I’ve decided in 2021 to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. Why? The residue of 2020 and its horrible effect on my well-being, plus the fact that in 2021, I will officially become a senior citizen. Both have been and are scary. But in some way, both have inspired me to fight back. Getting older reveals obvious changes in body and mind, and I want to control both of those if I can. My biggest fear, revealed only to all of you, is that I might start to lose my rationale self, lose my curiosity about the world and start to forget people, places and events. There is a history of that in my family. I can’t have that happen. What better way to address that than to try new things, learning as I go, keeping the mind fresh and tuned. So what’s the plan?
Last year, I bought a drone. A what? A drone. A device that flies and takes photographs and video from above. New device, new perspectives. What could be better for trying new things. I then learned that flying a drone in Canada is no simple thing: we have regulations, procedures and record keeping requirements that need to be adhered to. In fact, for the drone I purchased, I actually needed a license and that involves taking a test. A what? I haven’t taken a test since 2016.
When I retired in 2014, I decided that the transition from working full-time to not working full-time had to be exactly that: a transition. I needed to have a regular, but less intense commitment so that I could ease into a life of supposedly few commitments. I decided to go back to school, full-time. But that meant 20 hours a week of education, not 40-50 hours a week of working, so it was the perfect transition. And I was able to study something that I loved: photography. I had gone to school as an adult previously, but that was for degrees and courses that related to my job. This was completely different: just for my entertainment.
It turned out to be harder than expected, mostly because it was so different from my past life. But I loved it and joyfully completed it in 2016, taking tests along the way. But the thought of writing a test again in 2021 sent me into something of a panic.
Everybody has their own way of preparing. I use the same approach for tests, for giving a presentation or for writing educational pieces for this blog. I read EVERYTHING possible, distill it down, then read it again in order to internalize it. It took me several months to do that here – started during our spring shutdown of 2020. I watched several “preparatory” videos and courses on flying drones in Canada, each with their own philosophy. It’s interesting to see the spread of opinions. Everything from “just take the test without preparing so that you can get a sense of the questions, pass if you can, but if not, just take it again” all the way to multi-chapter courses you can purchase that cover every topic you might be exposed to. I succumbed to the hype and bought a course. It frankly didn’t help much.
Unlike other tests I’ve taken, the test to become a drone pilot isn’t based on studying a lot of concepts, facts and figures and regurgitating them. Instead, it’s about how you respond under pressure and under time limits to questions that have nothing to do with flying a drone. When I took the test, only about 30% of the questions actually related directly to flying a drone in Canada. The remainder related to other aviation topics, other technology topics and other documentation topics.
You had to have the presence of mind to be able to find the answers (it was “open book” and “open computer”). It’s actually quite an ingenious way to deliver an online test, since there was no way to physically test how the average drone pilot might respond to an unexpected situation. The ability to think things through under time pressure is a good substitute. I will mention though that there are two classes of licenses in Canada, and that to get the “advanced” license, in-person flight assessments are required. Mine was the “basic” category.
I passed and am now certified to fly, subject to the limitations for basic pilots. I also joined a model aircraft club that has a local field nearby where I have been practicing. By the way, this type of practice is legal in Canada without the license, in case you were wondering how I could fly without one. But practice is the second piece of the puzzle and a big piece for me.
I grew up on the edge of the video gaming generation. I never played video games as a kid. I remember my 3 year old niece beating me at Donkey Kong the first time I tried it. So joysticks and hand-eye coordination are not a natural part of my persona. Putting my wonderfully intelligent, expensive bird up in the air the first time was terrifying. But I now have a few flights under my belt and am feeling more comfortable and very very joyous about the experience.
So I have a license and I have a drone and will be taking it out with me a lot this year – once we get out of these never ending lockdowns, the latest of which just started this week. And that opens up a whole new area for me – video production. We had one semester of it while I was in school. Time to dust that off and see if I can make anything worth showing to you. If you would like to see what mischief I get up to, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel (link below). YouTube starts to pay attention to you once you have 100 subscribers. So if you can help me out, please and thank you. There is not much there yet, but soon…
I’ve also refreshed the website. How do you like the new me? Totally love my new identity.
It’s important to try new things as you get older. It’s desperately important to keep fresh, new ideas in your mind. The last year has proven that for me. I can hardly wait to see where it takes me. And it will be nice to be able to take advantage of those senior discounts too!