Drone Law Change UK part 1

Drone being flown pre Covid days with a spotter

The law surrounding drones has now changed, six months later than planned due to the ongoing challenges of 2020.

Over the next few days, I will be explaining what that means to you if you are a current PFCO holder, or if you have just bought yourself a sub 250g drone as a film maker / photographer hoping to cash in. Also aiming to help if you let your PFCO lapse or if you wanted to wait and what you needed to do once the new laws came in.

So what is the change in the law? As of today 31st December 2020 – the CAA is implementing the EU UAS regulation package. For many years now the CAA have been moving towards this standard approach to drones and the laws governing them. The irony with Brexit process completing at midnight tonight means some things have not been ironed out as of yet but on the whole they have been.

Drone operations are now spilt into three categories

Open – which is low risk small drones , where the operator registers, the CAA are not involved in granting permission.

Specific which will cover part of the operations that currently PFCO holders hold – this will be explained in further detail , this will include some drone deliveries

And Certified which many reading this blog will not be involved in they are things such as drone taxi’s and bigger drones

With this tiered category there are process and courses built into the new regulations.

First of all don’t panic if you hold a PFCO, you should carry on and operate in the normal way. When you renew you will be issued with an Operational Authorisation and just as for the PFCO before it is done on a yearly basis.

The question I am being asked a lot: Should I ditch my PFCO for the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate  GVC? – The answer is the GVC is the competence part that proves your ability to understand the law and fly a drone competently. So it is a misconception that the PFCO is being replaced by the GVC. Previously airline pilots, light aircraft pilots and helicopter pilots didn’t need to attend ground school they were exempt. Everyone else attended a ground school, then took exams and a practical flight test. Each training company called this section something different for example mine was issued as RPQ-s. Each training company had their own had their own acronym for proof of competence. This is part of the standardisation in the UK. Once the GVC has been completed it is submitted to the CAA along with their operations manual. Then the Operational Authorisation will be issued.

GVC is a two day course online or in person with a practical flight assessment and this demonstrates you have the knowledge and skills to fly in the specific category. I believe moving forward pilots will not be exempt as before and will also need to demonstrate drone competence .

The other qualification is A2 Certificate of Competence A2 C of C and I see on many forums that everyone is saying they will ditch the Operational Authorisation and GVC approach for A2 C of C. This might be a bit of a flawed notion if you plan to fly anywhere near built up areas as you need a cylinder around the drone as you fly of 50 meters flying around uninvolved people etc – 50 Meters is the size approximately of a football pitch. So it may not fit with your commercial needs. However if you are flying on open land and the people you are flying near are involved as part of the operations then this may suit you.

Image used with kind permission of the CAA – copyright belongs to CAA

This cylinder changes the higher the drone goes as the image below so that minimum distance of 50m is height the drone is flying at. Example 120 meters height would be 120 meters from uninvolved people.

Image used with kind permission of the CAA – copyright belongs to CAA

The A2 C of C is a self declared competence once initial training of 1 day has been completed. More detail in coming blog posts.

If you have a current PFCO, the process will be as follows: The PFCO will convert to the Operational Authorisation (AO) on your renewal as you submit your ops manual. You need to complete a GVC Conversion course by 1st January 2024. So no need to rush to do this, however being aware and being trained early on will help you and if you have been flying drones for a while will serve as a refresher. This will also ensure if you are flying for clients that you are fully up-to date. My TV clients will probably want to see my competency confirmed earlier rather than later.

If you have just got a drone – please visit https://register-drones.caa.co.uk/drone-code – even if it is under 250g – you don’t need to register, but the training resources are great and give a beginner free training and help in understanding the law. Anyone with a drone over 250g needs to obtain an operator id and that must be on the drone when you fly it that is a legal obligation.

Next blog post will be going into more detail. As always if you have any burning questions please add to comments and I will respond after I have shared all the blog posts – more detail on A2 C of C, CE marked drones and the transition period.

Until then Happy New Year

The Drone Lass