Drone Operation

DRONE AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

One use for a drone aerial photography

It’s important to realise, the use of drone aerial photography comparatively new in the UK. For this reason, drone activities, aerial/video photography’s only a small use of there capability.

In fact, not too long ago the only options were helicopters, camera poles and mobile platforms. As a result, these brought their own problems. For example, expensive, restrictive angles, difficult to follow the action and H&S issues.

Latest Commercial Task

For this reason, my client contacted me to use my drone to photograph a roof. Of course, the reason for this was that the roof was leaking.

As an illustration, the building’s situated at the end of a drive with buildings around it. It is also adjacent to the neighbour’s boundary. This posed access problems particularly for gaining access to all areas. In this case, the obvious answers to do this from the air.

Issues that require considering?

  • The property is close to Southampton airport.
  • Due to the proximity could I fly in this location?
  • Neighbours, would they allow flight over their land?
  • Weather needs to be dry and not too much wind.

Southampton Airport

Accordingly, the new regulations have a 5km air exclusion zone around the airport. In this case, this was not in this area; however, it is just outside. Accordingly, being in the vicinity of the airport, what air traffic’s likely to fly in the vicinity?

With attention to detail, the Aviation Maps checked first. In particular, these tell you where you will encounter aircraft movements. In this case, the location of the property is within the aircraft movements for the airport. Consequently, to fly here I would require permission from the Air Traffic Controllers. Therefore to obtain permission a non-standard flight request requires submitting to NATS. Thereupon, with this duly submitted, it takes 21 days for an answer.

Neighbours

Consequently studying Google maps, it clearly shows that flyings possible over the property without encroaching on the neighbours.

Drone Aerial Photography Other considerations

  • Main road situated in front of the property.
  • Tall trees on the property
  • Adjoining property
  • Wind.

Accordingly, to eliminate the issues, there is no reason to fly over the road or adjoining property. In addition, be aware of the trees and fly above. In like manner, watch the weather to pick the right time to fly with little or no wind.

Drone Aerial Photography Risk

The first thing to remember, flying a drone is all about the risk of the operation and limiting that risk. Consequently, the risk assessment for drone flying is about 10 pages. Therefore the assessment looks at the risks posed by the property, vehicles, physical hazards, weather, take-off and landing, and the drone code etc. In general, the initial survey’s carried out off-site, looking at google maps, aviation maps and OS maps. You must bear in mind that something may be present that is not visible on these maps. It’s important to review this prior to commencing the operation. The risk must be as low as possible before commencing the flight.

The Operation

In the first place, the object of the operation was to video/photograph the roof of the outbuilding garage and main building.

To clarify, from the air, the state of the building’s roof’s viewed clearly. Accordingly, the camera on the drone’s positioned to give a flat perspective to the roof. To emphasize, in post-processing, by zooming into the image you can see the state of it.

Picture of roof chimneys drone aerial photography
Cracked cement around the chimney pots
Picture of valleys of roof drone aerial photography
Missing cement in the valleys between the pitched roofs
Picture of the valley between roof pitches drone aerial photography
Rubbish in the valley
Picture of holes in roof drone-aerial-photography
Holed areas on the corrugated roofing

Consequently, one issue that didn’t get considered was the doves flying around. Therefore were they angry or curious? As a matter of fact, they were curious and flew around as the drone operated.

Should you be considering hiring a drone and pilot, contact Martin or use the form below. By giving Martin as much information as possible it will enable him to confirm whether or not permissions are required.

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Commercial Drone Flying

As an illustration, commercial drone flying is about earning money flying a drone. As a matter of fact, the CAA states that

“A commercial operation is defined as:

 ‘flight by a small unmanned aircraft except a flight for public transport, or any operation of any other aircraft except an operation for public transport;

which is available to the public;                  

or

which, when not made available to the public, 

in the case of a flight by a small unmanned aircraft, is performed under a contract between the SUA operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the remote pilot

or

in any other case, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator,

in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.’

In order to be able to undertake commercial operations you must have undergone certified training.

Picture of a drone commercial drone flying

Training

In this case, you must understand that the drone in law is treated as an aircraft. As such you must understand the risk of your operation. It’s not as simple as just sending the drone up into the air.

