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.