A STEP BY STEP GUIDE
We have been asked a lot of times what it takes to become either a drone pilot or start your own aerial photography business.
In response to this we have put together a short guide to help those who are interested.
Which Training Company to go with?
There are many *companies to go with within the United Kingdom and more appearing week by week.
We will concentrate on the company that our training was with. This is purely an example of the type of things to expect when training to be a drone pilot.
The company we trained with are called EUROUSC
You will train for a specific qualification called
The Basic National UAS Certificate (BNUC™) introduced in 2008 for Visual Line of Sight of Operations (VLOS) and the recent BNUC™ for Small Unmanned Aircraft (BNUC-S™) commissioned by the UK CAA in 2010, cover fixed, rotary and multi-rotor systems.
The BNUC-S™ is the preferred pilot qualification standard required by many National Aviation Authorities before a Permission for Aerial Work or Exemption is granted to an operator.
The specifics of the course for *EUROUSC and other companies is as follows:
PART 1 Theory
Theory Course and Theory Examination
This is usually a two-day course where you will be taught amongst other things the rudiments of flight operations and CAA regulations.
You will then be asked to sit an exam, when we qualified the pass rate had to be 85% or higher. The exam is held at the end of the course.
PART 2 Practical
Operations Manual Assessment
Flight Operations Examination
This is part and parcel of the training and forms the most important part of your company documentation, the Operations Manual. You will be guided through how best to compile the manual using normally the CAA specified *Manual template.
This is then followed on a different date by your Flight Operations Exam “The Practical”. Be expected to travel to anywhere in the country for this one. Ours was in the Midlands. You will be put through your pace’s and assessed on just how good a pilot you really are. We cannot go into great detail albeit to say LEARN TO FLY IN ATTI MODE, and practice your figure of eight. At this point you will require Public Liability Insurance (Covered later in this document)
*All relevant details are at the end of this document
Applying for your Permission for Aerial Works (PFAW)
This is where your newly acquired pilots licence and completed operations Manual play in integral part as these are required by the CAA before you can charge for any aerial work.
The training company as part of their package will check and send off your Operations Manual for the CAA to check, although you will still have to pay the CAA separately for issue of the certificate. Depending on the time of year you may be waiting up to six months.
But remember without this document you cannot fly for gain.
To fly for monetary gain, you have to have something called public liability insurance and the minimum is between Two and Five Million Pounds, there are some specific companies that will insure your company and your Drone(s) but take your time in choosing. Remember the cheapest isn’t always the best.
*A list of insurance companies is included at the end of this document.
Learn the Regulations
Reading and learning the regulations on flying drones is a must and with every man and his dog seeming to own a drone these days the regulations are revised often.
These also make up an integral part of your Operations Manual.
Here are the important basics as laid down by the Civil Aviation Authority:
For aircraft of 20 kg or less, these are referred to as a ‘small unmanned aircraft’, for which the requirements are a little less stringent and are covered within Articles 166 and 167.
1. A person shall not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small aircraft so as to endanger persons or property.
2. The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
3. The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.
4. The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more than 7 kg excluding its fuel but including any articles installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly such an aircraft:
a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic control unit has been obtained;
b) within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless the permission of any such air traffic control unit has been obtained; or
c) at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in airspace described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b) above and in accordance with the requirements for that airspace.
5. The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly such an aircraft for the purposes of aerial work except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.
1. The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.
2. The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are:
a) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
c) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or
d) subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.
3. Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.
4. Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.
5. In this article ‘a small unmanned surveillance aircraft’ means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.
In essence therefore, provided the aircraft has a mass of 20 kg or less, the current regulations state:
1. The operation must not endanger anyone or anything.
2. The aircraft must be kept within the visual line of sight (normally taken to be within 500 m horizontally and 400 ft. vertically) of its remote pilot (i.e. the ‘person in charge’ of it). Operations beyond these distances must be approved by the CAA (the basic premise being for the operator to prove that he/she can do this safely).
3. Small unmanned aircraft (irrespective of their mass) that are being used for surveillance purposes are subject to tighter restrictions with regard to the minimum distances that you can fly near people or properties that are not under your control. If you wish to fly within these minima, permission is required from the CAA before operations are commenced.
4. CAA permission is also required for all flights that are being conducted for aerial work (i.e. in very simple terms, you are getting paid for doing it).
5. The ‘remote pilot’ has the responsibility for satisfying him/herself that the flight can be conducted safely.
Relevant CAA Documentation
Mandatory Occurrence Reporting Scheme Ninth Edition – 18th March 2011
Air Navigation: The Order and Regulations Fourth Edition – 30th April 2015
Flying Displays and Special Events Thirteenth Edition – 01st February 2015
Unmanned Aircraft System Operations – Guidance Fifth Edition – 24th March 2015
Company or Sole Trader – What’s in a Name
Each has its good sides and bad sides depending on how much work you expect to take on.
Personally we chose the company route but we suggest strongly you speak to an accountant before you make a final decision.
Naming your business:
This is of equal importance as this can reflect the type of business you intend to run.
Bearing this in mind think about the type of work you intend to take on, will you be a jack of all trades or deal with a specific part of the market, concentrating on aerial surveys for example. We recommend you investigate the market thoroughly before you decide what your business will do.
As of February 2016 there are 1416 commercial Aerial UAV companies registered in the UK.
This is the million-dollar question and something only you can answer. But bare in mind the following:
• What works will you be doing?
• What Camera will we carry?
• What type of work?
• How much do I want to spend?
UAV training companies
Phoenix UAV Centre
Drone Training Aerial Academy