You are required to understand about

  • aviation law,
  • weather,
  • how the drone operates,
  • assessing risk,
  • where you can fly safely,
  • how to obtain permissions you might require
  • accident reporting
  • near misses

With the training out of the way the real work begins.

Preparation for Commercial Drone Flying

In the first place preparation is the key to success. It is also an area that the client does not see. In fact this looks at all aspects of the operation to ensure you have the correct permissions to operate. Not to mention that all risks are assessed.

Airspace

In the UK there are only two types of airspace D and G. Drones can only fly in G without permissions being required. This means you must identify the airspace before you do anything else. Warning do not rely on apps to do this for you. The first place to consult is aviation maps. These identify for you the restricted airspace D and the different heights that the airspace operates in. This also means that for D airspace you will need permission from ATC (local Air Traffic Control) to fly. In some instances, you may see (flight level) FL2000’-5000’. This means that the airspace below FL2000 is not restricted so is classed as G. Meaning you don’t need ATC permissions.

Commercial Drone Flying Risk

Like every other work activity in this country the overriding concern is “how risky is the operation?”.

To this extent that all aspects of the flight must be assessed as to who or what is at risk. The object is to reduce the risk as much as possible. You must be able to demonstrate that you planned and did fly safely.

Some of this can be assessed by using online information i.e. google maps. Other information can be obtained through OS maps. You must bear in mind that this may not always give you all the information. When you get to site something may arise you could not foresee from the information that you reviewed.

Weather

Most of the drones that are bought of the shelf are not designed for inclement weather or wind speeds that are high. It is important to have the right weather conditions. The METOFFICE provides seven-day weather reporting which is a good guide to expected weather. Be prepared to discuss your operation with the client if the unexpected happens.

Emergencies

Be prepared for emergencies. Think about what could go wrong and write an emergency procedure that deals with it. Yes, drones do fly off on their own. Don’t ignore this and think its someone else’s problem. It’s yours, if the drone fly’s away and is ingested into a jet engine you will be responsible.

Don’t forget to carry your emergency procedures with you including any phone numbers you may need.

Records

Keep records of the operation. The details will include the task, the risk and how you minimised it, weather (expected and actual), pre-flight inspection of the craft and post flight. This list is not exhaustive.

On site

Arrive to site in plenty of time. Review your planning and risk assessments, ensure you satisfy that you have accounted for everything. If something changes or you couldn’t see it from your research review it again.

Getting it wrong

The CAA take commercial drone flying seriously. They classify ANY drone flight outdoors as a flight by an aircraft. If you get it wrong and your flying endangers people or property you could be prosecuted. Don’t forget the insurance, should the worst happen make sure your covered.

The operation

If you are in airspace that requires permission, you will need a minimum of 21 days to obtain this. Think ahead.

Providing you have done all the preparation for commercial drone flying to the best of your ability then you are ready to fly. Enjoy the experience but keep your eye on the job and surrounding airspace.

For further information on how Martin can help you, complete the form below.

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What the client needs to consider when hiring a commercial drone operator.

When hiring a commercial drone operator the client needs to have a clear picture of what they want to achieve.

In the first place, only CAA approved operators can undertake commercial drone operations. As a result, the operators have undertaken training and have passed theory and practical assessments. They also hold liability insurance to run their business operations.

What information is that is important for the commercial drone operator?

In this case, the important information is location, time, date and description of the task.

Location

Accordingly, the commercial drone operator has to consider the airspace that the operation is going to take place in. For this reason, it is important to give either OS Map reference or Longitude and Latitude.

Time and Date

It’s important to realise, depending on the airspace category the operator may have to apply for extra permissions. Consequently, these can take a minimum of 28days. Therefore you should try and forward plan. Equally, give consideration to the time of day with use or congestion.

section of aviation map commercial drone operator
A section of an Aviation Map showing how crowded the air space is around Southampton

Description

Equally important, the task requires to be as detailed as possible. For this reason, the more information that is available allows the operator to plan throughly.

How the information’s used by the operator.

Accordingly, the first consideration the operator has is to ascertain the airspace. The classification of G is the only place the operator can fly without further permission. Equally, important the operator uses OS Maps and Google Maps to gain as much info as possible on the topography. At the same time, this gives the operator the chance to look at any other factors such as:-

  • Take Off and Landing areas
  • Possible numbers of staff required to operate safely
  • Traffic
  • Pedestrians
  • Distances
  • Obstructions
  • Power lines
  • anything else that will aid planning.

