UK – 24th December 2015
You’ve unwrapped that present to find what thousands of others in the UK have received this Christmas, their very own Small Unmanned Air System (SUAS) or drone, as they are generally referred.
This is great. The freedom of the air. The unrestricted ability to go above and beyond your own roof top. Imagine the possibilities! However, before taking to the skies there are a few rules and regulations each remote pilot in the UK should be aware of.
So where can I fly?
If you are like the majority of first time remote aviators, you would have most likely received an SUAS that is below 7kg mass (the smallest category as stipulated by the CAA). Even though it looks small and innocent coming out of its packaging, it is still an aircraft that will be sharing airspace with many other users including helicopters, military aircraft, gliders, microlights, commercial air transport, the list goes on. This is why the CAA have made it mandatory to gain a recognised qualification prior to using any SUAS for commercial work, however as a hobbyist there are no current requirements for needing a qualification.
As a starting point, you will need to check the type of airspace you wish to fly in. In the UK the airspace will fall into one of two categories, controlled or uncontrolled. If you to want to fly in controlled airspace, extra permissions may be required (depending on the weight of your SUAS). A great resource to take a look at is SkyDemon (http://www.skydemon.aero/) which provides information on airspace including any Notice to Airmen (or NOTAMs) released.
Visual Line Of Sight
As most are aware, when piloting a remote aircraft Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) must be maintained at all times. VLOS includes the condition of flying no higher than 400 feet above the ground and no further than 500 meters from yourself as the remote pilot.
As the rules do appear a little confusing when it comes to how close you can fly to what, to ensure you are flying within the law it is best to stay at least 50 meters from congested areas, or people, vessels, vehicles or structures that are not under your control, when flying a remote aircraft below 7kg.
Flying for commercial gain
As mentioned, if you do wish to use your new SUAS for ‘commercial gain’ you will need to complete a qualification by a CAA approved National Qualified Entity (NQE), which will allow you to gain your Permission For Aerial Work (PFAW). RUSTA’s Remote Pilot Certificate SUAS (RPCS) course allows candidates to achieve their PFAW, which is also an initial requirement if you do wish to fly beyond any of these regions mentioned. This special permission can only be achieved from the CAA after the initial PFAW is gained.