Dropbear Aerials are an operator of professional UAVs (commonly known as drones), providing aerial photography, and public educational services, and are based in Milton Keynes, Bucks. Our CAA Permission is numbered EUAS8034 issued under the Air Navigation Order 2016. We use Flyby Technology as our training and qualification partner, and hold Public Liability insurance with Coverdrone. We have an Enhanced DBS in order for us to work with schools and other institutions to provide various education services on UAVs to both children and adults.
Dropbear Aerials Ltd is registered at 20-22 Wenlock Road, London N1 7GU, with its operating base in Central Milton Keynes.
Chris Rolland began his interest in aviation while growing up in Chesham, flying model aircraft with his friend, whose father was a former Royal Navy pilot. As he grew up, however, a natural affinity with computers meant that he opted for a career in IT, but the interest in both civil and military aviation was always present. These combined interests developed into being a regular player of Flight Simulator games. However as technology developed these developed from mere games to highly realistic simulators capable of almost professional quality experiences.
With the release of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight these had developed online multi-user capabilities and Chris joined the IVAO network, which aims to give as realistic an online environment as possible. Many of its members are teenagers who go on to careers in aviation as pilots, air-traffic controllers and other roles. Eventually Chris joined the leadership team and became the Flight Director for the UK Division, and enjoyed the experience of helping develop and test the skills of the members and helped develop new procedures for the entire organisation, which are still in place today.
As the advent of consumer quadcopters and drones arrived, Chris started flying what were at first very basic drones – in reality nothing more than clever toys, but these devices had no automation or guidance and require a level of skill to control manually. By the time DJI released the Phantom 4, Chris had gained a level of proficiency in manual flying that made flying an advanced drone like the Phantom a joy, and the first thoughts of turning a hobby into a commercial enterprise were formed. However, sometimes life gets in the way of even the best plans.
In the last week before Christmas 2016, Chris was rushed into hospital with a major infection that developed into sepsis, which nearly cost him his life. Chris survived but with life changing consequences, and it was this that prompted him to undergo the formal training required by the CAA as a potential alternative to his IT career. The name Dropbear Aerials is a reference to an Australian hoax, often played on unsuspecting tourists, concerning a bear that drops from above on anyone speaking with a non-Australian accent! Thus the “bear in the air” was conceived, although a Polar Bear was used as our logo and mascot instead of a Koala to coincide with the white colour scheme of our drones!
The process of gaining a CAA Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) is a well defined one. The first step is to select a training partner and National Qualified Entity (NQE). This was not as easy as it first appeared as there are a great many companies offering training and the standard appears to vary greatly among them, with many taking a basic “just pass the exams” approach but others offering a more comprehensive training solution. Flyby Technology was selected as the partner of choice, as their training went far beyond the basics, and the instructors were all fully qualified pilots – many from a military background.
After passing the ground school exams with an almost perfect mark, Chris had to overcome a few health challenges before he was finally able to take the practical exams, where the benefits of having flown manual drones allowed him to pass with the automated flying features disabled (ATTI mode). Through all this, Flyby have been an excellent partner, and any drone pilot wishing to take their flying to the next level would do well to get in touch with them, especially as regulations come in for mandatory training and registration.
We currently exclusively fly the DJI Phantom 4 series for our work. We have a Phantom 4 Pro and the original Phantom 4 as a backup. We also fly the DJI Spark non-operationally which we are evaluating with FPV goggles. The Phantom 4 series represents the most capable single operator drones available, and while we note the development of the Mavic series, we are looking forward to seeing whether DJI develop a Phantom 5. We are also considering investing in a DJI inspire 2 as an enhancement to our “Flying Tripod” service where we can literally give control of the camera to the hiring creative professional.