Number of UAV Operators doubles in last 12 months
In 2010 there were only 5 approved UAV operators but by the end of 2013 this had grown to over 100. Since then the growth has been exponential, with the number of operators likely to reach 2,000 or over by the end of 2016 having doubled in the last year alone.
Who has permission to be a UAV operator?
Anyone who flies a UAV/drone for commercial work (generally referred to as aerial work) needs a Permission from the CAA.
To get this Permission, you will have to:
- be at least 18 years of age
- demonstrate a sufficient understanding of aviation theory (airmanship, airspace, aviation law and good flying practice)
- pass a practical flight assessment (flight test)
- develop basic procedures for conducting the type of flights you want to do and set these out in an Operations Manual
It is important to note that the concept of commercial work need not always mean direct payment it can mean simply that the image is used for commercial gain i.e. to increase business.
Does a PFAW mean you can fly anywhere?
There are clear limitations on where UAVs can be flown even with a commercial licence. More and more businesses are thinking about using drones which is good news however it has shown us that many people have not considered that there are certain limitations. In the last week alone we have been asked whether our UAVs can be used to fly over the following:
- A forest at night
- The River Thames in Central London
- Fuel Farm at an Airport
All of these present unique issues and may require additional permissions and special requests to operate. The UAV industry is continually evolving with the regulations being amended over time to accommodate new situations and operators capabilities as the technology develops.
Do all operators offer the same service?
A PFAW does mean that the operator has pilot qualifications, recent flying experience and insurance. Whilst it confirms a knowledge and ability to fly it says nothing about the type of service each operator can provide. Essentially a drone is a means of carrying a sensor to capture data so whilst it is a prerequisite that your drone operator has a PFAW it is equally important that they have knowledge and skills to complete the task you have in mind.
The list of operators ranges from many single person teams taking straight forward video and photography, through to companies like ourselves who are part of a small number of specialised survey operators. The list also includes those who operate drones for rescue and emergency purposes such as police services. This is a new industry and many operators are limited in their experience not only in terms of flying UAVs but also in terms of the data or images they are delivering.
Not only have we had our licence and been flying for over 3 years we are part of a company with 20 years’ experience as engineering consultants who have been working with GIS data and survey tools throughout that time.