Monthly Archives

December 2017

Emergency Services Operations ORS4 #1233 General Exemption E4506

By | Emergency Services

Under the above ORS4 the Emergency Services, holding a valid PfCO, have been granted a special exemption that can only implemented short term reactive situations aimed at preventing the immediate risk to human life, or during a major incident.  Under the provisions of this exemption, the distance the drone can be operated from the drone pilot can be extended beyond 500 metres when certain protocols have been followed and are authorised.

The CAA requirements are that:

  • The distance from the remote pilot station does not exceed the maximum control range of the aircraft, as stated in the operating manual of the emergency service under whose authority the person in charge is operating the aircraft;
  • The drone is not flown beyond a distance of 1000 metres from the remote pilot station without the explicit approval of the On-Scene Incident Commander;
  • The drone is not flown beyond a distance of 2000 metres from the remote pilot without the explicit approval of the Tactical Commander assigned to the incident.

Each force or service will have to incorporate precise procedures and protocols in their Operations Manual for these circumstances.  As it stands today, most forces and services are working in isolation trying to develop local processes so there is no standard wording available or pronouncement on acceptability from the CAA.

The challenge for all emergency service operators is to provide sufficient training and knowledge to all their competent pilots so that they can take the appropriate action and decision in these special circumstances.  Most drones operated today will have a command and control range in the order of 3,000 metres in radio line sight.  Seeing the video image and seeing what the drone is actually doing will be a problem, and if the terrain is not flat there is a strong likelihood that the drone will not make it back even with an automatic ‘Return to Home’.

Losing the drone isn’t that much of an issue if it contributes to saving human life but with emergency services financial resources stretched as they are there won’t be too many On Scene Incident Commanders or Tactical Commanders who will readily authorise an extended flight profile when the drone may not be seen again!  This does suggest that the emergency services do need to invest in more capable longer distance drones and situational awareness systems rather than the standard commercial products currently used.

A Practical Guide to Drone Law, Law Brief Publishing

By | Uncategorized

On Thursday 23 November 2017, the offices of Carter Lemon Cameron, the Barbican-based law firm, was the setting for the public launch of a new book on drone law.  Titled ‘A Practical Guide to Drone Law’ and published by Law Brief Publishing, it was put together by Rufus Ballaster, a commercial property lawyer, Andrew Firman, a corporate and commercial lawyer, and Eleanor Clot, a trainee solicitor.  Of course those well versed with the history of the UK drone industry will recognise the last surname.

The authors have targeted the book at both lawyers as well as drone operators and their advisers.  It opens with a review of current regulations and then delves into other legal matters.  For those who are familiar with the legal aspects of commercial drone operations much of the early material is straight out of a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) Theoretical Knowledge course provided by most NQEs.  It’s from Chapter 5 onwards that the discourse becomes a little more interesting delving into the areas of property ownership, trespass, negligence, nuisance, contract and other damage claims.  These are grey areas at the best of times and Chapters 5 and 6, all 18 pages of it, unfortunately only skim the surface.

In summary, this is a reference book that new drone industry entrants could be wise to familiarise themselves with especially as there are many legal issues the CAA does not regulate and leaves to others.  It’s probably not essential reading but borrowing a copy is recommended.  For those of us in the drone industry having to address the legal issues on the ground daily, this book only gives us a glimpse of some of the more intangible legal ramifications.  It might be interesting in any future court case whether the presiding judge actually refers to this book.  He or she might as a starter for 10.

CAA Statutory Charges 2018/19: Consultation Document CAP1601

By | CAA and Regulation

The furore that has echoed around the drone industry since the CAA published its Consultation Document on its proposed Statutory Charges for 2018/19, effective 1 April 2018, would suggest that the CAA has raised the barrier to entry so high many existing drone businesses will be taken out and new ones will be discouraged from applying for a PfCO.

Yes, the charges for an initial PfCO are going up from £173 to £247 (a huge percentage), and the renewal is increasing from £130 to £185, but these once-a-year fees are miniscule compared to the going day rates charged by the better drone operators.  In return the CAA should improve its services in terms of responsiveness and turnaround times.  This has to be worth it.

Those that can see the opportunity will pay: it’s those who are struggling to make a decent living that may not renew.

And the operators aren’t the hardest hit.  NQEs and those wanting a non-standard permission are going to have to pay a much higher price.  For them guaranteeing a return on investment, with the fees coming straight off the bottom line, is going to be harder especially for NQEs as the number is multiplying at a rapid pace.

The CAA has recently indicated in private that the number of NQEs has expanded outside all expectations and, even though they receive a substantial fee from each but they need to maintain real credibility, impartiality and capability to process new drone industry entrants or they will face loosing their status.

The CAA has long provided a service on a shoestring.  With the new fee structure this industry should look forward to a more responsive, pro-active and involved CAA.  This industry needs to work with its regulator rather than expect everything to be handed to them for next to nothing.