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Drone Mapping Software & Free Tips

drone deploy map pitfour lake

As my interest in mapping has grown I have put together this post to help me and remind me of certain things I hope it can also help you. Please leave a comment good or bad as this can help me to further develop the skills needed.

When I first left my higher education (college) I was employed by MDL-measurement devices ltd based in Aberdeen they specialised in laser measurement devices and the job involved putting the laser systems together I moved on from that roll to the oil & gas industry to further my career but now I have an interest in drone mapping I have circled round and come back to learn more. MDL have now been acquired by Renishaw.

So when you start your drone business or even before you may see a lot of software online and offline who help you provide 2D and 3D modelling using various methods, sensors (lasers/cameras/Survey grade equipment) and software the information you can provide is helping various Industries:

  1. Construction,
  2. Land Survey,
  3. Real Estate, Inspection,
  4. Agriculture,
  5. Forestry

What they may use the information for includes: site surveys/layouts which can be added to progress reports, inspections of the work site for hazards seen from a bird’s eye view, analytics of the work site by measuring stockpiles, CAD or 3D drawings I am sure the list goes on.

You can use software combined with your drone to provide the relevant information but make I needed to understand what the client wanted and if I felt comfortable to provide it, knowing what to do with these files before handing them over. E.g. a surveyor or architect will most likely require different file types. I have collected my notes to help anyone looking for a basic rundown of the mapping software I found and the acronyms which helped to further understand this subject.

Two Dimensional & Three Dimensional

2D will often refer to a two-dimensional space where there are two axis mathematically represented as the X&Y axis, with regards to geometry this would be the equivalent to a triangle, rectangle, square etc. Basically when a shape is drawn it would be flat on a piece of paper or could be displayed as a map without contour lines.

3D will often refer to a three-dimensional space where there are three axis mathematically represented as the X,Y & Z, with regards to geometry this would be the equivalent of a cube, sphere, pyramid etc.

As I mentioned above you have 2D and 3D, but it gets furthermore complicated when you throw in all the acronyms, phrases and file types. For example the earth its self is a sphere or to make things more complicated and ellipsoid, laying out a sphere or ellipsoid flat on paper as a 2D map will lead to some distortion the outcome is the same when displayed on a computer monitor and will need some sort of map projection correction. The standard for web mapping applications such as Google Maps is (EPSG: 3857) and Google earth uses (EPSG:4326).

Ellipsoid- An ellipsoid is when you take a Sphere (ball) and push down to distort what once was a perfect sphere, there are many different reference ellipsoids, the precise latitude and longitude of a point on the surface of earth is not unique unless the coordinate reference system is known this is especially important for accurate applications, like a Global Positioning System (GPS). ISO standard quote “without the full specification of the coordinate reference system, coordinates (that is latitude and longitude) are ambiguous at best and meaningless at worst”.

EPSG – European Petroleum Survey Group – “The International Association of Oil & Gas Producers” EPSG Geodetic Parameter Dataset is a collection of definitions of coordinate reference systems and coordinate transformations which may be global, regional, national or local in application.” The EPSG Geodetic Parameter Dataset is maintained by the Geodesy Subcommittee of IOGP’s Geomatics Committee. &

Now we know that we have 2 & 3 dimensions, how do we know at what point we are located on the earth’s surface?

Latitude and Longitude are used together to pin point a location on earth’s surface. GPS

World Geodetic System– Is a standard used by GPS and it comprises of:

  1. Geographic coordinate system – defines three-dimensional coordinates based on the Earth’s surface e.g. Latitude, longitude and elevation.
  2. Spheroid reference – Datum (WGS84)
  3. Geoid – Involves the use of earths gravitational force and would be better to read on reference:

Global Positioning System – Originally created for use by the American military, the system comprises of roughly 30 satellites orbiting earth if your GPS receiver makes contact with a minimum of three through Trilateration your position will be known. Other countries systems include Russia’s (GLONASS), European Union Galileo positioning system (GNSS) , China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and India’s (NAVIC).  Most drones are fitted with GPS, but extra systems have been developed to improve your accuracy when mapping.

Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) – receivers use the GPS, GLONASS, Galileo or BeiDou system and survey grade receivers can be used to position GCPs.

