In 2007, when I was called by my desk officer and offered a place on a MQ9 Reaper course, I was incredibly sceptical of the concept and longevity of such Unmanned Air Vehicles.

Having spent 15 years in the RAF at that point, did I really want to leave what I was professionally comfortable with and move to the USA?

I accepted the position and before too long I discovered the capability these emerging systems could offer. Like most servicepeople, as I approached my immediate pension point, I started to explore my options and it became apparent that there was huge potential outside of the RAF to operate these vehicles for commercial operations. I invested in a DJI Phantom and to my surprise won a global aerial photography competition with a photograph I took in Whitesands, New Mexico, whilst serving on exchange with the USAF as a MQ9 instructor.

I discovered that it wasn’t just aerial filming and the photography industry that would benefit but also agriculture, surveying and security sectors etc. I took the plunge and submitted my PVR hoping to get myself going in another worthwhile career. After 6 years in the USA I arrived back in the UK and started my transition to civilian life. Having acquired the qualifications to fly for commercial operations, which is a legal requirement and regulated by the CAA, I set up my own company.

As I was an instructor in the RAF it just seemed like a natural progression to explore the training aspect of small UAV’s. In 2015, my company started to train potential operators as a qualified entity appointed by the CAA and since then we have trained a wide range of clients from farmers, to the film crew of the Game of Thrones.

It is not solely commercial operators that we have trained. In 2015, we started training blue light services and since then we have run many courses with the Metropolitan Police and Surrey and Sussex Police forces to name a few. If you are looking for an exciting, worthwhile UAV/drone career outside of the military and I can whole-heartedly recommend it.

You have to ensure you are trained and qualified properly before you can operate but the opportunities themselves are endless. My training company RUSTA is operated by Ex military flying instructors and lead the field in UAV training.

Sion Roberts Managing Director RUSTA/Eagle Eye Innovations Ltd.

0800 774 7347