Whether it’s drones, autonomous aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or whatever term you choose, the technology is growing up.
Usually, however, when the topic of drone training or laws and regulation comes up, it’s in the context of the US and the back and forth between drone enthusiasts and the Federal Aviation Authority. Meanwhile, in Europe, several countries have enacted different rules and they’re generally seen as more progressive by our counterparts stateside.
Enter Unmanned Experts, a US drone safety training and consultancy firm, which has been running drone training courses for years but will bring its courses to Europe for the first time in May, launching training sessions in Sweden.
It’s not the first of its kind in Europe; a training course was launched in Spain last year from SRF Profesional for example. But, as Unmanned Experts COO Dave Prall explains, they’ve received a particular interest from people in Sweden, which spurred the creation of these new courses.
“We didn’t choose Sweden really, our clients chose Sweden,” he explains. “If we have a country where we’re getting an inordinate amount of interest coming from that country, we will then react to that by moving forward to scheduling a course in that country and that’s what happened in Sweden."
“We’ve been contacted by multiple people in Sweden so our response is okay, we’ll come over there and put on a class. So we’re always looking to react to and respond to the needs of our potential clients.”
Drone activity has been growing in Sweden with more and more permits granted by the Swedish Transport Agency, according to a report last year from Radio Sweden, with aerial photography proving popular. Meanwhile, there are no hard figures of the number of drones purchased by hobbyists for purely personal use, which could put the amount of drone users even higher.
What the courses cover
“Specifically the courses we’re bringing to Sweden are actually our two most popular courses,” Prall says, and while the courses are being adapted to the rules and regulations of Swedish airspace, many things remain the same.
“Safe flying skills are universal,” he says but some changes will have to be made. “We actually have someone on our team who is from Sweden and she is building that module as we speak.”
The courses will be divided into two different parts – in the classroom and out in the field. For Sweden, Unmanned Experts will be bringing two of its courses, covering basic safe flight and the other on aerial photography.
In the safe flight course, students are expected to pass a written test as well as a practical flight test to show their new skills.
“Then we have an advanced module, which with this particular one we’re bringing to Sweden is a four day advanced module, and that is aerial photography. It’s our most popular advanced module,” says Dave. “As you probably know, there are a lot of folks getting into aerial photography and videography with unmanned systems.”
The limited spaces on the courses mean that many of the people that sign up are already keen enthusiasts that are looking to expand their skill sets and have their own drones but Unmanned Experts does have a small fleet of DJI Phantom drones for students to use.
Unmanned Experts has previously run several courses in the States where students earn a certificate in unmanned aviation. However given the lack of comprehensive regulatory framework, the certificate isn’t recognised by bodies like the FAA.
“We are working with the insurance industry as well as the FAA to ensure that our course is recognised when there is some form of regulation in the United States and we’re also working on several fronts in Europe to get out course recognised,” says Dave, who adds that Unmanned Experts’ courses are recommended by aviation insurance companies like Transport Risk Management.
How drones fare across Europe
Sweden is the first and only country so far that Unmanned Experts is venturing into in Europe. As Dave Prall explains, it will all depend on how these classes go in May before they consider expanding but they have had some interest in other countries.
“We’re currently dealing with Belgium, Spain, we have interest in the UK as well, Italy and possibly something going on in France so these are all countries of interest,” he says.
“We don’t have anything scheduled yet in those countries but we are in discussion with folks in those countries to do something similar.”
With that in mind, how does the European landscape for drone technology fare in Europe compared to the fervent debates currently happening in the States?
“We deal with folks from Europe a lot,” says Dave. “It appears as though overall in Europe, they’re more readily accepted and people in Europe seem to be a little bit further ahead when it comes to understanding the positive civilian sector uses when it comes to small drones."
“I would definitely say Europe is ahead of the game when it comes to accepting this technology as something that’s viable and useful to society.”
Featured image credit: Jonathan Lingel / Shutterstock