NOTE: As I am not a surveyor and in no way advertise I am I thought it best to have a better understanding to at least be able to understand what information they may require from my drone data.E.g. if you provide a map to the owner of the land, they may just want a layout so placement of houses etc can be decided. But imagine the information is passed to a developer/architect who starts to plan more detailed drawings based on your map (contours etc) he then hires a surveyor to quantify your results only to find the original map is inaccurate, this is passed to the land owner who is now upset as he thinks what you have provided is unprofessional and inaccurate waste of time and money. Questions you could be asked like was GCP’s used? What RTK sensor was fitted to the drone or was it PPK? Not great for business!

Adding Accuracy to your Map

RTK Real Time Kinematic –RTK positioning uses a base station placed at a known point (bench mark) and points are then taken with reference the base station. This may be used to quantify your GCP’s for relative accuracy; absolute accuracy is only as accurate as your base station. RTK receivers on board a drone can mitigate the need for GCPs.

Most drones are fitted with GPS, but extra systems have been developed to improve your accuracy when mapping.DJI D-RTK mappingCheck out the DJI system here D-RTK! 

GCP  Ground control points Large marked targets which can easily be seen from your flight altitude are placed on the ground at strategically known points. These points are precise and the centre point is measured using extremely accurate equipment. These points should be spread out strategically throughout your map, often between 3 to10 points are used.

PPK Post Processed Kinetic – Similar to RTK but the positioning data is from the drone and base station are combined after the flight, the benefits being no loss of data link out in the field due to communication issue’s allowing the drone to fly further from the base station. Data can be processed multiple times to give more comprehensive results.

Relative Accuracy – Two points on you map can be measure via software and these will be accurate to the physical points measured.

Absolute Accuracy – A point is taken from your map and correlated against a point in the real world, the size and shape of objects will also be correct for absolute accuracy. Very important when overlaying your geo-referenced map onto a site plan.

Output files and storage Databases

GIS  Geographic Information system – This is another hugely complicated subject and something you could study for a few years but from what I can understand what you need to know is that this is a computer system which holds/stores, retrieves,  checks, manages and displays the data relating to the earth’s surface and various free software options exist. GIS systems tend to encode the raster pixels with pixel locations.

GeoTag Before your image can be overlaid on the likes of google maps your camera should be able to perform Geotagging to the photographs metadata so your images are Georeferenced on a map the reason for this is so the software knows at what point in the world they relate too. This is normally done by adding the GPS- global positioning system points to the metadata it is not seen in the picture itself but instead in the .EXIF or. xmp file. Output picture files include .jpeg .TIFF .RAW.

Photogrammetry involves taking measurements from photos and is as old as photography itself.

Orthomosaic or Ortho – This tends to mean a lot of pictures that have been stitched together and “orthorectified” and overlayed on a map to produce a very detailed picture which can be referenced for true distances as lens distortion, camera tilt and topographic relief have been removed.This is a map I created and overlayed onto an image taken from google earth, you can clearly see the difference in detail between the old satellite image and the newly created image. Output files include GeoTIFF, KML file, Google Maps HTML file

map overlay fetterangus google maps

KML Keyhole markup language Files – based on XML standard. Tags are associated inside the file allowing the file to pinpoint locations or overlay images on Google Earth a great way to provide a more detailed image compared to the satellite image provided by Google.

Point Cloud – Can be collected using a laser scanner or converted from photographs (photogrammetry). The point is located in a space and is taken from on a physical object. Many points together will produce 3D representations (X, Y&Z) of the physical object. These can then be edited and computer generated or even 3D printed. Output files include.las, .laz, .xtz .ply (Auto desk.)

3D model – is a model from which a physical object is converted into a mathematical representation, this is done via special computer software. Output files include .OBJ .3DS .STL .FBX .DAE

3D Mesh – this is a textured representation of a model that can be overlaid to a point cloud, it includes the verticals, edges and faces.

3D video animation – Once the 3D model has been created you create walk or fly throughs of your 3D animations to better display and inform. Output files include .mp4 .mkv .avi

Laser Scanning or LIDAR Is using laser beams in a controlled manor to take distance measurements from various angles and combing them to create a 3D model.  So when do you choose LIDAR or Photogrammetry? Price and accuracy often have a huge part to play and also who is going to interpret the data. Engineers may lean more towards the LIDAR where as a site manager or customer might prefer the photogrammetry as the pictures are a lot easier to understand. As time progresses drones are looking to combine sensors and save on multiple flights and time.

Topographical – Topography is the study of the shape and features of the surface of the Earth, essentially “getting the lay of the land”, the topography of an area could refer to the surface shapes and features themselves, or a description especially their depiction in maps (contour lines). Detailed information about terrain and surface features like streams, rivers, forests etc is essential for the planning and construction of many projects.

