Ian Ricci enrolled in the HeatSpring Drone Pilot Boot Camp in 2020. He is the Co-Founder and COO/CTO at SolBid, where he uses his flying skills and commercial drone pilot license to do everything from initial site inspections to showing off their stunning solar installations. We asked him a few questions about becoming a licensed drone pilot. Read on to learn more!

Question: How did you first start your journey with drones?

Answer: I’ve been obsessed with remote control “anything” for just about my whole life. Aerial drones were the next step for me. I also love photography and the idea of flight. Aerial photography opens up a whole new world when it comes to what you can capture.

Question: Was the experience difficult?

Answer: In terms of the Part 107 experience, it was fun and a little challenging at times. I was hooked on prepping for it and absorbed just about everything. The test made me even consider getting my full pilot’s license. A lot of the questions are items someone flying a manned aircraft would have to know.

I had been flying drones for a few years as a hobbyist before getting my Part 107 license. So when it came to a more formal approach with the course work and flying, I had no problem. Flying drones is pretty similar to playing a video game, and I have a lot of experience with that.

With the overall investment, I am a huge fan of DJI products and currently have 4 different types of drones. I just looked at the reviews and specs for each drone to select the best one.

Question: How did your employer support you gaining your drone experience?

Answer: With my employer, that’s pretty easy. I am one of the Co-founders of the company, SolBid. Droning our commercial solar projects was a necessity to build our business. It needed to be done and I had a passion for photography and video. It only made sense to invest some resources into me getting my Part 107 credentials. 

Question: How have you used drones professionally? Personally?

Answer:  I use drones professionally for all of our commercial solar projects at SolBid. Whether it’s to do an initial inspection or to see the final product. However, people have approached me to do other types of professional inspections after hearing I have my drone license. I have also flown one wedding and love to fly anytime I get the chance. I think one of my most memorable flights was in the Alaskan wilderness. I got to fly around a waterfall and glacier in the middle of nowhere. I keep a DJI Mini 2 drone with me all the time when traveling.

Question: What aspirations do you have related to drones?

Answer: I am a computer scientist, so I am pretty fascinated with drone autonomy and any type of smart sensor that can be implemented on one. I am hoping to modify a drone at some point in the future and fit it with some sort of computer vision technology. The possibilities are endless for drones. 

Question: What advice would you give to someone who is considering learning and working with drones?

Answer: Always keep an eye out on your surroundings and beware of birds. I think birds are the most stressful part of most flights. Red-tailed hawks and falcons are constantly chasing after my drone when I do inspections. They will swoop at you. If this happens, climb high fast!

Check out SolBid’s website to see drone video footage of their projects.