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A Journey into the World of Commercial Drone Operations

Guest Article By Vertigo UK

In order to fly commercially or in other words make money from flying you need to obtain permission from the CAA.  In order to obtain permission you need to be qualified by a national qualified entity (NQE).

I started my training in January 2017 with a company called uav academy. This consisted of 2 days ground school plus a flight assessment to prove I was safe and capable of commercial operations.

Ground School

The ground school aspect of the qualification consisted of the following topics.

AIR LAW

Air Law is what governs what we can and can’t do when we are flying our aircraft commercially. It is governed by it icao, easa and the caa (national aviation authority).

ICAO

The icao is the agency responsible for setting the regulations and techniques of international air navigation. Based in Montreal, they develop recommended practices regarding air navigation, its infrastructure, flight servicing, and prevention of unlawful interference and facilitation of border crossing procedures for international civil aviation. They also define the protocols for air accident investigation.

EASA

The responsibilities of the European Aviation Safety Agency are for aircraft with a MTOM of over 150kg. they conduct analysis and research of safety, authorising foreign operators and give advice for drafting of eu legislation, implementing and monitoring safety rules, giving type certification of aircraft and components as well as the approval of organisations involved in the design, manufacture and maintenance of aeronautical products.

CAA

The Civil Aviation Authority is the UK’s national governing body when it comes to aviation. They have responsibility for aircraft under 150kg and are empowered to create rules and regulations within the uk. The CAA is responsible for regulation the operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) less than 150kg in uk airspace, which in aviation terms is referred to as the UK Flight Information Region (FIR). The caa treat all suas operation in the uk as full size aircraft as such drones are subject to the same rules and regulations as any other aircraft. These regulations are set out in CAP393 (Article 94 (uas) and 95 (suas)).

THE CAA IS THE ONLY ORGANISATION ABLE TO ISSUE PERMISSION FOR COMMERCIAL OPERATIONS IN THE UK

UK REGULATIONS FOR SUAS OPERATIONS

The following are the key fundamentals in regulations.

  • UAV’s are aircraft not toys
  • UAV’s are piloted (remotely)
  • UAV’s must operate within current regulations
  • They have no right to airspace or special privileges
  • It is an air operator that conducts commercial flights
  • It is equivalent to manned aviation, not identical but with equivalent capability
  • It must be transparent to ats providers and other air users
  • Proportionate and appropriate regulations should be applied to uas operations.

The CAA have made requirements which must be met before a PFCO can be issued

  • Aircraft with a mtom of>20kg must hold an airworthiness certificate <20kg no requirement
  • Pilot must be qualified and competent
  • Appropriate 3rd party liability cover (usually greater than £1,000,000)
  • Organisational approval

Regulations

Cap 393

Article 240 &241

  1. A person must not recklessly or negligently act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft,

or any person in an aircraft.

  1. A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any

person or property.

Small unmanned aircraft

94.

(1) A person must not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a

parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons or property.

(2) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably

satisfied that the flight can safely be made.

(3) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual

contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons,

vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.

(4) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more than 7kg

excluding its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at

the commencement of its flight, must not fly the aircraft—

(a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic control

unit has been obtained;

(b) within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic

control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless the permission of any such air traffic control

unit has been obtained; or (c) at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in airspace described

in sub-paragraph (a) or (b) and in accordance with the requirements for that airspace.

(5) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly the aircraft for the purposes

of commercial operations except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.

Small unmanned surveillance aircraft

95.—(1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft

in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in accordance with a permission

issued by the CAA.

(2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are—

  • (a) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
  • (b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
  • (c) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or
  • (d) subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.

(3) Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft

must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.

(4) Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small unmanned

surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.

(5) In this article, “a small unmanned surveillance aircraft” means a small unmanned aircraft

which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.

Commercial operations is defined as any operation of an aircraft other than for public transport which is available to the public or when not available to the public is performed under contract between the operator and a customer in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.

COLLISION AVOIDANCE

One of the rules of the air sate that when a pilot notices an incursion by another aircraft they should turn to the right. However with uav’s this isn’t practical so best practice is adopted in that you should descend as soon as possible to an altitude of 10ft and monitor the aircraft.

INCIDENT REPORTING

It is a legal requirement to report all accidents and serious incidents

NAVIGATION AND CHARTS

The main reason why a uav pilot needs to be able to use and understand charts is so they are able to make judgments and make decisions which result in safe operation. These include obstacles, terrain, notams, classified airspace, and other obstacles or hazards you need to be aware of when flying safely.

Aircraft knowledge.

This section covers all aspects of aerodynamics, lift, multirotors, radio control, operational envelope, vortex rings, emergencies, aircraft safety and battery management.

LIFT

Lift is the force which is required to overcome gravity to achieve flight. Lift is generated by the shape of the wings or rotor blades creating an area  of low pressure above the wing and high pressure below the angle of the wing or the speed the rotor is rotating governs the amount of lift generated.

MULTIROTORS

Multirotors don’t have any moving control surfaces so the only way they can fly and maneuverer is by altering each propeller speed to achieve the desired outcome. For example  to yaw  the flight controller increases speed on the propellers  turning in the opposite direction for the yaw. And to bank left or right it increases the propeller speed furthest away and decreases the speed on the side nearest.