Contour lines – Lines joined together to indicate terrain at the same level. Output files include shp .pdf .dxf

Raster & Vector Image filesCan be confusing but as I use these software packages I tend to relate best and remember Photoshop or GIMP edits raster images and InkScape edits vector images. But in mapping terms that’s not much use,
Vector = Points, Lines and Areas
Raster = Made up of pixels (grid cell) normally red, green or blue in colour. Each pixel has its own value e.g. a certain height or position.

BIM / Building information modelling/Model   is a digital file which represents an actual physical place and is created to help from the construction to delivery phase of various construction projects A BIM tends to include more than just a Length, Width & Height (3D) drawing it can include the time, cost, geographical data etc. The aim of a BIM file is to be handed over at each phase of a project from design, manufacture and operations/maintenance. Each phase would have specific data added and only one large file worked on to stop lost data throughout the stages. Output files include .IFC .DXF .RVT .DWG .NWD

The regulation/Specification for BIM is: PAS-1192-2-2013 (Incorporating corrigendum No1)

Digital Surface Model (DSM) – a model of the area mapped without colour information. Output files include grid DSM & raster DSM

Digital Terrain Model (DTM) – a digital terrain model is similar to the digital surface model but only as the name suggests terrain e.g. buildings filtered out. Output files include DTM, raster DTM.

Here is another map that was produced with 70 images stitched together using drone deploy, the flight was also controlled using their app.

drone deploy map pitfour lake

Drone mapping software & applications

  1. Drone deploy – The reason I mention them first is they really hit the market about the time I started my own business and provide free webinars to sign up for which was great for learning more about mapping and why it could help so many industries.
  2. Pix4D – The leader and probably one of the mostly used software/app. (Quite expensive)
  3. Raptor Maps
  4. Precision Hawk’s Precision Mapper
  5. 3D Robotics
  6. SkyCatch
  7. Sense Fly
  8. Drofika
  9. WebODM
  10. Agisoft
  11. Maps Made Easy- offer a pay as you map service which is very handy if you want to offer this as a service but do not have a regular need.
  12. Scopito
  13. Auto desk ReCap pro is a photo to Point-Cloud

Final Thought: Most of the apps allow the drone flight to be autonomous which can be very scary the first time you plan your flight and watch the drone fly off into the distance. Be very wary of your surroundings and complete a very detailed sight survey watch out for that telephone wire and always keep your drone in view. I am sure the software will also continue to improve and help keep commercial drone pilots in touch with the industries, who will require the need for the information. I have played around with two drone deploy more than any of the others it is a paid services but they do offer a free trial. They can benefit the smaller businesses as they offer the opportunity to have projects completed via the cloud saving investment in large amounts of computing power they would otherwise need. Read My review of DroneDeploy.

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Drone safety tips for your business

Futurephoto MDB Marine hi-vis vest drone safety

Futurephoto hi-vis vest drone safety

Safety is one of the most important things not only to stop people from getting hurt but to manage a good reputation. A compromise in safety can lead to injury, damage and loss of reputation which a small drone business or any business for that matter cannot afford. Many industry’s adopt a safety culture where there minimum standards can be developed. As a minimum the drone industry the drone code should be followed. As the industry has grown it is obvious people take silly risks to get that one video or picture, these risks put other people’s life’s in danger especially when flown near passenger aircraft. This can be done intentionally or when he rules to in place to follow and respect rules are unknown. When a consumer purchases a drone for the first they can be nervous and hesitant with their drone to protect and not damage it, but as like with everyday life when you become confident you start to push the boundaries, in the drones case flying to its maximum distance and height using only your tablet or phone to view, this can cause problems as now you no longer have VLOS or visual line of sight and unaware of your surroundings only to find an electricity wire will bring a quick end to your drone. Wind can be another fact when pushing the limits you may find the wind speed further away or between buildings soon take hold or your drone and suddenly you have a fly away where the drone may end up.

Below are some Drone Safety Tips:

  • Carry out a pre-site survey/ risk assessment
  • Check your airspace
  • Check for NOTAMs on the day of mission/flight
  • Make sure everything is updated and fully charged (Tablet/computer/Controller)
  • Make sure you have the correct insurance
  • Barrier off your take-off and landing zone
  • Use a fully charged battery before every flight, Check your home point is updated and calibrate your drone at each location
  • Display your signs, having a second person to explain the task and watch the barriered area can be advantageous.
  • Maintain the correct distance from people and structures
  • Always maintain Visual line of sight, watching the display can distract you from and obvious collision.

