We were approached in early October to create a commercial property marketing video for 525 Ferry Road Edinburgh containing drone footage of the building. This was a unique challenge being close to ferry road and a site with open pedestrian access. Our first thoughts were an OSC (Operational Safety Case) operator would be required. A enhanced level of PFCO operations involving anything from major road closures, policing and ballistic parachutes on the drone.
The client did not want to spend time and money closing the road to get the most favourable angle on the front of the building. We took another look and risk assessed the site and we were happy to conduct a flight with tight cordon control. Using a pilot and 3 ground observer/spotters we controlled small cordons around each side of the site at a time to collect photo and video. We repeated this around the perimeter of the building until we had covered every angle. We also had large empty playing fields to the east of the building that allowed long pull away shots. This way we were able to complete the shoot without over flying any persons, vehicle or building out with our control. We were happy with the result all performed within our existing PFCO and insurance.
We our pleased to announce our CAA approval has now arrived, better known in the industry as Permission For Commercial Operation (PFCO). This allows us now to operate legally in the UK to sell our UAV services.
In the UK there is currently no official license required to operate a UAV (drone). Currently the CAA divide pilots into two groups, hobbyists (non-commercial) who do not intend to make any monetary gain and commercial operators who will charge for their services. This has led to quite a lot of confusion and there have been a few stories circulating of the CAA actively seeking to prosecute those break it’s rule. For example, a man who sold his footage to a news network was threatened prosecution. It’s also a grey area regarding sale of photography and video by a hobbyist which is collected say for use on a website, or in ad sponsored Youtube channel.
Different countries have different rules regarding use of drones and how they are regulated. In the UK the rules are fairly simple just now. For Drones under 7KG you must keep far away for airports. Keep 50m away from the public and 150m from crowded areas. Despite the fact some drones travel several kilometers now the UK rules are to keep the drone in line of sight at all times. No higher than 400ft vertically and 500m horizontally. More information is available at dronesafe.uk.
A fair deal of common sense is also needed to stay out of trouble. The public don’t generally have a good perception of drones, so it’s not ideal to make the situation worse by flying in a busy park or disturb a peaceful area such as a nature reserve.
For instance the US have banned drones in their National Parks. The UK is rapidly following suit with the National Trust banning drones on it’s property. It’s not uncommon to see signs up to that effect on many beauty spots. Generally, if it feels like you will disturb, harass or infringe the privacy of someone without their permission don’t do it. Likewise, respect animals such as nesting birds and livestock that may feel threatened by the proximity of a drone.
That said this doesn’t make a flight impossible either. Make a plan, chat to property owners, landowners of your intentions. Most are more receptive than you think once they know what is going on. The UK Data Protection Act also applies to drones with a camera, the Information Commissioners Office ICO website also contains information on privacy law in the UK.
In the UK pilots holding PFAW have studied these issues and have submitted an operations manual to the CAA as well as valid insurance to obtain their approval. On first submission most pilots use a NQE to guide them with both theoretical and practical training and assessment towards PFCO.