RADIO CONTROL

A uav is by definition remotely piloted. It is controlled by a radio link between a transmitter and a receiver. 2 common frequencies are in use to control uav’s 2.4ghz and 5.8ghz. the 2.4ghz is most commonly used for control and 5.8ghz for video. Both transmit and receive a digital signal and each transmission includes a unique code so only the bonded receiver responds.

With 2,4ghz there are 40 channels available and the transmitter and receiver hops between these channels over 1000 times a second. If any interference is detected it will automatically change to an unused channel.

The legal limits of power are 2.4ghz – 100mw and 5.8ghz 25mw. As both these channels are also used by Wi-Fi interference can occur also due to the low powered nature the signals can easily become swamped by other sources such as radio transmissions or mobile phone masts.

OPERATIONAL ENVELOPE

Every aircraft has limitations for example max airspeed. A uav is no different. As a uav pilot you should be aware of your aircraft’s limitations and capabilities. These should also be included in your ops manual. These include: MTOM, Max Alt, Centre of Gravity, Max/Min Temp, Wind Speed and precipitation.

VORTEX RING

A vortex ring is a dangerous condition which occurs when unstable air engulfs the propellers causing severe loss of lift. It is usually experienced when descending too fast. It exhibits itself with the aircraft rocking severely in decent. In order to counter this and prevent loss of the aircraft you should reduce power and fly forwards into cleaner air once the aircraft has some forwards speed power should be increased to regain height.

EMERGENCIES

A number of emergency situations  can arise during flight. These can include fly away, control link failure, loss of power, fire or ground station failure.

Procedures for dealing with these incidents should be detailed in your ops manual.

In the event that you have a fly away you should do the following.

  • Attempt to regain control _ switch to atti mode
  • Press the failsafe / rth button
  • Use combined stick movements to try to regain control.
  • Make a note of aircraft track height speed and endurance
  • Contact local atc and police immediately and give them this information.

AIRCRAFT SAFETY

Prior to flying any uav you should check that it is safe. This can include

  • Compass calibration
  • Props – are they chipped or cracked
  • Is everything secure
  • Any sign of damage
  • Battery fully charged
  • Telemetry working
  • Led’s working and giving correct status
  • Good gps fix
  • Correct flight mode selected.

LIPO SAFETY

Details on Lipo Batteries and safety can be found here.

http://droneinsider.org/lipo-batteries-and-saftey-a-complete-guide/

HUMAN FACTORS

Aircraft and their technology have become increasingly sophisticated and as such the likelihood of an accident due to technological failure is minimised.  It is therefore essential that the pilot is fit and able to fly safely the acronym IMSAFE helps with this

I – ILLNESS

M – MEDICATION

S- STRESS

A – ALCOHOL

F – FATIGUE

E – EATING

All of these factors  need to be taken into account prior to commencing any flight.

Meteorology

Weather can be the critical element in any aviation related activity. It is essential that you obtain a weather forecast prior to flying as well as assessing the on-site weather.  This could include METAR, TAF and other sources of information.

Always be on the lookout for changing weather that could affect your flight.

AIRMANSHIP

Good airmanship is often talked about a great deal in aviation there are 2 definitions which highlight the importance of airmanship in aviation safety.

A personal state that enables aircrew to exercise sound judgement, display uncompromising flight discipline and demonstrate skilful control of an aircraft and a situation. It is maintained by continuous self-improvement and a desire to perform optimally at all times.

Also Know your airplane, know what’s going on around you; fly the airplane and always leave yourself an out should something go wrong.

The key aspect of airmanship which is widely recognised as the most important is training.

Once the course is completed there is a multiple choice question paper. It is usually closed book however some NQE allow open books. It is usually 50 questions with a pass mark of 80%.

OPERATIONS MANUAL

your operations manual is your bible it is how you and your pilots within your company will operate and remain within the regulations. It is also what your practical flight assessment will be based upon. A template for writing your own ops manual can be found: https://www.caa.co.uk/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=4294975606

PRACTICAL FLIGHT ASSESSMENT

Your practical flight assessment usually consists of 2 or 3 flights operation within the procedures set pout in your ops manual. You will be expected to pre plan the flight. Check the weather. Check whether the flight area is suitable. Brief your crew and perform the manoeuvres stipulated by your examiner. These usually include but are not limited to

  • fly to 15m altitude, 30m away then hover. move the craft to the left facing away for 30m stop.
  • rise up to 30m then moving right 30 and down to 15m so the aircraft descends sideways until back over the start position.
  • Fly a figure 8 at a constant height with the centre point at the start position.
  • Fly to a point of interest and take a photo.
  • Fly the SUAS to the limit of vision (300m or so) then perform a pirouette until orientation is lost.
  • Recover the aircraft and fly back to the start point.
  • Perform left and right hand circuits.
  • Simulated emergency procedures including a dog in the landing zone. people getting in the way. an aircraft coming near you.
  • land and shutdown aircraft in a safe manner.
  • remember the flight exam is not over until you are driving home

All of this is to be completed in ATTI mode The flight exam is treated like a commercial flight. the examiner will want to see pre-flight surveys, danger areas, local ATC contact details the type of airspace to be flying within.

Once completed the examiner will tell you whether you have passed or failed. If you have passed then they will recommend the caa issue Permission for commercial  operations.

Once you have received your pfco and have the correct insurance etc in place you are then ready to go and make your first pay check and are officially a commercial pilot.

Good luck and happy flying

Verigo UK

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One comment

  1. Fantastic post clears up a lot of questions wrt flying for profit and how to take my hobby further.

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