Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to first get my FFA part 107 pilots license before taking the course?

No. Preparing you for the Part 107 exam and earning your FAA remote pilot certificate is part of the course. While not required to pass the exam, the couse also covers fight skills, drone mapping and a wide range of other drone skills.

Do you administer the FAA Pilot license test?

No. The course prepares you to take and pass the Part 107 exam; however, the exam is given by an FAA approved, 3rd party testing facility. Detailed instructions are provided on how you sign up and your instructor will verify that you signed up correctly and for the right test.

Will this course help me to learn how to file Air Traffic Control authorizations?

Yes. The course will show you how to you AirMap, a free online tool to locate airspace, file ATC authorization through the LAANC system and create mission plans.

Who can benefit from this course?

Many of the people that take this course are from the construction or surveying fields. However, anyone interested in earning their Part 107 certificate, learning to fly, understand the tools to make sure you're FAA compliant, and create 3D models from drone data would benefit from the class.

What time is the weekly conference call for the Instructor-Led course?

The specific day and time of the conference call changes from term to term. Typically, it is either Monday or Tuesday in the afternoon.

Do I need previous experience using a drone to take this course?

No. This course was designed for those with no experience in mind. The intention is to take individuals or companies without any previous drone experience and get them to a place where they are flying safely, following the FAA rules and getting the most out of their drone data.

How much does a comprehensive drone course cost?

There are two versions of the Applied Drone Technology class. The first is a self-paced option for $1,500. Students can get access to the material immediately and have ten weeks to complete the course. The second option is an instructor-led offering for $3,500. It has the same content but is more structured and has an accelerated 5-week delivery.

What is the best way to learn to fly a drone?

The best way to learn to fly is with a high-quality flight simulator that approximates actual aircraft physics in real-world conditions. A simulator allows you to learn to gauge distance and know how close you can fly to an object. You can't know where your aircraft's envelope is unless you fly close to obstructions, and yes…crash! If you're not crashing, you're not learning. Once you master a simulator, you're ready to start practicing with a real drone.

Can drones be used to document site conditions?

Yes, drones are an incredibly powerful tool to document a site. Simple aerial images are the lowest hanging fruit. However, those drone images, when stitched together in SfM software, will create a georeferenced 3D model. Job progress, site fence conditions, underground utilities, and much more can be documented with sub-inch accuracy. After completing this course, you'll be able to provide your client with a high-quality model of the site that will only take you minutes to create.

How can drones improve communication with partners and clients?

As the expression goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." However, just taking simple pictures is an underutilization of what drone technology can do. Instead of emailing a simple progress photo, people who complete this course can send their clients daily 3D digital as-builts of the site. Clients can then navigate the site, zoom into areas of interest, and measure various characteristics to sub-inch accuracy.

Can drones be used to calculate quantities, create estimates and check invoices?

Yes. Drone images can be used to create 3D models with SfM software. Those models are digital representations of the site. The SfM software can be used to scale distances, determine area, and calculate the volume. That data can be used to create estimates quickly and more accurately than with traditional methods. They can also be used to verify invoices received by vendors and validate the invoices you provide to clients.

How can drones be used to improve safety?

Drones are a great tool to improve safety. They can collect data or inspect an asset without having to put the operator in harm's way. Inspecting a roof is a classic example where a drone can observe and document the condition in real-time while the operator is on the ground or even at their office if the video is live-streamed. Another example is to create surveys near traffic. Drones can collect data to be processed into a 3D model without the surveyor being anywhere near the road.

How can drones be used to improve quality?

Drones can get to hard to reach places and inspect existing assets or newly installed work. As-built conditions can be seen in real-time or documented with images for review by an expert later. The video can also be live-streamed so that supervisors, designers, or consultants can observe the condition in real-time remotely.

Can a drone be used to create marketing materials?

Yes. One of the leading commercial uses of drones is to create stunning marketing material. Even a $400 drone can provide high-resolution imagery and video that can present companies' products and services from a whole new vantage point.

How are police, fire departments, and other first responders using drones?

Drones are a widespread tool used by police, fire departments, and other first responders. One use case is to provide "over-watch" where a drone is positioned above an incident and provides scene commanders an aerial overview either in person or via live stream. Drones can also be sent into dangerous situations to collect information before sending in manned assets. Additionally, drone data can be used to create 3D models of the scene to document the conditions and be used for future training exercises.

How do I pay for the drone course?

The Applied Drone Technology course is most commonly charged to a credit card through Clemson University's secure website. However, a custom invoice can be created for large classes or if a credit card is not available. Contact us directly for more information.

Will I be able to contact the instructor for help or questions if I choose the self-paced delivery option?

Yes. Dr. Joe Burgett teaches the course and is available by email to answer questions related to the course. Emails are responded to within 24hrs. For more personal interaction and greater access to Dr. Burgett, please consider the instructor-led offering.

How long does it take to complete the drone course?

There are two offerings of the course. The first is a self-paced option where students can get immediate access to the material and have up to 10 weeks to complete it. Most students complete the course within 5 to 8 weeks. The second option is an instructor-led offering. It has the same content but has an accelerated 5-week delivery.

Are there any additional fees associated with the course besides the enrollment fee?

