LTP 114: Taking to the Skies with Wing Kearns

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This month Bart is joined by a very special guest indeed — his beloved husband Wing. Wing just passed an important drone-flying test this week (his ‘Specific Category Practical Skills Assessment’). This opens up his third drone-flying certification, allowing him to fly after sunset. Wing’s drone-flying passion is tightly linked with a long-term photographic project — capturing images of ancient Irish monuments like ring forts and stone circles. Many of these impressive historical treasures are so large as to be effectively invisible from the ground, so compelling images require a different point of view! Bart invited Wing on to talk about the craft of arial photography with modern prosumer drones, and the hope is to have Wing back on in the future, when his project is more advanced, to talk about the art of arial photography.

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Minimum Equipment
  1. a drone with a camera (less than 25kg unless you want to do more work to get certified )
  2. a controller (may or may not come with the drone)
Wing’s Irish Drone Certification/Licensing Journey

Ireland comes under EU rules for drone flying, so Wing’s journey will be similar to that for other Europeans, though not identical, countries do get to add their own flavour!

Open A1/3 license → Open A2 → Specific Category

The Open A1/3 is easy to get, you just need to watch some videos, take a 30 minutes test, and pay a €30 registration fee. This lets you fly a small drone up to 120m high within visual range, during the day, in unrestricted airspace, and not anywhere near uninvolved people.

The Open A2 took more work — a more detailed course (still on a website, but paid for, Wing paid ~€100), and a longer test, but it allows flying within 5 meters of people. There is also another registration fee of €45.

This is all most hobbyists will need or want, but Wing went a step further (and maybe even one more beyond that soon!)

To get the Specific Category Wing needed to take a day-long course (~€600) with a certified trainer, and complete a Specific Category Practical Skills Assessment (basically a drone driving test ). Then you have to pay another registration fee to register as a drone operator which costs ~€300 every 2 years! This lets him fly after sunset and in restricted air space (with appropriate clearances!).

Wing’s also completed the needed paperwork to be certified to fly for leisure in the US (TRUST).

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