The Team

Paul Heckles

Paul Heckles

Paul Heckles


Founder and Owner - UAV Test Pilots

Founder and Owner - Paul Heckles Flight Centre

Dealer - Dudek Paragliders

Dealer - Bulldog Paramotors

PPL Holder - owner of: Pitts S1-C Bi plane, Denny Kitfox, Mainair Flash 2 (weight shift Microlight), Thruster T300 and Bulldog paramotor with Dudek Wing

Paul, with his team, preparing for, and ultimately winning,
the Red Bull FlugTag competition 2008

Under the guidance of his Grandfather, Paul was flying model aircraft at age 6. By age 14, at his local flying club, he was Chief Test Pilot, Club Instructor and was trusted by the most senior members to fly their large multi engine scale bombers. By 17 Paul had mastered all forms of flying vehicle including, rotary, gliding and autogyro’s.

Paul’s extraordinary flying skills soon attracted the attention of commercial model companies and sponsorship deals followed – one of which required him to fly a 22 ft wing span 4 engine bomber at public flying displays. Paul was ultimately recruited by Ripmax PLC – one of the leading model aircraft companies, where he was involved in developing and testing all types of product. Ripmax sent him around the world to display both their products and his talents flying every type of model available.

Paul founded the Paul Heckles School of Flying – now Paul Heckles Flight Centre.

In addition to his extraordinary flying skills, Paul has a remarkable ability to transfer some of those skills to others. Here’s Jonathan M reporting back on the RCME forum after spending time with Paul:

Had my first intermediate training session yesterday with Paul Heckles (near Swindon), and very pleased indeed.

In one afternoon of training, my understanding of piloting of a model in the air has been fundamentally transformed. I won't go into the finer detail or his teaching-style here, suffice that I woke up this morning strongly aware of the changes in how I think about it. Reviewing in my mind's eye the various training flights I made (rather than referring to any notes I jotted down during the de-brief afterwards), I'm confident that I've absorbed these first key lessons.

PS - Paul also quickly suggested minor tweaks on my TX so that roll and pitch rates on my Acrowot are now better harmonised. And he got my FS engine running perfectly: reliably now at slow tickover, quick and unfaltering in acceleration, etc.

-- Jonathan M - RCME forum

The Flight Centre has, over the years, expanded its role from model flight training to paramotor training and, more specifically some 15 years ago, began working with the Department of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at the University of Southampton in support of their UAV development activities.

This relationship has led Paul to test fly a vast range of highly experimental autonomous designs both fixed wing/rotary and multi rotor. The latest is a 305kg multi engine UAV with the capability to carry a 150kg payload.

So – in aggregate – Paul’s skills and experiences make him one of the world’s most experienced Test Pilots. Not only has he flown the widest possible range of experimental and autonomous UAVs but he has immersed himself in the processes, protocols and operational procedures that surround UAV testing environments.

Development of Bob Burrage’s ‘Messenger

Bob Burrrage's Messenger at Paul Heckles Flight Centre

Paul helped Bob to bring his ‘dream’ to fruition – essentially to bring the benefits of tilt rotor into a smaller package. There were many variants along the journey – some more successful than others! Not only was Paul able to ‘fly’ them all, he was able to provide Bob with vital feedback on flight characteristics and what to change / adjust to improve.

To my eyes Messenger flies beautifully, but after many mods and test flying sessions, Paul chews over the problem and advises me to increase the blade size to get some decent control authority where it’s needed. So I fit 55cm blades. Paul is right - at last it flies like a proper helicopter. Absolutely brilliant. And just as good with wings on as well.

Thanks Paul, always wondered what test pilots did!

-- Bob Burrage


Jim Scanlan FRAeS
University of Southampton

I have known Paul Heckles for over a decade. The university has used his services for many years both for undergraduate teaching as well as unmanned systems research and development.

He has an extremely professional approach to his work which adds considerable value to the process of developing unmanned platforms and systems. It goes without saying that he is well known for his world class piloting skills which have, on many occasions, averted expensive platform loss. More importantly we have learnt the value of involving Paul early in design/project discussions in order to tap into his wealth of experience in many areas of aviation.

He has a fantastic "can-do" attitude in order to maximise the flight-testing time on the airfield. He is very generous with his equipment and resources. This is particularly the case with undergraduate projects where students might have equipment failure or other difficulties; Paul will typically step in with the loan of a receiver, servo, battery, fuel or starter motor etc.

Paul has an obvious passion for all forms of aviation and, combined with his delightful interpersonal skills, is able to inspire the younger generation.

I wholeheartedly support the vision around the UAV Test Pilots business. It is vital, in the design of new systems to think about the test schedule early in the project. Paul and his team can help to focus on testing (as part of good systems engineering best practice) at the concept design phase in order to minimise overall project risk.

Jim Scanlan FRAeS Professor of Aerospace Design

Co-Director Rolls-Royce UTC in Design
Director of University Strategic Research Centre in Autonomous Systems
Head of Computational Engineering and Design Research Group

University of Southampton

Not sure whether we can help? - A conversation costs nothing

We're happy to chat informally and without obligation about any of our services and, perhaps, throw a little extra light into the darker corners of professional test flying for you. Please call us on +44 7889 658202 or drop us an email at UAV Test Pilots and we will be happy to discuss your needs.

UAV Test Pilots

We are highly experienced professional UAV Test Pilots. The weight of our extensive experience can help to reduce any potential erosion of investment returns and, more crucially, may reduce your time to market.

Draycot Farm Aerodrome
Near Chiseldon
Swindon, Wiltshire SN4 0HX
Phone number
+44 7889 658202