Who Regulates Drones
As drone technology continues to rapidly advance, many more commercial applications are being discovered. Drones are now used for many things including capturing video for TV and films, engineering surveys, deliveries, and even assessing the viability of farmland. All these opportunities have encouraged many people to join the industry, yet many do not understand vital information about the sector, such as the organisation that regulates drones.
All aircraft in the UK are governed by strict safety regulations, this is to ensure the safety of the aircraft, its personnel, and its passengers. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the governing body in the UK, responsible for all crew and aircraft licencing, air safety, and commercial and recreational flight.
Formal permission from the CAA is not needed when flying a UAV for recreational or training purposes, on private land and away from built up areas, as long as you have permission from the landowner. However, the drone must weigh less than 20kg and aircraft must be flown below 400 feet (121m). The CAA has also suggested a code of practice for recreational fliers. Flying drones for commercial purposes is an entirely different story.
To fly a drone for commercial purposes the CAA must grant permission. In order to be authorised you must:
- Demonstrate a sufficient understanding of aviation theory (airmanship, airspace, air law, meteorology and navigation)
- Pass a practical flight assessment (flight test)
- Develop basic procedures for conducting the type of flight you want to do and set this out in an Operations Manual
Permission for Aerial Work (PfAW) is only granted for 12 months, and must be renewed annually in order to keep flying for commercial purposes. Drones are divided into weight classes and anything below 20kg is classed as ‘small’. Anything above 20kg requires specialist permission and may even require more advanced training.
As well as granting authority, the CAA also regulates what you can actually do once in the air. These regulations are set out in the Air Navigation Order (CAP 393). Under this, drones cannot endanger other people or property. The pilot is expected to fly safely at all times. Commercial drones weighing more than 7kg must not fly in classes A, C, D or E airspace unless permission has been granted from the local air traffic control. They also cannot fly near aerodromes or at a height above 400feet (121m).
The commercial drone industry is always expanding and changing, with so much more to learn about this exciting technology and the regulations within it. This is just a small insight into what there is to know!
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