New drone laws will be introduced on July 30 intended to pave the way for drones to play ‘an increasingly important role in society.’
But the truth is, the use of drones should be tightly regulated, and indeed is – it’s just that many hobbyists aren’t aware of the rules.
Currently anyone can visit a high street shop, or order from Amazon, and purchase a drone capable of flying literally miles from its operator at speeds of more than 40mph. Very little – or no – guidance is given to buyers, not even to point them in the direction of the Civil Aviation Authority’s Drone Code.
Who regulates commercial drone use?
Drones have many uses, from the construction industry to wedding photographers, and businesses are waking up to how these high-tech tools can be used.
But when exploring the options afforded by aerial photography and videography, businesses should only use a drone pilot who has a Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
This PfCO document is an acknowledgement that the operator has taken part in an accredited training course, learning about topics from aviation law to weather patterns, and has a certain level of competency. In my case, I also took a training module focused on flying safely at night.
Operators approved by the CAA must also show evidence of having a minimum level of insurance, and that they carry out proper risk assessments prior to flying.
What do the new rules entail?
Under the new rules, all drones will be restricted from flying above 400 feet, and within 1km of an airport. And from next year, owners of drones weighing more than 250 grams – i.e. most drones which carry a decent camera – will need to register with the CAA, and take an online safety course.
Many of the new rules simply bring hobbyists into line with the existing guidelines for approved operators, and before looking to work with a commercial pilot, it’s worth thinking about the limitations they face.
Is there a safe take-off and landing zone, which can be marked and kept empty of people? Is there neighbouring property within 50m of the area – if so, landowners will need to be informed and permission gained for the flight.
Is the area within controlled airspace such as a licensed aerodrome or prison? What will the weather be like at the time of flying?
What does this mean for those looking to use drone images and video in their marketing?
There’s much more to flying than sending a drone into the air with a camera, and only a commercially approved pilot will have the knowledge to carry out a job safely and with minimal risk.
Businesses looking to hire a drone pilot need to ensure they are hiring someone who holds all the correct qualifications, permissions and insurances.
The last thing you need is to post an aerial video on your website that can be clearly identified by someone with knowledge of the rules as being illegal.
If a local resident was to make a claim for invasion of privacy because you’ve flown too close to their property or, worse still, a passer-by is injured by a falling drone, the risks to your business’ reputation are huge.
Ben Hewes is head of video at Freshfield and a commercially approved drone pilot, listed on the Civil Aviation Authority’s register of Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) operators holding a valid CAA permission.