Some of you may recall my blog posted last January, referencing my attendance on a course as the first part of the process to become a CAA certified commercial drone pilot.

As I reported, the course was run by RUSTA, the new centre of excellence for commercial UAV, UAS and drone pilot training in the UK. The company, which was conceived in 2014 to counter demands for SUAS training requirements due to the exponential growth in the industry, conducts training of the highest safety standard in the UK for Small Unmanned Air Systems (SUAS) operators that wish to obtain Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) from the CAA.


Having completed the theoretical side of the course, including the written exam, I then had to prepare an Operations Manual to the satisfaction of RUSTA. Well, the Ops Manual was written and duly approved, leading me to the last link in the chain, which was to take the SUAS Sub 20kg operational evaluation before an academy evaluator.

And here we are. A Saturday afternoon and my head is spinning, having spent the previous day scanning notes and watching YouTube videos posted by DJI Phantom 4 pilots. The weather had been too inclement to enjoy any last-minute practical flying, which was a shame, as my Flight Assessor Daniel Alward-Smith had sent an email suggesting I practice in ATTI/Manual mode before the test. In principle, this means taking the UAV to its maximum allowable/legal height of 400ft, switching off the GPS, and controlling the UAV in ‘Attitude’ control. In essence, the GPS is no longer holding the platform in position. Let the wind take control, and you could well be looking at a flyaway. To stop that happening, the pilot has to manually take control of the UAV, gently leaning it into the wind to counter-balance the strength of the wind. It is then a question of maintaining a horizontal position whilst bringing the UAV safely down to earth. This, to me, had proved to be the stuff of nightmares.


Daniel, a former Army Air Corps helicopter pilot and currently a Military Flying Instructor with around 2,500 hours logged, was in jovial mood when it came to my assessment. He began by congratulating me on reaching this, the final part of the course, having previously passed the theoretical exam and the Ops Manual ratification process which, as Daniel commented, was a daunting process in itself for anyone not versed in technical authoring.

Having been provided with a scenario and a Google map latitude and longitude position of the location for the assessment, I then had to plan the mission to the finest detail, to include site and risk assessment surveys, and a weather check prior to the evaluation in order to see whether it was suitable for the evaluation to take place… which it was. At the end of the assessment, Daniel handed over my ‘wings’, a silver lapel badge, which I will wear with pride after all the hard work!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team at RUSTA, especially Daniel and Head of Academy Sion Roberts, for their undying enthusiasm for all things UAV. They have always been on hand to offer support and guidance over the past five months.

It is our intention to expand on the video production side of Essential Journeys and, with that in mind, we are due to launch a new website ( You will have possibly watched some of the videos currently on the EJ site or our YouTube channel. The plan is to introduce aerial footage to all of our new destination videos. We also plan to link the two sites, making it easy to navigate between them. The Propellair site will also showcase other aerial filming work we are planning on covering, including location shoots both at home and abroad, events and concerts, golf courses, property marketing, construction services, land surveys, and weddings. You can always contact us on in the first instance, should you wish to discuss any projects.

For further information on UAV courses, visit





Daniel flight assessor