The Challenges Commercial Pilots Face This Season
Previously, drone operators needed to have permission from the CAA for “commercial operations”. Now, using a drone for commercial purposes does not require any special permission.
It's crucial to bring back the days when the CAA knew how many commercial operators the UK had, how many pilots were insured, and how many hours each operator was flying for, including accidents/incidents.
Due to the changes in regulations, specifically The Unmanned Aircraft Regulation and changes to the Air Navigation Order, the CAA has massively reduced its control over commercial drone operators. We now have a situation where many are flying drones of a heavier weight for their training.
There has been a drastic increase in risk due to people hiring drone operators who don't have the proper permissions or training. More people are simply buying drones without an awareness of the requirements, such as the correct IDs and distances.
The 2024 Drone Season
As the weather improves and events kick off, professional drone operators must be thoroughly trained and insured.
Almost all commercial drone flights happen around people and buildings, so an operator without the right permissions can be incredibly hazardous. Not only this but it has become much easier for anyone to purchase commercial drones and charge for a service.
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The Unmanned Aircraft Regulation and changes to the Air Navigation Order
If you're in the drone space already, you'll be aware that there have been a few recent changes to the law that have had a huge impact on commercial drone operators.
The key principles underlying the lawful flying of drones remain the same as they were before the changes to the Air Navigation Order:
You must only fly your drone if you are reasonably satisfied that the flight can be safely made.
You must maintain direct visual contact with your drone.
You must not fly your drone above 400 feet.
You must not fly your drone inside airport “flight restriction zones”
The primary legal changes remove some of the more restrictive treatment of drones with cameras. The distinctions between drones are now primarily linked to a drone’s weight, whereas historically, the licensing pilots held were more closely monitored.
Probably the most significant change is for people who use drones for work rather than as a hobby. Previously, drone operators needed to have permission from the CAA for “commercial operations”. However, now using a drone for commercial purposes does not require any special permission. This means it's easier for commercial drone operators to operate in higher-risk environments, such as closer to people or in built-up areas illegally.
Professional drone operators need to obtain the correct qualifications, such as the A2 Certificate of Competency, which allows a pilot to fly a drone in accordance with the more flexible “A2 open category” rules, or authorisation from the CAA to cover these aspects of their flight.
Furthermore, wherever pilots are flying, commercial operators will need to maintain third-party liability insurance, as has previously been the case.
The CAA should be implementing a better screening process for new commercial drone operators, for the safety of genuine commercial operators' careers, and the safety of pedestrians.