Drone Pilot Lives Her Dream at Children’s Hospital
Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
SINCE her undergraduate studies at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma USA, drones have captured the imagination of Ms. Rachel Ngwarai.
The endless possibilities that were unlocked by this unique platform and the ability to push her limits even further is what motivated her to become a drone pilot.
Ms Ngwarai (27), public relations officer at the CURE Children’s Hospital of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, was chosen by her employer to be the sole operator of their drone, which was acquired specifically to document the hospital’s projects.
With the country’s only specialist pediatric facility building an additional 42-bed ward, the hospital had to acquire a drone and Ms Ngwarai was subsequently chosen to play a vital role in launching the technology.
She then enrolled at the Drone Solutions Academy in Harare for drone pilot training marking the realization of her dream which resulted in her being licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe ( CAAZ) in accordance with the laws of the country.
After an intensive two-week course, Ms. Ngwarai obtained a valid remote pilot license.
Spread over 14 days, the training is currently taking place in two approved flight schools in Zimbabwe.
It was only recently that Ms Ngwarai (27) was able to experience the satisfaction of using the system herself in the air as a newly qualified drone pilot.
A drone pilot is responsible for operating a drone, sometimes referred to as an unmanned aerial system (UAS).
Drones are piloted remotely, which is why drone pilots are also called remote pilots.
A drone pilot controls a drone, making it take off, stay on course, and land safely.
“Ever since I was an undergraduate student in the United States at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, I was fascinated by drones.
When the opportunity for me to train as a drone pilot came up, I was so thrilled,” she said.
“I trained at a facility called Drone Solutions Academy in Harare.
The facility is one of two institutions licensed to train drone pilots in Zimbabwe.
The training program included understanding of reading airspace and aeronautical charts and in-flight procedures.
“The duration of the training is two weeks and the first week is devoted to theoretical learning of the mechanics of a drone, human factors, the manufacture of the drone, its functions and its impact on your flight and air laws,” Ms Ngwarai said.
“After that, you take an exam and if you pass it, you have 30 days in which to attempt your first
Practical work takes place in a remote area of the city.
Ms Ngwarai said a drone pilot is basically trained to fly a drone to perform several types of flight safely.
“Thefts can be done for many purposes, such as collecting data for something in mining, agriculture or just for shooting videos.
After the practical classes, you are tested by the CAAZ on theory and practice,” she said.
“Once you pass, you then receive a license.
The license is valid for two years and after that you are supposed to renew it by taking another test.
Ms Ngwarai said that regarding the country’s aviation law, to be a drone pilot one must be licensed by the CAAZ.
“Each country has different laws but generally some of the restrictions are quite common like flying up to a height of 400ft and below which translates to around 120km and below and up to 500m and if you go beyond that you need a spotter to help you,” she said.
Ms Ngwarai said the laws are there to ensure drone pilots do not interfere with regular or manned aircraft.
“Something as small as a drone can really affect flight and so it’s important for drone pilots to understand these dynamics.
It is a hazard to fly in areas where you risk injuring people or interfering with manned aircraft,” she said.
“When you get your license to fly a drone, it will be specified as multi-router.
A drone technically has four routers which are like an electric motor with propellers attached.
She said that each drone comes with a controller and a controller frequency is given to the drone which connects to around 13 satellites.
Satellites help the drone stay connected to the controller.
“Becoming a professional drone pilot is a legitimately viable career option and can be a well-paying profession as it grows rapidly in many areas,” Ms Ngwarai said.
To be a drone pilot, you must be at least 16 years old.
You must also be fluent in English, meet the minimum physical and mental standards for a drone operator, and pass the remote pilot license exam.
Ms Ngwarai hopes that one day she will own her own drone and be able to operate it in as many different landscapes as possible.
“My future plan is to acquire my own drone and be able to do my own things.
As I am a communications practitioner, I would focus on shooting videos and helping train other people, especially women, to become drone pilots,” she said.