How To Become A First-Person-View Aircraft Pilot

A Q&A with a professional flyer

Raphael Pirker turned his hobby of flying first-person-view (FPV) aircraft into a career. We asked how he did it so that you might too—if and when the U.S. government ever lightens up.

**How’d you get started? **

My uncle got me into model planes as a kid in Switzerland, so I had some models lying around when I first heard about FPV aircraft in 2007. I spent the next four years building and flying them for fun.

**How does it pay the bills? **

My friends wanted FPV aircraft but didn’t know what to buy. So in 2011, I helped launch Team BlackSheep Avionics, an FPV aircraft developer and retailer in Hong Kong. Clients also hire us to shoot footage for commercials, building inspections, and agriculture.

**What’s next? **

There are big opportunities for drones to deliver things like mail or food. Outdated regulations are the biggest inhibitor at the moment, but the Federal Aviation Administration could open U.S. airspace to drones in 2015.

WARNING: Currently, commercial use of drones in the U.S. is legal only with special permission from the FAA. Bummer.

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Popular Science.