Ethan Fenelon, Certified Drone Pilot

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

In our business, we spend a great deal of time sharpening our Esri saw. Our team member Ethan Fenelon not only does that every day, he recently became a certified drone pilot. This is as big a deal as it sounds, and Ethan was kind enough to take some time and break it down for us recently:

What certification do you have?

-FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate. It’s also known as FAA Certified UAS Pilot, Remote Pilot Certificate and Certified Drone Pilot.

What organization did you get the certification from?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

What can you do that those of us without this certification can’t?

I can now operate a drone/UAS commercially. You legally have to have a license to operate a drone for business purposes.

What did you like about the training?

There is no required class you need to take for this certificate so you have many different options for how to learn the material. The most common option for preparing is to purchase online video classes. Many different sites provide the same kind of training that you can sign up for and it is all self paced. I took an Unmanned Aerial Systems class at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse when I was attending there last Spring where I learned all of these materials online. The course work focused more on flying the drones and processing the imagery but we were still tested on the training weekly. This class opened up my eyes to drones in the workforce and I hope to use them more in the future.

Was obtaining this credential challenging? If yes, what was challenging about it?

I anticipated it would be challenging, but it was a little more challenging than I was expecting. I would consider myself new to most of this information with airspace so it was a little overwhelming to learn. There are a lot more rules in the sky than I anticipated, which isn’t a bad thing. Learning about airspaces, sectional charts, METARs and TAFs were my biggest struggles.

Do you have to ever renew/update your credentials?

The certificate lasts 2 years. I am able to complete some continuing education training online that will keep my certificate up to date.

What are some GIS applications that require or are enhanced by using a drone?

Drones can be used to generate 3D point clouds, basemaps and can be used in other remote sensing practices. Drones are often used to survey hazardous areas and at lower costs. These are just some things that come to mind with the use of drones in GIS.

Congrats on your accomplishment, Ethan!

Interested in learning more about how we can use drone technolology to enhance your current or future projects? Please be in touch!