Sunday, August 4, 2019

First (serious) flight

I’m legal. The drone is legal. Time to fly.

As I don’t yet have my permanent certificate number, I can’t use the FAA’s app to request clearance to go above 200 feet. Outside of regulated airspace, it wouldn’t be an issue. But I live just a little too close to the downtown airport. No big deal. The 200 foot ceiling is plenty.

I lucked into some excellent light, too. Uneven clouds were blowing through, leaving puddles of brightness all over the landscape.

Thursday, August 1, 2019


In addition to getting certified myself, I also had to register the drone itself.

One of the blanks on the form asked for the drone’s name (and it couldn’t be left blank). I’m assuming that they’re expecting something like “Bob’s Aerial Imaging Drone #4.” But as I just have the one drone – and my name isn’t Bob – I decided to get a little creative with it.

The first cat that ever went into space was named Felicette, or Felix for short. She was launched into temporary orbit by the French and was quite the celebrity for awhile. So in her honor my drone now bears her name.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


Today I received my temporary unmanned aircraft pilot’s certificate. The permanent one (complete with card I can keep in my wallet) should arrive in a few weeks. In the meantime, this is good enough to print and keep with me while I’m flying.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Passing the test

Today I took the drone pilot exam. Wow.

The exam was administered by a local company with offices next to one of the small airports in Johnson County. It was a comfortable enough location, even back in the stuffy little office where the test-taking computer was located.

The FAA supplies a study guide for this test. It outlines various rules and regulations and flying tips and so on. I assumed the exam would focus on a range of topics, probably emphasizing when and where drones can and can’t be flown.

Well, kinda. The bulk of the exam tested my ability to read sectional charts, maps that show the areas where airspace is regulated. This is actually a fairly useless skill, as the FAA and associated companies have at least two phone apps that will tell an aspiring pilot exactly how restricted the air is in his general vicinity. Further, the apps provide information about restrictions that aren’t on the maps (such as military testing flights that occur only intermittently) and allow a pilot who wants to fly in regulated space to apply for permission to do so.

So what’s the map for? In case I’m out somewhere and don’t have my phone and yet do have my exact location so I can find it on a map that I of course have with me? And on top of all that, the charts are complex and hard to read.

Which I suppose makes them an easy thing to test over, something picky that lends itself to computer-graded, multiple choice questions. The experience also came across as a hazing activity, something needlessly complex to make people endure before they become part of an initiated group.

In any event, I passed by the skin of my teeth. I was grateful that the machine was able to give me my score immediately and print out the document I needed to submit to the government as part of my license application. So now I sit and wait for confirmation that I’m officially approved.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Sea change

Here we come to one of those moments in life.

I’ve decided to stop writing. As with any decision this big, a lot of factors were involved. However, the main impetus for the change was a desire to quit living inside my own head all the time. If nothing else, I need this for my therapy to progress.

And of course it’s difficult if not impossible to write without staying inside one’s head. There are whole worlds in there that may still need to come out. But there’s also a whole world outside that needs to come in, and for now that has to be my priority.

Having made such a sweeping declaration, I should at least recognize that writing isn’t like a “real” job with a steady paycheck and a retirement plan that can be taken advantage of. It’s a fluid activity that can be set down and taken up with a minimum of fuss.

I should also note that many years ago Stephen King said he was going to stop writing, which obviously he hasn’t. So I might not either. As of this point in time – less than a week after my last attempt to make any progress on a writing project – it’s too early to tell.

For the time being, however, I have no immediate need for a blog about my writing efforts. As this is too good a blog to let simply go to waste, I’ve decided to repurpose it to record whatever other creative endeavors I pursue in place of composing fiction.

In the spirit of pursuing activities that will force me to get out of my chair, walk away from my desk, leave my house and go out into the world, I’ve decided to pursue a drone pilot’s license.

Almost exactly two years ago I went nuts on Amazon Prime Day and bought a bunch of stuff I most likely didn’t really need. Among these frivolous acquisitions was a Yuneek Typhoon H drone. Ever since its arrival, it has sat unused in its box. The awful truth is that I’ve been afraid of it. I got a really great price on it, which means it would be expensive – perhaps prohibitively so – to replace if it got damaged. Thus I’ve been highly reluctant to try flying it.

Which of course is completely illogical. Why even own something you never get to use because you’re afraid it will break and become unusable? That made it a natural starting point for my newfound dedication to take better advantage of life’s possibilities.

So today I applied to take the FAA’s unmanned aircraft pilot’s exam.

The illustration at the top of this post is from the drone’s user manual.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Sunday Night School – Day 11

I have decided to take the day off.

If there aren't any more entries after this one, then it turned out to be more than a day.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sunday Night School – Day Ten

Looks like what "tomorrow" brought was more of the same. Another writing spurt after midnight and then not much else.