experience!

I run these drone workshops because nothing quite like this is being run by anyone else, anywhere. It’s why I receive invitations to present in other countries as well as across Australia.

Fiona Lake with other invited speakers plus attendees, at an aerial precision ag conference in China

DRONE TOPICS:

Standard basic drone topics covered; A-Z of everything a drone pilot needs to know:

  • Buying drones: choosing between drone models; the pros & cons of the different features to consider in relation to your specific purposes, & where to buy
  • Buying drone accessories: what do you need & what is a waste of money
  • Vital laws every drone pilot must know – plus where to get reliable information
  • Safe flight & problem avoidance – no drones should ever crash – how to ensure you don’t
  • Drone software difficulties – tips on how to conquer the inevitable glitches (an especially useful & unique session.)
  • Image & flight data admin – what isn’t covered in any other drone workshops (it’ll save you a lot of headscratching & accidentally deleting data files you didn’t know existed)
  • Travel – airline transport information & overseas drone rules
  • Info sources – where to obtain reliable drone information; plus which online drone groups to join and which to avoid

Extra drone topics included, if relevant on the day:

  • Career & business opportunities for drone pilots – what is realistic now & what the future holds
  • Children & drones – what every parent must know
  • Summary of Australia’s CASA drone pilot certification (Remote Pilot Certificate, Aeronautical Radio Operators Certificate, Remote Operators Certificate. Plus info on night flight training). What is involved in becoming a certified drone pilot? Who should obtain their licence and who need not bother? What are the pros & cons of certification?

Specialist drone-related topics, if arranged (depending on the specific interests of participants):

Agriculture:

  • What are drones actually being used for on farms and cattle stations, in Australia and elsewhere?  Are they really worth using, or not?
  • What kinds of other ag tech are better for some purposes?
  • Mapping basics, and spray drones – an introduction to the 3 most common types of spray drones, the advantages of spray drones over conventional spraying methods, licencing requirements and operator considerations.
  • Why should everyone in agriculture consider owning a drone – what are the side benefits – and what does the future look like?
  • Ag drone workshops are sometimes funded by local, state or federal governments, and/or producer organisations.

Aerial photography:

  • Taking good photographs from the air is a huge step up from taking good photographs on the ground. I cover photography fundamentals, what makes aerial photography different from ground photography and how to create stand-out images with drones. Aerial cinematography is also included, if sufficient time allows.
  • My focus is on all the useful topics that other photography workshop presenters are not covering; a plethora of tips that are useful for experienced photographers as well as people just starting out.
  • Participants get the best value from aerial photography workshops if a) already using manual camera settings on the ground or are b) already trained/experienced drone pilots. Learning the technicalities of photography and technicalities of drone flying at the same time is do-able but not efficient. However participants with all skill levels are welcome and find my aerial photography workshops very useful.
  • Drone photography workshops are sometimes funded by arts bodies. EG the Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF), in Queensland.

Social media tips

  • Are usually included, to some degree, in both of the above topics.  EG copyright information, watermarking, what not to put online, and how to take and select images for particular purposes, such as advocacy or campaigning. Plus small business online marketing fundamentals, if relevant to participants.

Topics are practical and based on experience – I cut to the chase and as I do not sell drones or run drone licencing courses my advice is completely independent & objective. This is rare.

Drone flight demonstration at Kooroorinya Ladies Day, North Queensland (drone photography). I run workshops in all areas – nowhere is too remote and no group is too small. If people are keen and it is manageable financially, I will come.

WHAT BRAND OF DRONES ARE DISCUSSED?

I use DJI drones as examples simply because that’s the brand I use most often.  However the same principles apply to all drones, so this workshop is relevant to all.

WHO IS SUITED TO THESE WORKSHOPS?

