‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ (UAV); ‘Small Unmanned Aircraft’ (SUA); ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft System’ (RPAS); ‘Unmanned Aircraft System’ (UAS); Drone. There are a number of different terms used to describe these aircraft, all tend to be randomly interchanged depending on the user, but they broadly refer to the same thing.
“An aircraft [or aircraft system] that is flown from a remote location without a pilot located in the aircraft itself.” The CAA further defines this as ‘Small unmanned aircraft’ which means any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20 kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight. The following are the most commonly asked & discussed definitions. We will add to this list as other topics and questions arise.
Air Navigation Order – Articles 241, 94 and 95: Articles 94 and 95 of the ANO 2016 explain the specific circumstances in which operating permission must be obtained from the CAA. In summary, permission is not required for aircraft of 20 kg mass or less being flown within direct unaided line of sight and away from people, property and congested areas. Most other operations, including flights in congested areas and those conducted for Commercial Operations purposes, will require prior permission from the CAA.
Aerial work: As described in the Air Navigation Order, aerial work means any purpose (other than public transport) for which an aircraft is flown if valuable consideration is given or promised in respect of the purpose of the flight.
All in Weight: Take note also that for electrically propelled aircraft, the battery itself is considered to be a part of the aircraft – it is the battery’s charge that is the fuel. The logic for this is that the battery is basically the ‘fuel tank’ or, in other words, when the battery has run out of fuel, it still weighs the same.
Beyond Visual Line of Sight Operations (BVLOS): For operations Beyond Visual Line of Sight, it is not possible for the pilot to directly see the unmanned aircraft and avoid other aircraft or objects. Therefore alternative arrangements to prevent collisions must be taken. In these cases, the aircraft must either be fitted with a Sense – and – Avoid system or, in the absence of such a system, it must be operated within Segregated Airspace.
CAA Permission: You must request permission from the CAA if you plan to: • fly the aircraft on a commercial basis (i.e. conducting ‘commercial operations’) or • fly a camera/surveillance fitted aircraft within congested areas or closer (than the distances listed within Article 95) to people or properties (vehicles, vessels or structures) that are not under your control.
Permission Is Not Required If: • the aircraft will not be flown close to people or properties, and you will not get ‘valuable consideration’ (i.e. any form of payment) from the flight, then a permission is not needed;
Permission is also not required for ‘practice’ or demonstration flights. However, the other requirements of Articles 94 and 95 must still be complied with, and it must also be ensured that no one is endangered while flying the aircraft.
CAOSC: Congested Areas Operations Safety Case. All SUAS and SUSA operators applying for permission to operate in congested areas are required to complete a CAOSC in the format detailed in the CAA template. SUA of 7kg or less are not required to use the CAOSC for standard permission (this implies keeping at least 50m clear of third parties etc.)
Congested Area: This is defined in relation to a city, town or settlement: any area which is substantially used for residential, commercial, industrial or recreational purposes. Permission from the CAA must be obtained to operate in a congested area if it is likely you will be required to operate within the minimum distances specified with in Cap94 and 95 (see CAOSC)
Controlled Airspace: An SUA with a mass of more than 7 kg (excluding fuel) must not be flown within controlled airspace, restricted airspace or an Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ) unless permission has been obtained from the relevant ATC unit. More information about contacting ATC can be obtained from the Aeronautical Information Service (AIS).
Operations Manual: Put very simply, your Ops Manual covers four things: Who you are, what you are flying, what you want to do with your RPAS and how you will do it safely. The core remit of the CAA is to ensure that all airspace users are operating in a way that ensures the safety of the public, property and other airspace users. As a result, the Ops Manual for the CAA only needs information about your RPAS to the extent that it impacts safety. It’s key to note that the Ops Manual is a living document and you will be required to update it as you develop your business. It is not an instruction manual or a paperwork exercise to file once you have your PfCO. All aircraft, including unmanned aircraft, must be operated in a manner that does not create a hazard to people or property. Even very small aircraft can be a hazard when operated in close proximity to people or property and could potentially inflict critical damage to other airspace users.
Permission for Commercial Operations (‘PfCO’): The Permission for Commercial Operations is granted by the CAA upon successful completion of CPL- SU Ground School, written examination and Flight test. Upon completion an application is made to the CAA and a charge for the PfCO is applied. This is a standard charge and is paid directly to the CAA. Please see the Training page for further details on NQEs and costs.
Pilot In Command: Essentially, the person controlling a small UAS is fully responsible for the safe operation of any flight, but it is important to consider whether permission (not a license) from the CAA is needed. Segregated Airspace, as the name suggests, is a block of airspace specifically allocated for an unmanned aircraft’s flight. Collision risks are eliminated by either preventing or strictly controlling entry to this.
Sense – and – Avoid: This is a generic term used to describe a system involving one or more sensors, which has the capability to see, sense or detect conflicting traffic or other hazards and take the appropriate action to comply with the applicable rules. In this way, the system acts as a substitute for See – and – Avoid in manned aircraft.
Under My control: With regards to the definition in article 94 & 95 ‘Under control’ is defined as; “ In the event of an emergency everybody can reasonably be expected to follow your commands. This would be achieved through briefings, communicating your intentions and receiving the consent of all those within the controlled zone.
Valuable Consideration: “Any right, interest, profit or benefit, forbearance, detriment, loss or responsibility accruing, given, suffered or undertaken under an agreement, which is of more than a nominal nature.” The term ‘valuable consideration’ can include methods of payment other than money, for example: free advertising or payment in kind. (Reference http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=1428)
Visual Line of Sight Operations (VLOS): Visual Line of Sight is termed as being the maximum distance that the flight crew is able to maintain separation and collision avoidance, under the prevailing atmospheric conditions, with the unaided eye (other than corrective lenses). For flights within Line of Sight, the pilot is required to employ the See – and – Avoid principle through continued observation of the aircraft, and the airspace around it, with respect to other aircraft and objects. Within the UK, Visual Line of Sight operations are normally accepted out to a maximum distance of 500 m horizontally, and 400 ft vertically, from the pilot.
NOTE – If you are looking to employ or hire a company to conduct Commercial Operations on your behalf, you MUST ensure they are appropriately certified by the CAA and have the right insurance in place. Failure to do so could lead to prosecution by the CAA.