It seems a lifetime ago since the team and I locked up the EEI/RUSTA office and headed home to begin, what was then, an unknown lockdown working regime and an even more uncertain future for SUAS training. Eight months later, as we wait for government decision makers, we are wondering if we may have to do that all again. This time however, we are better prepared to operate remotely and keep driving the unmanned industry forward as best we can from the safety of our own homes.
Despite all the restrictions, lockdowns and uncertainties, Eagle Eye Innovations and RUSTA have never been so busy. Of course, there was a period from March to May where RUSTA was physically unable to train, but fortunately our work on other government contracts with EEI continued unabated and we operated under key worker status.
In May when the first of the lockdown restrictions were relaxed, we had a busy week or so moving EEI HQ into a new office facility. Something that we were already committed to. This was a challenge due to the limited amount of removal services available and the continuing need to keep socially distant from each other. That said we moved the entire office quickly and safely. The next thing we had to address, and the most important thing for the company, was to kick start the RUSTA training courses. As RUSTA is one of the longest running NQE’s in the United Kingdom we are fortunate enough to have a prodigious client base who, fortuitously for ourselves, saw this period of restrictions as an opportunity to train members of their staff. From June onwards we have run at least one course per week to emergency services, key workers and a scholarship course with the Air League. All conducted throughout the UK in accordance with the government guidelines. This had many challenges, but our amazing instructors and support staff made it happen legally and safely. The logistics of running courses became less difficult as the restrictions continued to relax.
How busy have we been?
Since the initial lockdown restriction eased, we have run over 26 courses and safely trained over 250 candidates. This frequency, of courses and candidates, continues up to the present day and we still have two months of 2020 remaining. These numbers indicate a dramatic increase on previous years in such a short time frame. In order to deliver these quotas, we have had to increase our instructor cadre by over 50% and procure a new fleet of 2nd generation training platforms.
As I write this, we are over halfway through October and already we have started switching our attention to 2021. We are fully aware as we plan for 2021 that there will be no overnight solution to the COVID crisis, and at a minimum we could face restrictions until summer 2021. This is why we have added Online Classroom Training as a permanent feature to our training portfolio. This will allow clients to not only complete the theory elements from their own home but also the ability to sit the examinations remotely as well. This ensures that we not only continue to deliver the best training in the UK but that we keep all our customers as safe as we possibly can. Understandably the flight skills assessments still have to be conducted in person, but we ensure social distancing guidelines are adhered to at all our flight test sites making sure that all our clients are kept as safe and secure as they possibly can be.
2021 will be an interesting year for this industry as we will see the introduction of the new EASA regulations (scheduled for 31st December 2020). We are already prepared for this and achieved Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE) status back in May 2020. This will replace the current National Qualified Status Entity (NQE) status and allows us to train to and teach the new mandated syllabus. We have developed both the General Visual Line of Sight (GVC) and the A2 Subcategory Certificate of Competency (A2 C of C) that we have already delivered. We have also put together a combination syllabus that allows candidates to complete both the GVC and A2 CofC simultaneously and at a discounted price. This allows candidates to get qualified with both theoretical qualifications over a two-day period.
Reshaped courses to adapt to a new way of living.
Accompanying these syllabi are a revamped, reedited Remote Pilots handbook, a new and improved Online Learning Management System, new Virtual Reality modules and, as I mentioned earlier, the ability to conduct this training online from the safety of your home. All of these elements are delivered and facilitated by, not only the best trained and qualified instructors in the world, but award-winning support staff who start our candidates on their UAV journey and help and guide them every step of the way.
If you are an existing PfCO holder and you are interested in converting to the new regulations, we have a course tailored just for you. In the space of just over a morning we can get you qualified in both the new qualifications. We will need to see evidence of currency i.e. an update to flight logbook and if you conducted your flight test with us you
may not have to retake a flight skills assessment. Contact our Operations staff at RUSTA HQ to find out more
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a particular strange and unpleasant year for everyone, but at RUSTA and EEI we have adapted and changed to successfully deliver our world class training safely throughout the UK. It also has proven that in this new world, with its different ways of living and different ways of operating, how relevant and important this technology is.