At present, in order to operate any drone commercially in the UK you need to obtain a PfAW. The PfAW is divided into two categories; 0-7Kg and 7-20Kg. The 0-7Kg permission is slightly less restrictive but still sets high safety expectations.
In March 2015 the Civil Aviation Authority updated their core UAS guidance publication, CAP 722.
One change detailed in CAP 722 means that operators who already have manned aviation experience have the opportunity to take an alternative route to a PfAW. So if you already have a PPL, CPL, microlight licence, gliding qualification or military experience you may be able to go through our flight assessment only process. Please see page 47 of CAP 722 for more details or give us a call to find out more!
Another change is that operators who hold a BMFA A or B certificate for the type of aircraft they wish to fly can now apply directly to the CAA for a PfAW with no further qualifications or assessment necessary. for multirotors, either a helicopter or multirotor A certificate is acceptable [/b] A further change means that it is no longer necessary to pass assessments on every aircraft you wish to fly or to inform the CAA if you wish to use new aircraft within your assessed categories. One assessment per category (0-7Kg or 7-20Kg) is all you need. there is no requirement to renew your pilot qualification annually as long as you keep your currency up-to-date: at least 2 hours flying every three months. You are required to renew your PfAW annually.
So what do you actually need to do to get a PfAW?
The CAA are interested in three areas that they call critical elements:
2.Initial practical flight assessment
You are also required to submit an operations manual when you apply for your PFAW. You apply for a PfAW using form SRG 1320.
So, let’s try to be logical.
As far as the CAA are concerned, in terms of the critical elements above:
•If you have a BMFA A or B certificate, you already have 1, 2 and probably 3 if you are a regular flyer. If not, get out and fly. I would strongly recommend you read CAP 722 before applying though. You still need to apply and get your PfAW before operating commercially.
•If you are involved in manned aviation you probably already have 1. You need to get a flight assessment which we, as a restricted NQE, can do for you. Get yourself up to speed on the latest UK drone legislation by reading CAP 722 as working outside your aircraft changes things slightly! You will need to make sure you get adequate experience on your RPAS before the assessment. If your manned qualification is expired you will need to contact the CAA to find out if they will accept it.
•If you have no previous manned experience and no BMFA certificates, you will need to go through a qualification with one of the 5 full NQEs listed below.
What is an NQE?
An NQE (a National Qualified Entity), is an organisation approved by the CAA to recommend people for a Permission for Aerial Work. There is currently one restricted NQE (us! ) and five full NQEs. I will try to update this list as more come online (information correct at 06/06/2015).
Following on from Redmonds explanation of commercial drone qualifications I thought I would add something about the ANO and CAP 658.
The Air Navigation Order is the legal document that is approved by parliament, it sets out the law that applies to all flying activity within UK airspace. It is written by lawyers and is not very user friendly. The CAA recognise that the ANO will not be carried in our back pockets each time we go flying and in fact many flyers will never look at the document. As a result they produce CAPs (Civil Aviation Publications). These documents are a guide on how to conduct your particular air activity in accordance with the law (ANO). The CAP that relates to model flying is CAP 658. The CAA does not proclaim to be an expert in all aspects of aviation so they seek guidance on best practice from the national governing body, in our case the BMFA. If you compare the BMFA handbook with CAP 658 then you will see that they are virtually identical, so in fact we only need to read the BMFA handbook to ensure we comply with the ANO.
There was some discussion at the last meeting about the latest BMFA achievemnt scheme questions. There are a list of 20 questions from which five must be answered. All the answers are contained in the BMFA handbook. I will endeavor to compile a list of the questions and the answers and put them in the DOCs section.
Finally, just to confirm that CAP 658 is guidance for model flying as a hobby and not for commercial gain, Redmonds previous post covers the commercial aspects of model flying. I hope this helps!