DSR Member – Eye Up Aerial Solutions Trialling CAA Audit Processes

Graham Degg, as some Drone Safe Register members will already know, is our Director of Safety.  He is also generally the man that we look to here at DSR HQ for all manner of drone legal, training and CAA clarification.

He works hand in glove with the CAA on many issues and so it is not surprising that they have turned to him to road test their audit process.

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The CAA took on a number of auditors at the tail end of 2018 and embarked upon a programme of unannounced audit visits.  In fact, we documented one DSR member’s experiences in a recent newsletter

https://dronesaferegister.org.uk/blog/newsletter/what-to-expect-when-youre-inspected/

Heavy criticism by legal, professional pilots regarding this approach has been taken on board and the CAA is now working on revising their procedures.  This is where Graham has been a willing guinea pig and he had shared some of his insights on what to expect with us here at Drone Safe Register.

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One of the main issues that they have addressed was the unannounced visitations.  In fact, it does seem a little unreasonable to expect a pilot to stop a busy work day, potentially with flights and deadlines on the horizon and yield to a comprehensive inspection of paperwork and hardware. So the new format will commence the inspection process with an email offering the chance to schedule a convenient date and time – a leap forward in terms of pilot and auditor relations from the very start.

Obviously, the content of the audit is not published beforehand but basically the auditors (they are likely to work in pairs) can quiz the pilot on any aspect of operations that may impact safety. They can ask to see any and all of the relevant paperwork and inspect hardware which only makes good sense for an audit process that is ultimately designed to maintain such high safety standards.

The process itself will start with an explanation of what to expect and the penalties as related to non-compliance.  Once all of the audit information has been obtained, the pilot will be presented with two categories of action points.

  • Level 1 – Items that could compromise safety and require immediate attention
  • Level 2 – Other items that require correction but that do not impact upon safety and that can be addressed within a longer, agreed upon time period

A significant amount of Level 1 notices could mean PfCO suspension or even revocation in extreme circumstances.  It is not the goal of the audit process but the CAA’s main driver is safety and so they will take action where they feel there is serious risk.

Graham’s experience of the process was very positive.  He found it an opportunity to work one on one with a CAA employee who only wanted to check that they procedures laid out in the Operations Manual were mirrored in real life.

In a time where pilots are completing increasingly shortened training programmes and in some cases purchasing Operations Manuals instead of creating their own, it seems that an audit process is something to be welcomed by legal, safe and qualified pilots.

CAA Drone Pilot Audits

Graham has also written an account of his experience on his website

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