Talking Drone Training & senseFly’s e-Learning Platform with Andrea Blindenbacher

With the launch of senseFly’s new e-learning platform and dedicated Certified senseFly Operator ProgramWaypoint recently sat down with senseFly Global Head of Training Andrea Blindenbacher to learn more about how the new platform and certification course works, where to access it and how senseFly users (and even non-users) can benefit from the various self-guided tutorials and modules.  

Tell us a little bit about the new senseFly e-learning training platform and operator certification course 

The platform is an e-learning training method designed to help eBee operators take their skills and operational confidence to the next level. They can either complete single courses depending on where their interest is, or they can complete all the modules and become a certified senseFly drone operator.   

How does it work? 

The e-learning platform can be accessed from the Education section on senseFly.com or directly via our senseFly Academy portal. Users simply register on the page, which then gives them access to the course catalog as well as the option to enroll in our Certified senseFly Operator Program. 

Can people pick and choose which modules and courses they take? 

Yes! Modules contain courses and some modules have up to four or five coursesWe’ve found that one course typically takes up to 30 minutes to complete. Some feature a video presentation as well as exercises and even quizzes to help self-test the users’ knowledge and comprehension of the topic. 

What does it mean for the user to become “Certified”? How does that help them out in the field? 

The Certified senseFly Operator Program means you’ve undertaken all the courses to completion. The courses have been designed to follow the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standard of UAV operators training as much as possibleSo, once one becomes a certified senseFly drone operator, they will have a type certificationlike what pilots have for a specific airplane. However, this certification doesn’t replace their country-specific drone pilot license requirement. 

Complying with safety and regulations is important to us, and we believe this is a good resource for senseFly eBee pilots to take advantage of. Even those who are not yet senseFly customers but want to learn more about general drone operations and mapping principles can benefit from the platform.  

So the program is open to non-senseFly users, too? 

That’s correctAnyone will be able to go to the platform and complete some courses. Obviously new and existing senseFly users will gain the most benefit from the modules and courses, but there is enough general information to prove useful to others, too. 

What brought about the program? 

It was a combination of factors. We put a lot of energy into providing a comprehensive library of training materials. We also have a good reputation for developing drones and drone software, such as our eMotion flight planning software, which is intuitive to use. But there is always room for improvement, right? So, we wanted to go further and improve our clients’ knowledge and skills so that they can use their senseFly drone to its full potential. 

Also, the drone industry and regulations are starting to consolidate with more regulations being put in place; a trend that can be seen moving in the same direction globally. And this type of certification and proof of knowledge has become very important, especially if one needs to apply for special authorizations locally.  

How was training handled before? 

More at an introductory level. That was fine for simple missions, but there was little access or guidance for more complex scenarios, such as flying high up in the mountains and other factors one needs to consider to operate successfully. Often, clients would have to use webinars and conferences, but this new platform gives better and easier access to this knowledge from the start.  

Is the new platform meant to replace the old way or complement it? 

More to replace, but because of COVID and the struggle with traveling and doing field training safely, it has become more complementary. Our global senseFly distributor network still provides introductory training at the local level, but if someone is unable to access that reliablyor they simply want to take the next step in their knowledge and skill level—then the e-Learning training platform is an excellent option.  

How do you envision the new platform benefiting new and existing senseFly pilots? 

It probably depends on where they live and what their country’s regulations look like. In the EU, the new EASA rules may require that they prove their skills and knowledge with the eBee X, so this will help. As for new clients, the goal is to bring them up to speed quickly on all the capabilities of eMotion and their drone, all online. 

Why is training so important? 

There are so many factors that connect good training to success! One of the most important reasons is that drones are flying in the air, sharing that space with other aircraft, and even flying above people who may not be involved in their operation. If operators don’t know how to plan, prepare or troubleshoot properly, that poses risk and we want to help mitigate those risks as much as possible, so it’s important that our pilots know how to handle any issues that may impact safety. 

The second reason is that how you set up and plan your mission has an impact on the data quality you get. If you’re a service provider and quoting for a day of flying and a day of processing [the collected data] but you end up needing more time – that’s not good for business. Neither is thinking you set up your missions properly, getting out into the field and realizing you did not—that’s really frustrating! So again, it comes down to helping our customers become more knowledgeable, efficient and ultimately more successful. 

How did you go about defining the modules and courses? Is it based on anything specific?  

Yes, we’ve based it off many existing protocols and best practices. There is ISO recommendations for the training of UAV pilots. The other is the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) procedure, which is a method to build a concept of operations and is required to be submitted to a local CAA for flying in specific categories for example. One would have to provide proof of Operation Safety Objective (OSO), where one of those is the proper training of the pilots.  

From an application point of view, we’re covering what types of settings are best for different types of missions. For example, we have modules on data processing and data quality to learn about the different factors that influence data quality and what to do about themThere are also courses for each type of camera and its main application.  

We also cover the basics of photogrammetry, such as software, how it workand how you can take images you’ve collected and output the data at the precision and quality you need. 

Is the program meant to replace local compliance and certifications? 

Sadly, no. We can’t account for every country and local rules. People will also have to do a local operator course or certification based on the requirements of their local CAA. But our program and certification will help operators get insurance for liability and insurance on their drone, as well as approval by their local CAA since they have proof of skill and knowledge about their senseFly eBee UAV. It could also be part of a tender for a service provider who is required to prove they have the skills for specific projects. 

Thank you so much for chatting with us today, Andrea! 

My pleasure.   

For more information on the new e-learning platform and certification process, register for our upcoming introductory webinar.