Age range:

  • Divided into two age groups – senior secondary school, and school-leavers upwards.  I’ve had people in their 80s attend workshops and sometimes they’ve been the keenest in the room.
  • Under sixteens welcome if accompanied by a parent (family discount available – enquire if you’d like details)

Experience & background:

  • Relevant to city & town and rural & remote residents
  • All levels of experience. These workshops are very comprehensive and include useful info for experienced pilots as well as anyone new to drones.  If you have quite a bit of hands-on experience but haven’t undergone any drone training, you will be surprised by how much else there is to learn and make use of. Licenced drone pilots have attended my full-day training sessions and said it was well worthwhile for them to attend, despite their already high level of experience.
  • Both recreational & commercial drone pilots will benefit, as the principles are identical. I run a small business and drones are an integral part of it, so this workshop includes practical first-hand advice.
  • Industries – my work involves professional photography, writing, social media, agriculture & travel – however the basic content of these drone workshops applies to every drone use.

Fiona Lake, catch-landing a P4P drone. Catch-landing safely is one of the technical skills that can be covered in drone training sessions, as care must be taken to avoid injury. (Thanks to Townsville photographer Cheryl Robertson for the image – taken after I’d been photographing the longest sugar conveyor in the world.)

WHAT WILL YOU GET OUT OF THIS DRONE TRAINING?

Drone operators with hands-on experience but who haven’t undergone any training:

  • A lot of unanswered queries will be addressed – how your drone operates and CASA laws will make sense
  • Tips to make your drone flying more enjoyable and efficient, plus business ideas if you’re thinking of putting your drone to work
  • If you’ve crashed a drone and don’t know why, this workshop may hold the answer for you and prevent a repeat disaster

New drone operators, you will:

  • Feel confident enough to choose the drone & accessories best suited to your specific purposes (& understand if you need to trade-in what you already have)
  • Know what can and can’t be done with a drone & where to go to get future queries answered reliably
  • Understand the basic aviation laws that every drone pilot must know, where to get detailed information, & know how to keep up-to-date with changes
  • Be able to reduce the likelihood of hardware problems and able to solve most software headaches faster
  • Have a good idea of the systems that can easily be implemented to help build your confidence & ensure successful flights.

Specialist drone uses:

  • Confident with ground photography, but you’ve discovered how much more difficult it is to create stand-out aerial images? I show you how.
  • You want to use drones on a farm or cattle station but you don’t know where to start? You’ll find out what drone will best suit the use you have in mind, where to buy it, how to set it up – and importantly – what drones aren’t useful for (plus other ag tech that is more suitable for some jobs).  Many people in ag have been sold drones that are more expensive than required.

Parents:

  • You’ll have a template for ensuring your children fly drones safely & legally.
  • Advice on the best drones to buy for students (eg drones that can be programmed); saving you money and ensuring maximum learning.

Burdekin Falls Dam, North Queensland (drone photography). Aerial photography has existed for more than a century – but drones have now made it relatively cheap and easy for anyone to see the world from above.  Though drones look like toys they’re exceedingly complex machines and understanding them results in much better drone pilots.

TIME, DAY, LOCATION:

Usually, all day. Because:

  • We can cover a useful level of detail, have interesting discussions and a laugh along the way.
  • Attendees are able to meet one another & converse during the breaks – additional learning plus sharing ideas with people who share a common interest and background. This can be the great basis for a mutually supportive, local network of drone pilots.
  • A full day of good quality content means it’s worth travelling to attend. I know how frustrating it is to find a workshop which looks good except that it only runs for 2 hours and just skims the surface – not enough substance to justify travelling a long distance for.

What day & time?

  • Usually held on a Saturday – but can be on any other day if preferred by drone workshop hosts.
  • Usually daylight hours; I set up at around 7.30am; participants to arrive from 8.30am for a 9am sharp start; finish at 5pm with provision for one-on-one conversations to continue on afterwards, for as long as people have questions.

Location:

  • When feasible, held on the edge of town where there are no flight restrictions, so drones can be flown outside the building – although hands-on flight is not usually an essential part of the learning.

How to book:

  • Most of the workshops I present are hosted and organised from start to finished by others, so booking methods vary.
  • Ticketing for the drone workshops I organise myself, goes through Eventbrite, for simplicity’s sake.

