UAV Tips: Understanding Air Law

The UK is at the forefront of RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) operations as the governing body has taken a positive and practical stance regarding their usage and is keen for the industry to grow. Regulations are not always clear cut but having a good understanding of the basics, and more importantly, the intent of the law will help to apply good judgement and make safe decisions while operating. Here, we look at the key stakeholders in the regulatory environment and then consider how to establish which rules are applicable to your operation.

What You Need to Know

So, who makes the rules? Unfortunately, there isn’t a single, straightforward answer to this. Aviation rules and regulations may be recommended by a global aviation body or an individual state could develop its own unique legislation. The best way to think of how aviation law works is to think of it as “trickling down” from a global to a national level. Below is a quick guide to help understand the levels.

In the UK, the authority responsible for civil aviation is the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The CAA regulates active professional and private pilots (including RPAS), licensed aircraft engineers, air traffic controllers, aerodromes, maintenance organisations and aircraft registered in the UK.

aviation bodies

The Air Navigation Order
The Air Navigation Order (ANO) details aviation law within the UK and is presented in Civil Aviation Publication (CAP) 393. The ANO lays out the rules and regulations that apply to all non-military aircraft, facilities, organisations, and individuals in the UK.

As an operator of an SUA (Small Unmanned Aircraft), you are exempt from most articles of the ANO. Articles 94 and 95 are the most relevant to an SUA operator and also 241, which states a person must not recklessly cause an aircraft to endanger any person or property. For details on Articles 94 and 95, see the images below.

ano 94
ano 95

CAP 722
CAP 722 is the ‘go to’ document for RPAS operators. While ANO contains the raw legislation, you can think of CAP 722 as a guidance document, which also contains additional information to help you conform with the rules laid out within the ANO.

The most important information in CAP 722 for RPAS operators is The Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) from the CAA in order to operate an SUA for commercial gain. Upon successful completion of the Unmanned Aircraft Qualification (UAQ), candidates will be issued with a certificate that allows them to work as an RPAS pilot for a company that holds a PfCO. If they wish to carry out your own commercial work, they must apply for your own PfCO and prepare an operations manual.

uavair flow chart

Insurance & Safety Reporting
The CAA requires evidence of insurance in order to apply for a PfCO. In the UK, commercial drone operators must take out a minimum of public and aviation liability for aircraft operating into, over or within the EU. A few examples of insurance for unmanned operators include Willis, Ravenhall, Coverdrone, and Moonrock.

To contribute to the improvement of flight safety, The Mandatory Occurrence Reporting Scheme (MOR) was introduced. A pilot should report any incident that endangers or that would endanger an aircraft if not corrected. For example, these may include collision, bird strike, aircraft technical problems, and incapacitation of the flight crew.

Why is Air Law Important?

As the RPAS industry is still very much in its infancy, including the regulations that govern it, knowing and understanding what regulations do exist can help keep the industry safe and fair. Ultimately, air law is essential to promote the highest common standards of civil aviation safety.

To learn more about UAVAir and our Unmanned Aircraft Qualification, get in touch today.