The course includes a hard copy of the FAA Study Guide, FAA exam supplement booklet, flight controller with batteries, flight simulation software, and an educational license for ContextCapture (leading 3D SfM modeling software). Students must have a computer that meets the software requirements, a smart device such as a phone or tablet, internet access and to pay for the Part 107 exam. The Part 107 exam is given by FAA-approved testing facilities across the country. The fee is usually $175 plus any service fees. Detailed instructions on how to sign up for the exam are provided in the class. The instructor will also verify that you have signed up correctly and for the right exam.

Will I still need to outsource drone data collection for some of my projects with drones or will this class allow me to bring all of my drone work in-house?

This course teaches all of the skills necessary to start flying drones for commercial purposes and collecting data. Most consumer-grade drones can collect 2D images and video for marketing and 3D models. This course will help you use a drone to collect more advanced data as well, such as LiDAR or thermal imagery; however, processing that data is not included.

Do you need to have a license to fly a drone commercially?

Yes. If you fly a drone for commercial activities, then you will need a license from the FAA. The phrase "commercial activities" is very broadly interpreted and includes anything that does or potentially could involve the exchange of money. The license is most commonly received by taking an FAA knowledge test and earning your Part 107 remote pilot certificate. This course shows you exactly how to sign up for that exam and teaches everything you'll need to know to pass the exam.

Do you need to have insurance to fly a drone commercially?

The FAA does not require insurance; however, it may be by your client or local jurisdiction. This course provides a section that specifically covers what you need to know for drone insurance. It also guides you on what kind of coverage to purchase and how to buy it by the hour, month, or year.

What is the difference between the "self-paced" and "instructor-led" course offerings?

The content for both courses is exactly the same. The primary difference is the access to the instructor and flexibility in completing the material. Students can enroll in the self-paced offering at any time and complete the material at their own speed over a 10-week period. Any questions they have can be emailed to Dr. Burgett (instructor), and they can expect a response within 24hrs. Additionally, assignments are graded by hand, and custom feedback is provided based on what the student submitted. The instructor-led course is more structured and is very similar to what you would experience with a traditional online university class. The course is divided into five week-long modules that the class goes through together. A new module is opened every week. There is a weekly conference call with the class to review material, teach concepts, and answer questions. Companies and individuals looking for more individual instruction, more structured presentation of the material, or guidance on topics not covered in the class, should consider this delivery option.

When is the next course being offered?

The next "Self-Paced" course is generally offered at the start of every month The "Instructor-Led" is usually overed twice a sememester. Check the home page for the next course offering date.

What are the hardware requirements for this course?

This course requires access to a smart device and a PC computer. MS Windows 8.1 or better, Intel/AMD CPU 3.4GHz, any Nvidia, AMD or Intel GPU compatible with OpenGL 3.2, 8Gb RAM, and 50Gb – SATA Drive. Macs do not support ContextCapture; however, workarounds such as hard drive partitioning or virtual PC desktops are possible.

More information can be found here:

How accurate are drone-based surveys?

There are many factors that influence how accurate a drone (photogrammetric) survey is, such as camera quality, drone elevation, weather, if ground control points (GCP) were used, number of images, image overlap, angle of the camera, and the terrain. However, a DJI Phantom 4 Pro or Mavic 2 Pro, with a 20mp camera, flown at 100'AGL, with GCP on a cleared site can expect to have sub-inch accuracy with an RMS error less than 1 pixel. We explore this in the class and give you sample data to create your own model given these conditions.

Will this class provide customized feedback on my assignments or just cookie-cutter responses?

Nearly every assignment in this course is reviewed by hand and given individual feedback based on what the student submitted, just like what you would expect with a college class.

Do I need a drone to take this class?

No. All of the course material and sample drone images will be provided to you. However, if you have a drone, you are more than welcome to use your own data to create 3D models, maps, and topo surveys.

How much time does it take to complete the course?

Everyone progresses through the class at different speeds, but generally, it takes about 40 hours to complete it. There are four main parts, each taking roughly the same amount of time.

  1. Part 107: Passing the Part 107 exam and earning your remote pilot certificate is required to fly drones commercially. We prepare our students to take the exam and have an almost perfect pass rate. However, this isn’t the focus of the class.
  2. Application of Part 107: We also teach tools to apply Part 107 rules in the real world. For example, the Part 107 tests on airspace and when you would need to file for ATC authorization. We show you how to use “AirMap” which is a free online tool to be able to request instant ATC authorization. We also teach things like how to file a waiver, where to report an accident, and UAV specific weather forecasts.
  3. Flight Simulator: We teach how to fly with our flight simulator. This is a very powerful tool. Being able to gauge distance and know how close you can fly to an object is critically important. I’ve found the fastest way to learn that is to practice and crash…and then crash again. My motto in class is “if you’re not crashing, you’re not learning.” The software approximates the physics of 14 of the most commonly used drones so it gives you a good feel for the commercial drones out there.
  4. 3D Mapping: We use Bentley’s ContextCapture software for the structure-from-motion (SfM) 3D modeling exercises. I’ll give the students sample data and surveyed ground control points. From there, I teach how to create 3D models, orthophotos, and topo maps. With those models, we show you how to collect quantity take-off data. In addition, we teach how to create a pre-programmed mission using Pix4D capture and various data collection strategies so you can capture good data for your models.