How this helps

All of the above allows the operator to put together a remote plan for the operation. As the day gets nearer other information is gathered:-

  • Permissions (if needed)
  • Weather
  • Risk assessments
  • Look at the safety measures identified from the risk assessments
  • Permissions from the landowner(s) where alternative landing site has been identified
  • Any Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) notices
  • Identify access controls if required
  • Air Traffic Control Permissions (if required)

On site check

In addition, before any flying takes place on site tall of the above must be revisited. Particular attention is paid to the weather and Health & Safety. If rain is falling or due then consideration has to be given to a postponement. Drones do not like the wet.

Its also at this stage that the log book for the flight is started. This records the flight timing, batteries, weather, temperature. Also records aircraft condition, aircraft preparation and post flight information.

As a result, this may seem a long tedious process. However, the CAA regulate the flying of drones for commercial operations. They require to see the manual and log books at any time. Although this is more likely if things go wrong. As the drone is classed as an aircraft, you will have seen the Gatwick chaos.

Summary

For one thing, yes this is a long process but responsible businesses take all reasonable steps to reduce the risk. That’s to the client, public, property and themselves.

For more information contact Martin to find out how your photography can stand out or use the form below.

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Drones

In the first place as a photographer what use are drones to my business? As a result, what services are appropriate for the photography work that I undertake?

Classes of Drones

Therefore, most people think of drones as being a pilotless vehicle. In fact some drones are big and some are small.

  • In the first place, the big drones are referred to as Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). In this case, they are likely to be Military or research vehicles and generally 150kg plus. As a result, these are not drones that most photographers might consider using.
  • Likewise the next size down is the light UAS between 20kg and 150kg. For one thing, these may be a bespoke unit and have various uses. By the same token, it is not likely that this would be a vehicle of use to my business.
  • The last size of the drone is 7kg and below. Accordingly, these are the most common type of drones for ariel photography/videography. It is this class of drone that is most useful for my type of photography. These are referred to as Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA).

Use of the drone for Aerial Photography

In reality, taking photographs from above allows for a different perspective of a subject. This includes:-

  1. Property Residential & Commercial
  2. Trains
  3. Cars
  4. People
  5. Landscape
  6. Boats/Ships
  7. Photographing areas that are hard to reach.
  8. Site surveying
  9. Environmental
  10. Insurance
  11. Sports
  12. Marketing
Picture of a drone on a green background drones

Flying with a drone.

Likewise, drones are available from different manufacturers and come in a variety of models. The first thing to remember is that by using your drone to make money you are required in the UK to have a Permission for Commercial Operation (PFCO) certificate. The PFCO certificate is issued by the Civil Aviation Authority but only after meeting the strict criteria. This also means following the aviation rules that cover drone flying.

To clarify the passage below is straight from The Air Navigation Order 2016 and Regulations CAP393
Meaning of “commercial operation”
7. For the purposes of this Order, “commercial operation” means any flight by a small unmanned aircraft except a flight for public transport, or any operation of any other aircraft except an operation for public transport—
(a) which is available to the public; or
(b) which, when not made available to the public,
(i) in the case of a flight by a small unmanned aircraft, is performed under a contract between the SUA operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the remote pilot; or
(ii) in any other case, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator,
in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration

Commercial Flying

If you have not met the criteria for a PFCO then you are only allowed to fly your Drone as a hobbyist. As a result, this places a lot of restrictions on the person flying the drone.

In summary, you have to comply with the Aviation Law for the UK. Failure to comply when things go wrong will result in the owner of the drone being prosecuted.

For this reason, I have now undertaken the drone training and passed the theory and practical tests. Coupled with this to comply with the CAA regulations I have had to compile an operations manual. As a result, this has to clearly show how I will operate the business and take into consideration emergency procedures.

Next Steps

In this case, I have received my operations manual back from NATS. Accordingly, they have checked the manual to ensure that there are no glaringly obvious mistakes. As a result, my next step is to buy insurance and then complete the application form to submit to the CAA.

It’s important to realise, that when the CAA are happy they will issue the PFCO. As a result, I can then undertake commercial operations for Ariel Photography/videography.

For further information on these services contact Martin now.

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