Getting the drone footage and keeping it safe
Many people hear the word drone and feel anxious. They have been in the press a bit recently – flying near airplanes, falling out of the sky, attacked by eagles.
It doesn’t have to be like that and it shouldn’t be like that. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has strict rules and guidelines so things like this don’t happen. Unfortunately there are people out there who just don’t adhere to the rules or are just incompetent and don’t know how to control their craft. How this should be enforced is a whole different discussion and the CAA is striving to make it all safe – probably with limited resources.
So what are the rules that CAA has set for drone pilots?
The CAA has clear rules in place about distances (from the public, airspace, vehicles, and buildings), maintaining the drone in a visual line of site and strict safety regulations. Any smart drone operator will strictly adhere to these.
For full details go to the CAA Website here
Right, so do you need a license to fly a drone?
If you want to fly a drone for commercial purposes you do need to get CAA Permission. In the classroom this involves a detailed course and exam covering air law and safety, meteorology, navigation, planning, risk assessments and operational plans. The writing of an in-depth operations manual follows this. Finally there is the practical stage – a flight skills assessment operating as per the pilot’s operational procedures. Once all is passed and accepted, you will then be granted CAA permission.
For continuous operation of the drone business the safety procedures and maintenance as set out by the operations manual must be adhered to.
What safety details might be involved in the drone license?
Without publishing the detailed manual, at LUNAR Aerial Imaging we will do a pre flight assessment at least one day before the day of the job – this involves checking the commercial flight paths, the location, getting the necessary permissions to fly the drone from landowners and authorities where applicable.
On the day, we always have an observer with our drone pilot. This is someone whose sole purpose is to ensure that the flight of the drone runs smoothly, a second pair of eyes concentrating on key issues – including the battery life, checking the area is safe and coordinating with others so as not to disturb the pilot.
Ultimately, if it is not safe to fly we won't push our boundaries and limits. It just isn’t worth it. At times we might have to cancel or postpone the job; we never want to, but that is just part of life in our business.
Are drones safe, then? The commercial operators will keep it safe by following the rules, using common sense, and keeping their craft and batteries in peak condition. Always ask for proof of CAA approval before commissioning work. It's for the best.