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;
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
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.
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,
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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