Disclaimer: These are some personal Drone Safety Tips i can offer but as always it is up to you to make sure you are

following the correct practices and laws.

When training for your  permission for commercial operations you will be shown the correct way to plan and risk asses your jobs and evaluate all the information to make the educated decision if the job is safe to carry out. The minimum equipment you require will be documented within your operations manual.

  • Hi-Vis Vests
  • Hard Hat
  • Safety Glasses
  • Cut resistant gloves
  • LiPo Bags
  • Take-Off mat
  • Fire Blanket/Fire Extinguisher for electronic equipment
  • Barrier tape
  • Signs
  • Cones Pop up one’s are a popular choice
  • First Aid Kit

Other Safety Equipment has been designed to enhance the safety culture for the drone industry, this may also assist when applying for exemptions as certain requirements from clients maybe risk assessed as too dangerous without taking the extra precautions. Examples of this equipment could be:

  • Drone Parachute – One of the first ideas you may come up with would be a parachute and there is a few providers out there, Mars Parachute’s probably being one of the most popular. You could also try ParaZero and their SafeAir system. Both of these companies offer a solution for most if not all types of drones on the market.
  • Drone Safety Tether- This allows your drone to be tethered to a ground control unit which can provide power to the drone and allows the drone to hold its position in very strong winds. Drone aviation corp provide specifically designed tether drones and also have a tether system called Fuse


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Drone business equipment guide

Commercial Drone business equipment guide

When starting out you will need to choose the right equipment for the task. You might have already decided what market you would like to venture into but if you have not then do not worry I have tried to cover a few things you will need to think about and consider before you get you started. Firstly I would recommend looking at the different drones available.

What drone should I purchase?

This is a very good question and can depend on what you want to do. If you are starting out and have never flown a drone before you can start out with a little one maybe even one that can be flown inside if you are in a built up area and do not have access to somewhere safe to fly. Use the smaller one to build up some confidence and when you are finished you can let the kids have some fun. They tend not to be too expensive and a good way to start out.

When you are happy and want to spend some more money on an upgrade you have a few options. I began using a Parrot BeBop which to get started and learn the controls for flying etc. What I found let it down was the camera and no matter what you plan on doing the camera is what makes the difference. As I progressed it became very clear it is one of the most important parts. The Parrot controller was large and bulky but the drone it’s self was nice and compact. The drone flew well but as I progressed I found the camera really needed to be upgraded. It really required one mounted on a gimble, this option gives you a lot more visibility and control when taking pictures or filming. A fixed camera with a wide-angle lens is fine to start but as your photography skills get better you will want more control over the lens and what you can do with it having manual control over the camera and the option to capture your images in RAW format will also give you greater results with more post processing options.

Now if you are a videographer or photographer you will know what you should look for, but if like me you were starting out from nowhere I recommend learning about camera’s I used the Shawacademy who helped me get a better understanding of both photography and videography. As i have progressed through the Shawacademy I have been keeping notes and continuing to update my blog as i go. If you would like to learn more about photography you can follow along with me as I go here.

If you are toying with the idea of crop surveys then you will need to learn about NDVI and various cameras that may be required. Remember just because you can fly a drone and produce nice NDVI images it doesn’t make you an expert without some other qualifications it is very important the farmers you are dealing with know that as the people who help farmers grow their crops have done some years of education. What it does do is provide the client/farmer with an excellent overview of his field and aerial view he has probably never seen before. With the help of apps you can get into 2d and 3D mapping between the parrot and bebop I found the better the camera the better the results. I can also say through my experience of parrot and DJI I prefer DJI. The Phantom Series by DJI has to be one of the most popular, it is very easy to fly and the Phantom 4 Pro has a very good sensor with the ability of aperture control.

Before I go any further I will say there are lots of drone manufacturers, some producing multirotor and some a fixed wing. These are all targeted at different markets three categories the drones would fit into: Consumer (toys), Prosumer, Professional and Racing (commercial operators – could be broken into two of these classifications Consumer and Prosumer).