What to bring to the drone workshop:

  1. A mobile phone or tablet with the ‘OK2Fly’ app downloaded – not vital, but desirable.
  2. A laptop & card reader for checking drone image files & other drone admin – not essential, but useful for full-day workshops:
  3. A drone, if you have one – you are always welcome to bring it as we usually run through drone ‘anatomy’ so you can check yours out at the same time. Other workshop attendees may not have seen your model of drone so may also be interested in it. NOTE: Depending on the time available, the location and the size of the group – we may not be flying drones at all as hands-on skill is a minor part of flying drones. To illustrate this – while CASA does require Australian drone pilots to do a simple flight test before licencing, the FAA does not require American drone pilots to undergo a flight test at all. Because it is knowledge & organisation that makes a good drone pilot.  Flying is a technical skill, like riding a bike, and best practiced in your own time. Our time together is best spent learning about the brains of the operation, not exercising motor skills.
  • If I’ve driven to the drone workshop I usually have all my drones, accessories, cases, manuals et cetera. However when I’ve had to fly to workshops, the display quantity is reduced due to luggage limits.

Fiona Lake, Night Flight drone training in Las Vegas, USA. Night flying involves a much greater level of skill and planning and it is illegal in most countries – unless the drone operator is fully licenced and has the required permission.  There are specific reasons why flying drones at night requires training, and I can run through these if anyone has a particular interest.

WHY ATTEND MY DRONE TRAINING?

I’m one of Australia’s best qualified & most experienced drone pilots:

  • Fully licenced by CASA (Remote Pilot Licence & Remote Operators Certificate).
  • Night flight certified (undertaken specialist training in the US).
  • Attended training & workshops in various locations across Australia and the US (New York, North Carolina & Nevada); as well as drone conferences in Europe and China.
  • I’ve run drone workshops & presentations in a variety of locations between southern Victoria to Far North Queensland; from one hour drone introductory sessions to comprehensive training over two consecutive days.
  • To date I’ve been invited to present at conferences on 5 continents, including InterDrone, North America’s largest commercial drone conference.
  • I have owned and flown a number of different drones and have undertaken many hours of drone flight in every Australian state.
  • Won a number of awards & received peer recognition – including, over the last 2 years: named by Chicago-based Women and Drones as one of ten ‘Women to Watch in UAS’ (unmanned aviation systems); ‘Rural Drone Academy’ – AgriFutures Rural Woman of the Year finalist for Queensland, one of the Queensland Government’s ‘Community Digital Champions’ & Queensland Government ‘100 Faces of Small Business’; and winner of the Queensland Rural Press Club ‘production’ category of their annual photography awards.
  • More than 30 years of professional aerial photography experience.

ARE THESE FULL-DAY DRONE MASTERCLASSES WORTH TRAVELLING A LONG DISTANCE TO ATTEND?

  • If this kind of practical and detailed drone training had been available on the other side of Australia when I was starting out, I would have jumped on a plane to attend because it would have been well worth it. This is the quality I provide for you – a condensed summary of what I’ve spent years learning.
  • After the official end of the day there is usually the option to continue conversations over dinner at a nearby restaurant.  Sometimes everyone has to rush off, but on other occasions the icing on the cake of events is the great conversations after the official conclusion. It’s often where you find the keenest people and can pick up an extra gem of information, via a late question you ask or someone else asks.
  • Training & direct costs are usually tax deductible if drone usage is genuinely involved in producing your current year’s income. But do check with your accountant as everyone’s situation differs.

I live in North Queensland but have lived and worked across 3 Australian states and taken aerial photographs in every state. Having a wide variety of interests fosters participant interaction and makes the drone training day a lot more entertaining for everyone.

WHEN & WHERE WILL I BE RUNNING THE NEXT DRONE WORKSHOPS?

