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Consultants in Damage Assessment & Business Recovery

Managing risk around drone usage – qualification is key

December 16, 2022

A recent overhaul to the use of drones or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) by the CAA to align itself more closely with its European counterparts, has opened the skies to enthusiasts and commercial pilots alike.

No longer are the restrictions based on the use case i.e the specific purpose of use for the drone – either commercial or recreation. Instead the classification is strictly based on the Maximum Take Off Mass (MTOM) of the system. Therefore, drones and pilots that had to previously undertake a very stringent set of procedures and associated costs to become a qualified drone pilot can now go out with a sub 250g drone and after a simple online test, fly their drone for commercial purposes.

However, is that sufficient?

For drones less than 250g such as the Mavic Mini Series, an operator can fly over people, buildings and vehicles without any prior awareness of the potential hazards or risks that may arise. In the case of much larger drones like the 1Kg Mavic Pro Series, an operator can only fly within 150m of people, buildings and vehicles (subject to airspace restrictions), without some form of certification.

Our in-house drone pilots, are certified by the CAA to fly UAS drone aircraft all the way up to a MTOM of 25kg by gaining the Gold-Standard General Visual Line of Sight (GVC) Qualification from the Civil Aviation Authority. This is re-certified annually and changes with current legislation. This is done in conjunction with the Certificate of Competency to fly drones in the A2 category (A2CofC) -such as the Mavic Pro Series, to a minimum of 50m of uninvolved people, with no restrictions on people, buildings and vehicles under the Pilot’s control, with the certification renewed every 5 years.

This then highlights a potential risk within the industry from serious harm caused by an unqualified and uninsured pilot using a personal drone to perform an aerial inspection. Many may not be aware that to operate commercially (i.e. to charge for your services) the user is still required to have public liability insurance before operating their drone in a commercial endeavor.

All pilots without significant training and certification, regardless of the size of their drone, must stick to defined limits of 120m vertically and 500m horizontally, maintaining visual contact with the drone at all times to be within the legal limits for operation. They must also abide by all airspace restrictions for that specific area such as Flight Restriction Zones, Air Traffic Zones and Controlled Traffic Regions.

At Davis French, we believe that to perform our work safely requires hands on experience and not just quick online training, and as such any prospective pilots within the business must undertake a rigorous training program by a CAA approved Recognized Assessment Entity, prior to undertaking any aerial survey. We also ensure they maintain their proficiency over time as measured by the Business’ Accountable Manager. Pre-flight planning and operational risk assessments are performed prior to undertaking every single drone operation in accordance with CAA regulation.

This ensures the service we deliver is not only safe and responsible, but to the highest standard expected by our clients and customers. If you would like to find out more about our Aerial Surveys as a part of our Damage Scene Recording service, please follow the link to our website:

https://www.davis-french-associates.co.uk/damage-scene-recording/aerial-surveys/

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