Some of the Manufacturers and drone models would be:


Manufacturers Models
DJI Spark, Mavic, Phantom, Inspire, Matrice, Spreadwings S900, S1000, Agras MG-1
Parrot BeBop, BeBop 2, Mambo, Disco, Airborne, AR Drone 2.0
Yuneec Typhoon H, Typhoon 4K, Breeze 4K, H520, H920 Plus
Intel Falcon 8
Autel Robotics EVO, X-Star Premium, Kestrel
3D Robotics Solo
Hubsan Spy-Hawk, X4-H501, X4-H502, X4-H507, Nano, Spyder, Hornet,
Mi MiDrone
GoPro They failed and have discontinued the Karma
JJRC X1G, T1, P130, X3, H54, H53, H45, H66, H345, H51, H41, H37, H43
Blade Inductrix, Nano, Vortex, Mach, Torrent, Theory
Walkera AiBao, PERI, Voyager 5, Vitus Starlight, Furious 215, Rodeo 110, Runner 250, X800
Syma Toys X4, X11, X12, X13, X54, X5, X8, X20, X21, X22, X23
Force 1 U28W, X5C, U818, U45, F100, U34W, U49C, F200, F111
  Ehang Ghost Drone 2.0, Ehang 184, Ehang Falcon
 Nikko Air Race Vision 220, Air Elite 115
Martin Instrument Microdrone MD4-1000 DG

The various models these drone manufacturer’s supply can range hugely in price from 10 to 1000’s of £ or $. So when you are ready to take the plunge on the drone you would like make sure you are happy it will perform what you need. One thing I will mention when applying for your PFCO permission for commercial operations with the CAA you will have to include all details about the drone including safety features etc. So whenever you decide to make a purchase make sure you can get all the required information. When you carry out your commercial drone training there are specific weight categories regarding payload so be mindful of these. In the UK the MOTW (Maximum Take off Weight) categories determined by the CAA are: 0-7Kg, 7-20Kg, 20-150Kg, + 150Kg

Drone Accessories

I have created a drone accessories list, these things I have found to make my life a lot easier:

  • Extra batteries
  • Extra propellers
  • SD cards
  • Rucksack to put it all in
  • Car charging inverter + Charging station
  • LiPo Bags
  • Tablet
  • Cables
  • Laptop or Desktop Computer
  • External Hard drive
  • Batteries – are another very important part of equipment and I would recommend having about 4. The reason I say 4 is when on location I find I perform a test flight first have a look around and get a feel for the area especially if I’m using any app where the flight was pre planned off location. I will then carry out the flight I wanted to do and if I have 2 spare, I should be more than able to repeat the whole process or even head to the next location.  Also the last thing you want to do is find out you have no batteries and have to wait the 30mins for them to charge as you might look and feel a bit stupid when a client has paid you to be there. A station that can charge all your batteries at once with an inverter for your car so you can charge while out and about. Is very handy but maybe something you may not need until you have more than one booking a day or if you are doing weddings when you have to be there a lot.
  • Extra Propellers – Props can be damaged in a few seconds, all it takes is for the drone to land on an uneven surface tip over and contact something hard. If you have a full set of replacement props then you are back up and flying in a matter of minutes if nothing else is damaged.
  • SD cards – Which also reminds me you are going to want to have a few SD cards again I would recommend 4. Change each one out when you change a battery. This way if one does go corrupt for any reason you will still have some pictures or video and may just be able to save the day. Best of all it might save you from having to perform a re-flight.
  • Drone Storage – I would also recommend combining your drone with a rucksack another very important part of equipment. It keeps your drone safe and also allows you to carry a lot more equipment that will be required if working at various locations or even remote locations.
  • Changing – Having the option to charge your batteries when you are out on location can be very helpful, if you have forgotten to charge that extra battery or one of the planned flights did not go as expected you can plug-in and charge it might save you a long trip to find that power point.
  • Battery Protection – Another very important part would be a LiPo bag for each battery as lithium batteries can be very dangerous and if stored in the correct bag this can save a lot of heart ache if things go wrong.
  • Tablet or phone – So to help you fly your drone you will need a device to let you see in real-time what the camera sees. But remember never fly your drone out of LOS or Visual Line of Sight. I have used both an iPad mini and an iPhone 7 both work fine for me and are easy to carry around. The phone can present hazards if someone calls or messages when flying so I tend to use the iPad.
  • Cables – As required to connect to tablet or computer
  • Laptop or Desktop – Once you have been out and captured all your pictures or video you will want something to view it all on to edit. Now this is where perhaps I went wrong I went for a Lenovo laptop with an I7 processor and a good bit of RAM to help me edit my video and pictures. As I have learned you want a screen that can show you correctly how these pictures or video looks. My laptop looks good but completely different to that of my IMac when I get home. I colour calibrated both screens using the inbuilt free calibration tools for both windows and Mac OS but the mac wins every time when it comes to the final image. You can of course use hardware calibration tools if you really want to get serious. They do not rely on your vision or perception of colour and perform the task faster than the free tools. Back to the laptop or desktop if you prefer that, almost all drones can film in 4K or UltraHD which is great if you are able to watch them but to process is a whole other story. The memory or processor gets beaten up by this it takes a lot and if your end-user doesn’t have a 4K television to view this on then you are better to cut the size. As with pictures and video it is better to take images in the highest resolution possible (RAW).
  • External Storage – Backing up all your hard work is very important, you can use Cloud type drives to do this no problem I always like to have a couple of external hard drives backing up my work as you never know when you might not have access to the internet and need to work.