  • Very occasionally I organise a workshop here in Townsville but usually I’m presenting at events hosted by others. This is much better as local knowledge helps ensure inclusion of the most relevant content and best timing, and the most effective marketing – reaching those who are most likely to attend and benefit. Events can be self-funded by attendees or partly or wholly funded by grants.  (Whatever kind of event is being run, I don’t recommend running any that are completely cost-free, as even a small charge upon booking helps ensure participant commitment to attending, thus making catering & other arrangements efficient.)
  • As soon as events become definite they are listed on this ‘Business hours & events’ blog post.
  • Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding hosting a drone workshop in your area – either general interest or focussed on agricultural or photographic use.  I travel all over the place, presenting workshops, training and keynote speaking.  It is busy, so best to plan in advance as much as possible.

To date I’ve presented workshops for the general public and specific groups; funded and/or managed by:

  1. Local councils & government departments – relating to digital upskilling & education, health & wellbeing, natural resource management & agriculture
  2. Arts organisations
  3. Ag industry bodies
  4. Rural Women’s organisations
  5. A library is funding a drone workshop in 2020 (details TBA) (arts-based)

If you ask around and can’t find many or any locals interested in attending a professional-standard drone workshop – then that suggests that in the near future there won’t be enough demand in your area, and your only option is to travel to attend training.  I’ve travelled thousands of kilometres to undertake specialist training – if you’re keen, travelling to good quality training is the only option.

The upside of not finding many/any locals interested in a drone workshop – if you upskill now you’ll then be the best informed or one of the best informed drone pilots in your region. Because at present there’s a massive amount of hot air but relatively few people with genuinely comprehensive drone experience and knowledge. Being the best informed in your region gives you an obvious advantage in terms of running a business, creating better aerial photographs and mentoring others as interest increases.

Fiona Lake provides one-on-one drone training also (drone image taken in far south western Qld.)

 

Drone information blog posts

  • I’ve written a number of posts containing information I wish I could have found at the outset. The drone topics below are either not covered by anyone else at all, incompletely or inaccurately.
  • All the information in these posts is included in Rural Drone Academy training, to some degree, but with the addition of many other useful topics, entertaining examples, participant Q & A’s and networking.
  1. Rural Drone Academy workshops & training – want to lift your flying up to another level, solve some drone issues, or you need a hand to gets started? These workshops are useful for all skill levels, ages and backgrounds.
  2. Next workshops plus previous events – upcoming events you can attend. Previous events are also listed, which will give you an idea of the regions covered, themes and the diversity organisations hosting them.
  3. Comments from participants – forthright opinions from people who have attended drone sessions held in four states.
  4. The principles of drone safety & laws – essential reading for every drone pilot. Accompanied by impressive ‘fail’ stories, during Rural Drone Academy training.
  5. How to set up a drone business – how to steam ahead – use time, energy & money to maximum effect – and avoid pitfalls. Included in drone workshops in detail, if applicable to participant interests.
  6. What is the best drone to buy for a beginner?  Objective information to help you decide. The internet is full of drones that have hardly been flown because they didn’t suit the buyer’s purpose. Don’t join them!
  7. What is the best drone to buy? Comprehensive information on the most common consumer models to help drone pilots upgrading or seeking a drone for a specific task.
  8. Is a Crystal Sky screen worth buying?  The pros and cons compared to using phones and tablets as screens, from an objective point of view.

If you are interested in attending Rural Drone Academy training don’t hesitate to contact me by email or ring the business-hours phone number listed below.

PLEASE NOTE: As applies to the rest of this website – the content on this page is protected by copyright.  This post was originally written in 2019.

Rural Drone Academy training covers the A to Z of everything a drone pilot needs to know in order to fly safely, productively and enjoyably. Drone workshops are based on a wealth of drone and small business experience, with agricultural and photography knowledge informing the additional topics offered.

Additional information on the workshops & presentations I run is included in the ‘Services’ section of the website.  As well as 1 and 2 day comprehensive drone workshops, I’m often asked to present 1-2 hour drone introductory sessions. I travel widely so don’t hesitate to ask if you’d like a drone workshop for the public, a local group, organisation or business in your area.

And if you know someone who is really hard to buy a present for – a drone training session could be the best present you’ve ever given them!

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