The UK commercial drone industry has reached a crisis point again.  The UK is awash with illegal drone pilots who are working for commercial gain who think they are above the law. It is a criminal offence to fly a drone for work without permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Illegal drone pilots also typically fly without insurance indemnity meaning that if they crash their drone into your vehicle, property or worse you – there is nobody to pay for the damage.

This state of crisis caused by drone pilots working illegally without CAA permission or insurance is unacceptable and a blatant disregard for the UK’s laws.  CAA regulates the UK’s drone laws for very good reason. Permissions for aerial work are granted to drone pilots once they have been assessed as  responsible safe operators.  The CAA aren’t the ‘fun police’ who want to spoil people’s enjoyment.  The rules have been established to provide a safe environment in which small drones can be flown without coming into conflict with manned aircraft and without risk to other people or properties.

If you needed a new boiler installed in your house you wouldn’t use an illegal gas engineer who isn’t Gas Safe qualified and licensed? Or, if you wanted to hire a commercial diver you wouldn’t use a dive contractor who isn’t HSE qualified. So why on earth are illegal drone pilots flying for work in the UK and flouting the laws of the land?

One possible reason for the complete disregard for the UK’s drone laws is because they think they can fly under the radar and get away with it.  Drone Safe Register has heard and seen footage of illegal pilots breaking all the drone laws in the rule book such as working their drone without CAA permissions or insurance and endangering the lives of innocent people.  Examples include flying over large crowds or too close to people/property or, worse, close to airports.

Another possible reason illegal drone operators are ignoring the rules and working their drones without CAA permission and insurance is that they do not understand what commercial gain means.  To set the record straight commercial gain means ‘aerial work’.  Valuable consideration is a legal term that makes you a commercial operator as opposed to an amateur.

Working commercially as a drone operator doesn’t just mean, for example, securing an aerial filming contract with a TV broadcaster or gaining a contract to undertake an aerial inspection for a large wind farm.  Here are some examples of valuable consideration:

  • You film drone footage and monetise it on YouTube
  • You film drone footage of an event and sell the images/footage to a news channel or press company
  • You film drone footage and it is edited into your showreel to obtain work
  • You film drone footage to help sell a friend’s house and they later buy you a drink to return the favour.
  • You’re a conventional camera operator who says ‘I’ve got a drone, I’ll throw that in for free’
All these examples are classed as valuable consideration. It means they are doing aerial work: they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t working.

Drone Safe Register is calling upon the CAA to get tougher on illegal drone pilots and implement a zero tolerance to flying for commercial gain without the necessary permissions and insurance.  Drone Safe Register thinks it’s only a matter of time before an illegal drone operator flies irresponsibly and causes a major accident in our skies.  Drone Safe Register is on a mission to put a stop to illegal drone operators but we need your help!

How members of the public can help

If you are looking to hire a drone always ask to see a copy of your pilot’s CAA permissions. This is called a CAA PFCO document.  PFCO stands for permission for commercial operation.  Also, ask to see their drone commercial insurance documents.  Most commercial drone operators have a minimum of £2 million public liability insurance.

All DSR pilots have been checked for insurance and CAA PFCO status. This means that you have the peace of mind when hiring a drone operator that your pilot is safe, legal and operating to the highest standard within the UK laws.

If you see irresponsible drone operation such as drone flying near an airport, flying too close to people/property or over a congested area there is a good chance that you are witnessing an illegal drone operator in action. Why? Because CAA approved pilots understand the dangers and fly to the highest standards of drone safety and operation.

If you do witness irresponsible drone operation you can report the incident to the police on telephone number 101.

CAA PFCO Approved Pilots

If you are a CAA PFCO approved professional pilot we invite you to become a member of Drone Safe Register.  By joining DSR you are joining the UK’s fastest growing directory of safe and legal pilots.  DSR provides a searchable national database and digital map of trained, qualified and insured drone pilots who are available for hire. The register geographically lists profiles; complete with full contact details, logos, reviews, showreel and links to your website.

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