A recent study conducted by PwC, predicts that by 2030 over 76000 drones will be commercially in operation around the UK.
A vast amount of business will be adapting to include this technology in their processes, a large number of companies will be utilising drones to offer this service to their clients.
As the strict Civil Aviation Authority regulations govern the use of drones commercially, will those operating in this emerging sector be following these laws correctly? And are you able to tell if the company you have employed is operating lawfully? Here are the questions you need to be asking before you hire a drone operator.
Does the organization have the correct permission?
To be able to use a drone commercially, an organisation needs to have a PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) to carry out any commercial task involving drones. Period.
The PfCO is valid for up to 12 months and is subject to annual renewal so make sure to check to see that any projects or services are completed within this.
A PfCo can come under two categories, Standard and non-standard. Standard permission enables a person to conduct commercial operations with a small unmanned aircraft weighing 7kg or less within a congested area. Potential operators are required to provide evidence of pilot competence and an Operations Manual which details how the flights will be conducted.
Non-standard permission covers all other flights that and addresses operations that have a greater element of risk. In addition to the requirements for a Standard Permission, applicants are also required to prepare and submit an Operating Safety Case (OSC) to the CAA.
Are they following the specification laid out by the PfCO?
To get a PfCO a company needs to prove the remote pilot’s competence, develop basic procedures for conducting the type of flights which is set out in an Operations Manual and if required provide an Operating Safety.
A pilot can demonstrate their competency by a sufficient understanding of aviation theory and by passing a practical flight assessment. By making sure that the pilot attending site has demonstrated their competency in line with the PfCO, you can be assured that no unexpected difficulties may occur and all safety precautions are being followed.
Are they within a safe distance?
To legally be able to fly, a drone cannot fly within 50 meters to people or properties, not under their control. What this means is that within a 50-meter radius of the planned flight the drone operator needs to gain consent from all the properties and all people are made aware of the flight.
A drone also needs to be kept within a visual line of sight whilst in operation. This is regarded as 120 meters vertically and 150 meters horizontally.
Other rules state that the aircraft must not be flown:
- over or within 150 metres of any congested area
- over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons
- within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft
- within 50 metres of any person except during take-off or landing, the aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person except for the person in charge of the aircraft
Is the weather suitable?
Depending on the drone will depend on what weather conditions may cause a flight to be aborted. Some drones now are able to fly in the rain and colder conditions; However, most are not. Wind speeds also restrict what drones can be flown safely.
Foggy conditions and low cloud cover will also restrict the drones flights due to it limiting the pilot’s field of view and may cause them to lose visual line of sight. By making sure your drone service provider is taking steps to ensure that they are flying in optimal conditions, it will drastically decrease any risks.