Required Commercial Drone Accessories When you have completed your training and have gained your PFCO, there will be extra equipment which as stated on your permissions will be a requirement to carry:

  • Windspeed Meter (With temperature sensor)
  • Fire Extigusher,
  • First Aid Kit,
  • PPE, (Safety glasses, boots, hi-vis vest),
  • Signs, cones and barriers
  • LiPo Bags
  • Torches (Night Permissions)
  • Head torch(Night Permissions)
  • If you have achieved your night permissions, you will also need torches to light up take off/landing area and lights to be placed on cones marking the area. A head torch never goes a miss either.
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Flock Cover

flockcover Insurance

FlockCover Drone insurance
Owners: CEO – Ed Leon Klinger, Founder – Antton Pena

Price: Starting from £5 Pay As You Fly 

Don’t forget you can use the FUTUREPHOTOL referral code.


Flock was the plan of Antton pena while studying for his master degree in Technology science at London’s data science institute. Ed the CEO graduated from Cambridge after completing a master’s degree in technology policy and joined Flock as CEO as he had focused his interests to the drone industry and reducing flight risks.

Flocks Policy – “Flock strives to bridge the gap between today’s insurance and tomorrow’s technology.”

Flock partnered with Allianz one of the worlds largest insurance companies who has a huge experience in the aviation industry. Allianz are the underwriter so you can be assured they can provide EC785/2004 compliant pay-as-you-fly insurance cover for your drone and business. This is all done from your phone or tablet in minutes and is available on both IOS and Android.


The insurance policy is targeted at both recreational and commercial drone pilots. I personally feel the app will greatly benefit all drone service providers, because when you provide a site survey of the clients location you can open the app fill in a few details and receive a quote instantly displayed on your phone or tablet instantly knowing if the flight is possible and what the cost of your insurance will be.


The app is very easy to use as flock state Tap, Tap, Take Off, it will combine real-time data like weather conditions, nearby schools, airports, NOTAMS all valuable information which can help confirm the flight is possible.

Once you have set-up and  registered your account, you open the app follow the 5 steps:

  • Step 1=Cover duration 1, 2, 4 or 8 hours,
  • Step 2=Public Liability insurance Limit (1M,2M, 5M or 10Million)
  • Step 3 = Confirm your policy by accepting you have read their terms and conditions,
  • Step 4 Fill in policy holder Name,
  • Step 5 = Enter your payment details.

I had this all done within 5 Minutes.



Another great idea and initial cost saving for any commercial drone pilot when you are applying for your PFCO they can provide a cover note to submit without having to upfront any payment. This is supplied on the pretence you will register your drone and use their insurance for the year. 


So far from what I can see and the few places I have been to test out the pricing it seems very reasonable. If I where to do on average 2 flights (jobs) a month and need 8 hour cover for each I would be looking at roughly £10.99 for each using a DJI Mavic pro. £263.76 a year a price i personally consider very reasonable.

Don’t forget you can use the FUTUREPHOTOL referral code.

Do not forget to continue reading how i got started with my own commercial drone business here.

Notes taken from: & Flock Media pack.

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Blender, Inkscape, GIMP and DaVinci Resolve

free software

Four great pieces of free software that I think anyone performing any sort of image processing should have.

This is a program that allows you to animate and create 3D images. To me it seems like a massive program capable of many things. I only played with this for a few days but it was great combined with the use of Inkscape.. I used Inkscapes trace function to convert my logo image file to a Plain SVG file (2D) which I imported into blender and managed to create a 3D clip

It is not the easiest to get your head around but after some nice YouTube videos and playing around it definitely becomes clear that you could do almost anything with blender. For anyone looking to create some 3D animations to use with their drone advertising to promote your drone videos I would recommend blender.

