Since being granted our Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) last year and launching Eye in Sky Media, we have come across a scenario numerous times. This scenario is often due to a lack of understanding of what commercial UAV operators do and are legally obliged to do in order to operate drones legally.

The Five Minute Job Scenario

The scenario is one where we receive enquiries about the services we offer, usually it’s some aerial photography work that’s needed in this scenario. The person enquiring goes on to tell us about the job and then states it should just be a five minute job, a few photos and that’s all that’s needed. We then have to proceed to inform them that in our line of work and with the professional services commercial drone operators offer, it really isn’t a five minute job. Why is that they ask, well we’ll answer that here.

It’s all about the Operational Safety Case!

As commercial UAV operators we have to write an Operational Safety Case and present that to the Civil Aviation Authority for approval. In order for it to be approved we have to demonstrate what methods and working practices we have in place, in order to operate UAV’s safely. So we have to conduct several phases of flight planning and safety checks before we even put our UAV’s in the air. These are as follows:

  • Pre-Deployment Survey – An essential part of the flight and safety planning process, this is conducted in our office, in advance of deploying to complete the tasking. Here we identify the operational and surrounding areas, other air users who we need to be notifying of our intended flight operations, air and ground hazards and a lot more in order to ensure we are operating lawfully and safely.
  • Onsite Survey & Risk Assessment – On the day of the task completion we arrive onsite, allowing time to conduct a full onsite survey, where we pay close attention to the operational area. We mark out landing, emergency landing and take off zones. We identify ground hazards, assess weather conditions and conduct briefings for the flight team. There is more to this step too but it all boils down to reducing risk, to other people, other air users, our staff, property and our equipment.
  • The Flight Phase – This is the phase where we collect the imagery or video that the client requires. Even throughout this phase we have safe working practices that we must adhere to. We operate our UAV’s according to the flight reference cards (FRC’s) for that platform (think airplane checklists that pilots use, FRC’s are basically checklists). We have to maintain awareness of what’s happening around us on the ground, in the air and also keep tabs on the weather too. That requires a flight team, we operate with a pilot in command and an observer as a bare minimum on flight taskings. More complex situations demand more personnel to maintain operational safety.

A Five Minute Job? Is it really?

As you can see from the above, a five minute job when it comes to commercial UAV operations really does not exist. It cannot because the CAA demands we have procedures in place where safety is considered at every step. This means there is no such thing as a 5 minute job when it comes to operating UAV’s, or drones, commercially or for commercial gain. At least this is true if you want to operate lawfully.

So if you tell us it’s only a five minute job, we will be happy to demonstrate why it really isn’t, can’t be and in all reality…shouldn’t be! We have to ensure our flight operations are conducted safely, the consequences if we didn’t could very well mean putting the lives and safety of others and ourselves in jeopardy and could cause damage to property. A UAV is a heavy piece of equipment, with spinning rotors, the dangers from that travelling in the air and also whilst on the ground should be pretty obvious.

So is it a professional service?

We are professionals in what we do, we have an understanding and appreciation of air law, navigation, meteorology, airspace, general airmanship and aviation principles. We have to demonstrate our knowledge of all that by passing a formal ground school examination. We have to demonstrate that we can operate UAV’s to a safe standard by means of a flight assessment. We have to maintain flight logs, air-frame logs, battery logs and maintenance logs for the equipment we operate and as commercial UAV pilots. We have to maintain operational currency in the platforms we operate and we have to hold specialist insurance to cover our operations so I can safely say we are professionals offering a professional service!

So if a professional UAV operator can’t offer a five minute job, I’ll do it myself.

That is your prerogative but you need to be aware of the legal requirements concerning operating UAV’s for remuneration or other valuable consideration. These are basically that anyone operating UAV’s commercially must have undergone and passed an accredited UAV operators course, applied for and been granted a PfCO by the CAA and hold specialist insurance to cover the UAV operations. Anyone not doing so is committing a criminal offence, is it really worth it?

Looking for commercial drone operators?

Speak to Eye in Sky Media! We are professional, we are passionate about what we do and our pricing is competitive. We ensure all we do is conducted safely, on time and on budget, every time!