So you think flying a drone commercially is easy?

Updated: May 20

Since getting my drone License a year ago I’ve realised that people seem to have unreasonable expectations of what can be achieved. They think I can turn up and just launch it anywhere when actually it’s a highly regulated business and commercial operators have to be trained, complete flight plans, be insured and have to seek permissions for every flight not only from landowners but often also airports as you are sharing the airspace with them.

The training consists of many hours of pre learning followed by a 3 day course which consists of A day learning all the rules and regulations, a day flight planning followed by 2 test one on the rules and regulations the other on flight planning. If you succeed in both of these you can complete your practical flight assessment on the following day. Which involves a variety of manoeuvres and safely checks to assess your competence at flying.

Once you have passed all these tests you them need to compile an Operations Manual to submit to the CAA. This is a huge 40 -50 page document that basically explains to the CAA how you will conduct yourself when you are working commercially. Sections such as Safety training, nominated personnel, aircraft systems, Incident reporting, flight planning procedures and emergencies need to be covered as well as compiling the necessary documentation needed for commercial operations. You also need to include information about the sort of areas you will be working in eg. Marine, Film and TV, roof surveying, and the aircraft you will be flying and the pilot.

This then needs to be approved by the CAA before you can start flying. It also needs to be regularly updated if new rules and regulations come in or if for instance you change your drone or the way you work.

When working with a drone pilot there is a set procedure that a pilot has to follow:

  1. Identify the exact location/postcode/GPS coordinates

  2. The date and time. (Drone flights are weather dependant so a flexible timescale might be required)

  3. A detailed description of the requirements for instance, video, photos, who where and what are we filming.

  4. Compete the assessment form and agree terms

  5. Submit the form so the pilot can complete the flight plan looking at airspace classification, pre site survey, the weather, risk assessment and emergency procedures etc.

  6. If the job can be conducted safely and legally it can proceed

  7. On the day of the flight the pilot needs to complete a Site Assessment Form which checks air space restricts for the day, risks and mitigation, the weather and how the site will be kept secure and emergency procedures.

  8. If required a drone spotter might be required to make the flight safer.

  9. The pilot then needs to decide if it is safe to fly going on the above site assessment and then sign the paperwork to say it is safe to fly.

  10. The pre flight drone checklist then needs to be performed before the drone can be launched.

  11. After the flight the drone needs to be checked for damage and flight logs need to be completed for the drone, the batteries and the pilot.

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