In previous posts relating to HDR photography, 360 Panoramas and Tiny Planet pictures I mentioned the use of Photoshop. But you can’t forget GIMP this is another great free piece of software for editing images. I find the layout very similar to Photoshop and it is great for starting out and learning how it all works.

Links to the above mentioned programs can be found below:

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Commercial Drone Training

Commercial Drone Training
Overall Ranking: 10 out of 10
Price: Various around £1250
Owners: Michael Green


The commercial drone training school is a registered NQE national qualification entity recognised by the CAA Civil aviation authority that regulates UK airspace. They provide various levels of training and help with the operations manual and submission to the CAA for your PFCO permission for commercial operations. The training school I visited was based in Newton abbot Devon.


The commercial drone training school provides excellent flexibility and options for your training requirements. They provide the opportunity to take part in various workshops that are very relevant to the different options a drone business could provide. The workshops are well taught and great for a drone operator looking to set up and operate a drone business in the UK.

The option to stay onsite and socialise with the instructors and fellow students while having your evening meal after your training for the day has ended is great, the possibility of a few beers or glass of wine at night works even better.

The food included is good and I very much doubt you will be left asking for more.


The training is targeted towards the beginner right through to the advanced pilot basically anyone who is looking to gain their PFCO. It doesn’t matter your background they will ensure you are happy before the flight test and certainly cover what is required for the ground school. This is a vital part of operating a commercial drone business so you want to make it count. Through my own personal experience I can highly recommend them. My class included a variety of different people from very different career paths personal security, video production, photographer, construction, fire services.  Some looking to add drone services to their already developed companies and people like my self who wanted to start out in the commercial drone business.  


Ground School, Flight assessment and Operations manual are the three factors a lot of drone training providers will offer. Commercial drone training go further and the training can be tailored to your every need but even better there are free workshops included in the 5 day training. The free workshops include: Drone Deploy, PIX4D, Aerial Survey, Litche, 360 Panoramas, Showreel production and real life roof survey scenario which is very beneficial especially if  you are unsure which direction to take your Drone business these free workshops certainly help to broaden your skill set.

The Training material provided is more than adequate to get you through your ground school assessment. Very easy to follow powerpoint presentation and PDF handouts. Safety is taken seriously, they will teach you the correct rules to follow which documents and records need to be kept as well as the do’s and dont’s.

Another benefit of CDT is they provide drones for you to use when you attend the training. I found this to be a great way to test a few drones I had never had the opportunity to fly before. The drones they had to offer where the DJI Phantom, Mavick and inspire. This would be great to assist anyone chooseing a drone as they may need or require a different one depending on the operation they choose.

You can of course take and use your own drone but please make sure you have the correct insurance in place. If you use one of the drones supplied they are covered under the training schools insurance.


The instructors are very well presented with a sound teaching ability. They spend the time required on each point and if your struggle they are more than happy to go that little bit extra until you understand. Mike is also very quick to answer e-mails from me with questions I had after the course was complete.


There are various pricing schedules and options available on their website. If you were like me and wanted to learn as much as you can I would recommend staying the 5 nights and doing the 5 day training. I stayed the night before as I drove about 600 miles from north of Scotland to get to the training facilities.

My Choice was:£1250 – Full Course, Flight Test, Workshops with 5 nights in single room with shared facilities and 3 meals per day (arrival day before the course).

Night flight assessment is available at an extra cost which I decided to take part in and was good fun. £150


Picture of me completing some practice flying time on the training ground.

After having a look at various drone training providers I found Commercial drones training pricing to be very competitive with the added benefit of 5 days training free workshops lots of help and I was more than able to walk away after the 5 days feeling very confident that I had the paperwork planning in hand as well as the skills required to fly the drone. I was very satisfied I had covered enough and had received very good value for money.

 The price for the 5 days (4Nights) depends on the room type you select. I choose the basic which had a bed a desk and shared toilet facilities with access to a shared kitchen. This is all I need as I did not spend too much time in my room as I liked to take advantage of the social aspect (beer). If you like the finer things in life and prefer your own space I would recommend upgrading. The meals provided where good portion size and more than an adequate selection was available to cater to my needs.

Teachers are very good class room a very good size and the flight training ground is ideal with cracking view over the countryside. DO take very war clothing and decent walking boots as with anywhere you can’t predict the weather.

