ProDrone Academy and many of the other NQE’s recently attended a meeting with the Civil Aviation Authority looking at the future of unmanned aircraft in UK airspace, training requirements and drone registration. Many were predicting the death of the industry and conversely NQE’s, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. What we heard was a raft of very sensible pieces of legislation designed to remove restrictions in some parts of the industry and make commercial operations far simpler. So in this article, we will take a brief look at some of the key points that have raised the most questions, starting with registration.
Registration for all unmanned aircraft above 250g Is set to become law in November of this year. This will require all owners of UA’s to register as SUA operators (being people responsible for the SUA) and also take the competency test to become a remote pilot if they will be flying themselves. This will necessitate that a registration number is clearly displayed on the aircraft and that anyone operating an SUA can be required to produce their proof of competency at the point they are asked. The competency test is geared towards assessing whether the potential remote pilot has achieved a basic level of competency and is able to operate in UK airspace.
This requirement also falls upon model aircraft operators and the 5,000 PfCO holders in the UK. The cost involved in this has been widely debated, but the fact remains in order to be legal you need to register and pay the fee. If you don’t you may find yourself falling foul of the law, and potentially not being insured if you fail to comply
Commercial operations will be migrated over to a new system of operational authorizations based on 3 new categories. In essence, the need for a ‘standard permission’ or 'operational authorisation' to operate in congested areas will not change but rather than being based on whether the operation is monetized it will be based on the level of risk involved in the particular type of operation. Further clarity on this will be issued by the CAA shortly in the form of CAP1789.
Despite appearances, the CAA are now following up on instances of illegal operators and prosecutions are starting to happen. The CAA is responsible for the regulation and sanction of commercial operators but not for hobbyists who fall short of their legal obligations. This is the job of the police, who despite being massively overstretched are doing their level best to deal with a problem that’s it is fair to say got away from them a little. What the CAA is doing is looking into people who are operating commercially without permission, issuing warnings and in some cases prosecuting offenders. There is at the current time a bill winding its way through parliament that will give the police extra powers to deal with illegal remote pilots. But like most things, it’s been held up by (you guessed it) Brexit
The CAA requires that all initial operations manuals are signed off and approved by an NQE. It’s likely that if you are in the throes of doing your PfCO that you have been issued a templated document that you need to take ownership of and make it specific to your operation. You need to read it, understand it and know how to manage it. It is a live document and as such, it is the most important document within your business and will need to be maintained as legislation is changed and updated to reflect any new aircraft, staff members and so forth. Your ops manual can be subject to an audit by the CAA at any point and you need to know and understand its contents. It will also be re-assessed at the time you reapply.
The most common reasons applications are put on hold or rejected are :
1. Name on the Ops Manual doesn’t match the application
2. Out of date document references
3. Referring to the term ‘Person in charge’ instead of SUA operator or remote pilot when talking in aviation terms
4. Nominated pilots’ details not in the ops manual
5. Confusion over the 50M from PVVS and congested areas
The bottom line is that although the CAA cannot regulate ‘Ops manual update services’ and despite some recent events and misinformation on Facebook They DO NOT approve of them or mandate them! We urge all our students to update their own manuals and offer a reassessment service prior to renewal. In short, read your ops manual and understand it. If you get audited and you do not you could lose your permissions!
More updates coming soon so stay tuned!