It’s happened, drones have officially gone mainstream. To say that drones have become popular in recent years is an understatement. Drones are considered to be one of the must-have gadgets for Christmas 2016. Because drones are becoming so popular we thought now would be a good time to review the newly updated Drone Safety Code so nobody inadvertently does anything illegal in the new year!
Drones aren’t just a toy for grown men or kids. Not only are drones a sophisticated piece of equipment but earlier this year PriceWaterhouseCooper (PwC) put an estimate on the very near future value of the global commercial application of drones to be $127bn. Not too shabby eh?
The future of drones is exciting with some hailing FPV drone racing as the next Formula One. However, recently the CAA published its Consumer Drone User report, which highlighted a potentially large problem, Drone Safety.
The Drone Safety Code isn’t Just for Commercial Pilots
Due to this increase in drone popularity the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) recently launched a revised and improved version of its drone safety code.
Commercial drone flying has always been strictly regulated but for hobbyists, there was little guidance. Obviously, they couldn’t fly over nuclear reactors or such things, but the non-professionals had greater freedom than the pros.
Any form of recompense, no matter how small, even a drink down the pub, and you would be considered a commercial operation. This meant that you’d have to go through the process of becoming CAA certified. However, this revised Drone Safety Code is intended for hobbyist and the parents of hobbyists. Just because you bought your drone in a toy store doesn’t make it child’s play.
The Revised Drone Safety Code
Recently the House of Lords EU Committee called for the compulsory registration of all commercial and civilian drones, amid growing concern over the use of drones by private individuals with little knowledge of aviation rules.
According to the CCA report, the two most common words associated with drones amongst people 35 – 54 / 55+ are “Unregulated” and “Dangerous.” According to the CCA report, the increased uptake of drone use has led to an increase in the reported instances of irresponsible flying.
Now the general drone using population are being encouraged to know the Drone Code and to practice safe drone flying. Ignorance is not an excuse and like the CAA we’d like to promote responsible drone operation for all!
Let’s face it drones come in many shapes and forms, they regularly receive bad press e.g. military drones, personal drones crashing into planes at Heathrow or maiming pop stars on stage… – poor Enrique Iglesias.
You get the idea, drones need a bit of a PR makeover. The CAA is currently working to reverse this public image via their shiny new Drone Code website. If consumer perception of drones is allowed to remain dictated by coverage of irresponsible use, then the devices will always be seen with negative connotations and as a threat. We thought it might be good to now focus on the key principles of Drone Safety in this blog, for both hobbyists and commercial drone pilots.
Image by LA Media ‘ LA Media’s Drone in Flight’
The CAA’s revised Dronecode has a handy mnemonic, which is useful tool for any drone lover, whether commercial or hobbyist. Luckily it spells out the object of our affections, DRONE. See below to find out what it stands for and be drone safe.
Don’t fly near airports or airfields
Remember to stay below 400ft (120m)
Observe your drone at all times – stay 150ft (50m) away from people and property
Never fly near aircraft
See, avoid, reduce conflict
“Legal responsibility lies with you, failure to fly responsibly could result in criminal prosecution” – Drone Safety Code by CAA
Never lose sight of your drone, not even for a few seconds! To be safe you must maintain a constant line of sight with the drone. You need to do this to ensure that the drone doesn’t go crashing into airplanes, power-lines, buildings or anything else up in the sky. Many new drones have collision avoidance and fail safes but that isn’t a reliable way to operate a drone.
Technology can and does fail all too frequently. If you are flying alone as a hobbyist, then you must keep your eye on the drone, which means no flying beyond visual line of sight. “If your drone endangers the safety of an aircraft it is a criminal offence and you could go to prison for five years” – Drone Safety Code by CAA
If you are using a drone for production, then you must have second person as a spotter. If you are flying trying to capture footage and even possibly looking at a monitor, you cannot keep your focus sufficiently on external dangers. If you, the pilot, is watching the monitor, then you need someone else to spot your drone.
Enjoy responsibly – don’t be that drone operator
Hobbyist and pros alike cannot fly directly over large crowds of people. If you have a CAA licence, the correct permissions, have a safety plan, and full control then go ahead with caution. The rules state that you cannot: “fly directly overhead (at any height) or within 50 metres of persons, vehicles, vessels and property, unless those persons are ‘under the control of the person in charge of the SUA’.” For example: if filming at a large music festival it would not be sufficient for the audience to be informed of a drone filming via a public address system, or in advance by e-mail or text.
Yes, permission has occasionally been granted for drone flights at public events by special arrangement. However, these permissions have been extremely limited and usually involve a segregated take-off site with the drone operating only vertically within strict lateral limits. There is no allowance for direct over-flight of persons.
Know the ins & outs
The Air Navigation Order defines a congested area as being ‘any area of a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes’. Permission must be obtained from the CAA to land or operate within a congested area, this is a PFCO (permission for commercial operation). Permissions granted may be valid for one flight or for a period of up to 12 months. If you want to fly a drone in congested area or near people, then you must first obtain permission from the CAA.
If you are hobbyist don’t fly over groups of people e.g. at a busy beach. Be a considerate drone operator and remember not everyone wants a drone near them. Try and understand it from the publics point of view. Never, ever just risk it. If you are in doubt about meeting any of the conditions above, don’t fly. It isn’t worth the hefty fines and possible jail time.
We hope you’ve found this blog helpful! Let us know what you think in the comments, tell us if we’ve missed something out. If you enjoyed this blog don’t forget to follow us on: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for you daily dose of media & drone chat!