Are You Breaking the Law Flying Drones Commercially?
Flying Drones commercially… It’s always a hot subject in the Drone World as more and more recreational flyers take to the skies blatantly flaunting the law. It’s a subject that actually infuriates many licensed Drone Operators who are Flying Drones commercially for a living! Licensed Drone are required to prove competency before being allowed to Fly Drones Commercially but there is a growing culture within the industry where unqualified, uninsured Drone Pilots without a permission for commercial operation are working in a commercial capacity for clients.
The law is very clear in the UK that if you wish to provide (Any work that is paid) in the UK, you are legally required to have a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfFO). These are granted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). People have historically tried to work around the law and I’ve personally had unqualified Drone Pilots say to me;
“I don’t receive any pay for the work. I’m shooting photographs and the Drone work isn’t charged so it’s not commercial and I don’t need a license. “
This scenario simply does not work anymore and if a reportable incident occurs, then there’s a good chance of a prosecution following. Other examples include businesses that use their own unqualified staff Flying Drones Commercially for them. If an employer pay their staff a wage, then any work undertaken within their role is classed as commercial because the employee is being paid to Fly Drones Commercially.b
What are the Requirements for Flying Drones Commercially (for paid work) in the UK?
The basic process in obtaining the permission For Commercial Operation is that you will be required to prove you are safe and professional in the air. This is achieved through a set of Theory & Practical based exams along with evidence of regular, competent flying;
Ground Exam – Knowledge of air law will be evidenced through a written exam. Candidates are required to attend a two to three day Ground Exam course. Two weeks pre-reading material followed by a classroom based course with a multiple choice exam to follow.
Operations Manual – You will need to prepare a business specific Operations Manual. This sets out how you will operate your drone safely when Flying Drones Commercially. Your operations manual contains the procedures you will use when flying your drone including on your flight test. The Operations Manual is not generic. Every business will operate in a differently, but the principles set within the manual will determine how you team prepares and executes any commercial operation. Your operation manual will form part of your application to the CAA for your Permission for Commercial Operations. These documents are scrutinised by the CAA when applying for a PFCO and it is not uncommon for Applications to be rejected subject to re-submission if Manuals do not contain up to date legislation or unacceptable procedures.
Flight Test – The flighttest ins the final step before you receive your Permission for Commercial Operation. Once you Operations Manual is complete you will need to take out some type of insurance for your drone. Some insurance companies provide Flight Test Insurance but do not confuse this with Commercial Drone Insurance (this will be explained shortly.) Once you flight test is booked, you will be required to prepare a full risk assessment based on the flight co-ordinates given to you by your Examiner. The flight test is undertaken in the same manner that you would operate Flying Drones Commercially for a client. Your examiner will observe all aspects of the flight from arrival, equpment set-up, safety considerations, on site risk assessment and a number of flight scenarios. You will be required to operate as per your operation manual.
Upon successful completion of your flight test, you will be issued with Certificate that will need to be forwarded along with your License Fees, Operations Manual, Insurance Documents, Public Liability and Flight records to show that you have flown enough hours prior to apply for a Permission for Commercial Operation. Once you receive your PFCO, you can legally start Flying Drones Commercially for paid work. It’s that simple.
Flying Drones Commercially – Reporting Drone Misuse
The Civil Aviation Authority has recently changed to try and better reflect the balance of capabilities between the CAA and local Police services. Whilst The Police often have greater resources, response times and powers of investigation than the CAA, there is often a noticeable gap in the knowledge surrounding the legislation. The CAA has now agreed with the Police, in a signed Memorandum of Understanding that the Police will take the lead in dealing with drone misuse incidents, particularly at public events, that may contravene aviation safety legislation or other relevant criminal legislation. The CAA’s remit is limited to safety and does not include concerns over privacy or broadcast rights.