I recently attended a specialist construction trade show which for the first year had a zone dedicated to drones and their application in the construction sector.

One of the presentations was from a lawyer specialising in legislation and regulations relating to the commercial use of drones. Early into to the presentation, there was a slide detailing the rules and regulations about where you are allowed to a fly a drone. Unfortunately, all the separation distances on this slide were completely wrong. It makes it very difficult for drones to become credible and trusted in an industry sector when people who are respected as experts are getting the basics wrong.

Anyone who wants to fly a drone for commercial work needs a permission from the CAA which is known as a Permission For Commercial Operations (PfCO). This enables a person to conduct commercial operations with a drone and also permits operations within a congested area.  A PfCO holder has to provide a detailed Operations Manual to the CAA which defines how the flights will be conducted.

When a PfCO is issued it comes with a standard set of permissions and rules that determine legal operations applicable to a drone up to 20kg:

  1. The remote pilot may only fly if satisfied it is safe to do so
  2. The flight must comply with all air traffic control restrictions in place at the time
  3. The remote pilot must maintain unaided visual line of sight with the drone
  4. The drone must remain within 500m horizontally of the remote pilot
  5. The drone must not be flown higher than 400ft above ground level
  6. The drone must not be flown over or within 150m of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1000 persons
  7. The drone must not be flown within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft
  8. The drone must not be flown within 50 metres of any person not in the control of the remote pilot. Take off and landing is an exception to this rule and can be reduced to 30 metres if needed
  9. Where the remote pilot is able to evidence through appropriate risk assessments that they are in control of vessels, vehicles or structures, these minimums can be reduced. However, point 1 always overrides everything else – The remote pilot may only fly if satisfied it is safe to do so.

Operations outside these parameters are deemed to contain a greater element of risk and it is necessary to obtain a Non-Standard Permission from the CAA. In addition to the requirements for a Standard Permission, applicants are also required to prepare and submit an Operating Safety Case (OSC) to the CAA. 

The rules are complex and important to get right to remain legal and more importantly to fly safely. If you are thinking about using drones and would like to understand more about what you can and can’t do, please get in touch info@agilio.co.uk