Overall I would highly recommend the CDT through my own personal experience they provided what I expected and more.

If you would like to ask me any questions about this review please leave a comment below. If you would like to learn more about commercialdronetraining you can visit their website or email them directly


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Shaw Academy – Review

Shaw Academy –My Review
Overall Ranking: 8 out of 10
Price: Various Options, Free to £45 a month
Owners: J
ames Egan and Adrian Murphy

Shaw Academy Lifetime member picture


Shaw academy is an Online training provider who offer a variety of courses. Originally started in 2013 based in Ireland they have continued to grow. They are recognised by various certifying bodies:

Shaw Academy Accreditation

My own personal experience came from taking the photography course which lead to the blogging course and hopefully to many more. I have joined the shaw academy as a lifetime member which means I now have access to every course they run for life. I did this because I am continuing to grow a drone business and thought I would be more professional with certification to compliment my business.

Futurephoto Shaw Academy Diploma


I will get the negatives out of the way first as I could only find a few.

  1. The iPad app seems to be very buggy and does not always work. I recommend using a laptop for completing the courses which you will need for most. (Iphone app worked without issue)
  2. Some of the lectures are not live as they say but only a handful I have come across. They are pre recorded but still very relevant to the course.

In my own personal opinion the positives of shaw academy far out weigh the negatives.

  1. Online flexible learning
  2. Learn at your own pace.
  3. Easy to access and get started.
  4. Multiple courses to choose from one monthly payment.
  5. Great community and support
  6. No deadlines to complete started courses
  7. Mobile Phone Application to learn on the go.


I would recommend the courses to foundation courses beginners and the advanced diplomas to the more intermediate student. If you are looking to get your DSLR into fully manual mode or any camera for that matter. I personally was using a drone to complete the course which also has a full manual mode option. I can quite confidently keep the drone camera in manual mode no problem at all now. Diploma courses require about 8hrs a week for 4 weeks. The Advanced diploma courses require about 8hours a week for 16 weeks.


When you subscribe fully to the pay monthly plan with shaw academy your receive access to all of their courses and online training. Not just the course you may already have signed up for. Great if you would like to try out other courses or training. The full sign up provides you with PDF diploma documents that can be printed on quality paper to frame or have on file. Certificates are distributed only once the entire course is completed.

Toolbox inside members area includes:

  1. Copies of the slides to read over and review. Anytime
  2. Access to the online training videos anytime
  3. Summary notes
  4. Bonus Video’s SUPPORT

Support is available for 15 minutes Q&A after the live training modules to answer questions out with training times.

Facebook community is also great for asking questions and interacting with fellow


Free – introductory offer to try one course



£45 Monthly fee 

Lifetime memberships are available around £1000(offers are promoted at various times)


I came across their website when I was looking to study an online photography course. I liked the look of the website the price was right so I thought let’s give them a shot (free for first diploma course). I signed up and read through all the e-mails and got myself onto the first webinar. (Don’t worry if you can’t make the live webinars they record these and let you watch them whenever you have the time, flexible learning at its best.) Personally I loved the live webinars, I learn a lot better when I can ask questions and clarify subjects before moving onto the next subject. Some online learning material is fine but you cannot ask questions at the end or there is no community to interact with. The Shaw Academy have a nice question and answer session at the end, if you still struggle to get the answer you have the shawacademy facebook page and the community on there as a final plan. Here you can upload pictures for people to comment and give you feedback. The instructors work through the material at a nice pace everything is explained in great detail. You will complete little assignments and at the end of each week an assessment. Now i found these are not too tough but still tough enough you have to pay attention throughout each webinar. The diploma course is four weeks long so you will have a final assignment and exam to get your diploma. You can then progress onto the ultimate photography course to further your knowledge. (16 weeks)

Here are some of the pictures I submitted for the assignments:

Repetition (Picture)

Lines (Picture)

Overexposure (Picture)

The great thing about online learning with the Shaw Academy is they do not just teach photography they offer courses in Finance, health and wellness, marketing, technology, design, beauty, music, business, and language all of which have many more sub categories just what you’re looking for if you want to start your own business or are just there to learn for your own pleasure gaining some real life skills.

I really enjoy my experiences with the Shaw Academy they are very friendly and have a very good in depth knowledge of the subjects they teach. They are passionate and want you to succeed. It does not matter where in the world you are with online learning you can participate.