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What do I need to operate legally?

Put simply, a PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) from the UK’s CAA (Civil Aviation Authority).

This allows you to make money from your drone legally, and bring down the distances at which you can fly within congested areas. Without a PfCO, as a recreational flyer you must remain 150m away.

What’s a Congested Area?

This is defined as ‘a city, town or settlement, any area which is substantially used for residential, commercial, industrial or recreational purposes’. Worth noting is that you also can’t fly within 150m (500ft) of an open-air assembly of more than 1000 people, so no flying near sports events, festivals. Please

That sounds pretty restrictive

Well, yes, but for safety reasons. The Drone Code says you can fly to a maximum height of 120m (400ft) and you must keep a distance of 50m (150ft) from people and buildings. Now imagine a weight of up to 20kg falling out of the sky from 120m on to you or a building. Now add whirling pieces of machinery that can cause serious damage when the drone is stationary, let along falling from 400ft. There are videos on YouTube showing what can happen: It’s not pretty.

A PfCO is the first step to be allowed to fly closer to congested areas.

OK: Got it. Where can I get a PfCO?

The CAA list approved assessment organisations on their website, and the good news is that ASG Ltd is one of them. We have 3 locations: Cardiff, Somerset and Aberdeen, where our highly qualified, ex-military instructors will take you through the relevant sections of the ANO (Air Navigation Order). Just because you can fly a drone, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re aware of the laws surrounding its use.

During this 3-day classroom based course, you will receive excellent tuition covering the CAA requirement for the Permit for Commercial Operations (PfCO) Ground School syllabus. You will also be assessed in a short multiple–choice exam on the last day, that will confirm that you have the basic level of knowledge required to support a CAA permit application. Following this, we will ask you to submit your Operations Manual for assessment by one of our school assessors. Once this is complete, we will organise for you to undertake an independent Flight Assessment. This completes the CAA mandated requirements to be assessed.  We will then assist you with your online submission of your PfCO application to the CAA.

Anything else?

  • Insurance.

This is an absolute must. There are a variety of insurance companies out there, offering different types of insurance from pay per flight to all year through coverage. Moonrock, Coverdrone and Flock are the top three. You won’t be able to get your PfCO without it.

  • Apps

We recommend a couple of useful apps:

Weather: Met Office and Windy

  • NOTAMs (Notice to Airmen)

You will need to sign up for this via NATS.

  • ARPAS-UK Membership

ARPAS-UK is the UK Drone Association, and is the Voice to Government for all drone companies, particularly the small operators. They work with the CAA, DfT, BEIS (Business, Energy & Industrial Standards), as well as BSI Standards to develop the sector. They also provide a number of benefits and discounts, including insurance.

What if I don’t get a PfCO and operate anyway? I could undercut the legal companies.

Hmmmm… Companies that you want to employ you are increasingly aware that commercial drone operators need a PfCO and insurance and are asking to see them, aware that if they don’t, they are liable too. Cutting corners will only backfire and end in a race to the bottom in terms of fees.

Plus, failure to abide by the current UK drone legislation can carry an unlimited maximum fine as well as a five-year prison sentence for serious infringements of the law.

On a more positive note: Be proud of what you do, your talents and skills. Invest in yourself, your company and your future.

Call us on 0800 924 7001

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