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Guidelines for Safe Usage of Drones

Flying a drone/uav (whether commercially or recreationally) is a responsibility and whilst it can be fun and rewarding does also have the potential to get you and others into hot water if you do so irresponsibly. We want to help you get the most out of your drone, stay safe, maintain the safety of others and stay on the right side of the law so we’ve created the following guidelines.

Recreational Drone Users

You must adhere to the following rules;

  • to know how to fly your drone safely, and do so within the law
  • to understand that you (the operator) is legally responsible for every flight
  • to keep your drone in sight at all times and stay below 120m
  • to keep your drone away from congested areas
    • never fly within 50 metres of a person, vehicle or building not under your control
    • never fly within 150m of a crowd or built-up area
  • to stay away from airports and airfields – don’t fly within a couple of miles of an airport!
    • It is a criminal offence to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight
    • You could be imprisoned for 5 years for doing so (this may change!)
  • ensure any images you obtain using the drone do not break privacy laws
  • avoid collisions – you should never fly near other drones

Other things you should be aware of/factor in;

  • plan your flight, think about the risks and implications
  • what is your drone going to do if it runs out of power or fails?
    • Is it going to land/fall somewhere safe?
    • Are you far enough away from people, buildings and more importantly airfields if you lose control of your drone?

Commercial Drone Usage (Aerial Work)

Commercial operation is defined as:  ‘flight by a small unmanned aircraft (SUA, under 20kg) except a flight for public transport, or any operation of any other aircraft except an operation for public transport;

which is available to the public;  or which, when not made available to the public, in the case of a flight by a small unmanned aircraft, is performed under a contract between the SUA operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the remote pilot or in any other case, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator, in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.’

The key elements in understanding this term are ‘…any flight by a small unmanned aircraft…in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration’.

The term ‘available to the public’ should be interpreted as being a service or commodity that any member of the public can make use of, or actively choose to use, (e.g. because it has been advertised or offered to someone).

If you are intending to use your drone commercially (i.e. for commercial gain), then permission is required from the CAA. They will expect you to attend an accredited course that will train you and assess your ability to safely operate drones. The courses include flying competence, knowledge of the law, risk assessments, decision making and more. They exist to ensure that those who wish to legitimately use drone technology in their business can do so safely and not expose the general public or aviation to unnecessary danger. CVP operate and offer (for a fee) a range of courses in conjunction with third party specialists.

In overview – permissions relating to commercial drone flights/usage

  • Permissions and/or exemptions are valid for up to 12 months and are subject to an annual renewal.
  • Permissions/exemptions allow flights within the UK subject to the conditions and limitations that are specified within the individual authorisation document.  However, the greater the amount of ‘freedom of operation’ that you require (in terms of locations, procedures and the duration of the permission), then the greater the amount of information you need to provide the CAA (in terms of demonstrating that you can operate safely).
  • A permission from the CAA is required to be held if you wish to conduct a commercial operation with your aircraft, or if you wish to fly your aircraft:
    • at a height of more than 400 ft/120m above the surface and/or within 150m of either a congested area or an organised open-air assembly of more than 1000 persons and/or within 50m of people or properties/objects that are not under your control.

An exemption from the CAA is required if you wish to seek release from any other requirement within Air Navigation Order 2016

In both cases however, the CAA must still be suitably satisfied that the operation can be conducted safely

Further general information about permissions can be found on the CAA website.

In summary here’s a reminder of the things you need to know about flying drones:

  • Drones present a very real hazard to manned aircraft.
  • Drones are subject to the law through the Air Navigation Order.
  • It is your responsibility to fly safely and within the law – if you don’t you could be prosecuted (big fines and up to 5 years imprisonment).
  • Never fly a drone near an airport/airfield or close to aircraft. It is a criminal offence to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight.
  • Keep your drone in sight and below 400ft/120m.
  • Do not fly over congested areas and never fly within 50m of a person, vehicle or building not under your control.
  • Perform a risk assessment before flying your drone.
  • Make sure that your drone is fully operational and airworthy before taking flight.
  • If you wish to use a drone for commercial purposes (this is pretty likely if you’ve bought from CVP!) then you need to have permission from the CAA.
  • Ensure any images obtained do not break privacy laws.
  • If you wish to buy a commercially available drone for Defence activities (photographs, multimedia, and surveys at height) it becomes regulated by the MAA and you must follow their rules.
  • Finally, follow the Drone Code, have fun and fly safe!

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