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UK regulations for using drones part 2

This is part 2 of the activity about drone regulations in the United Kingdom.
A person being trained to operate a drone in a wide field.
© The Institute for Drone Technology

Importantly, UAS used in the EU are also subject to a set of product standards. To this end, there are six ‘types’ of UAS recognised in the regulations. For our purposes though, the key issue is if the UAS is less that 250g, or less than 4kg.

The vast majority of UAS used in industry are below 4kg, however, if your staff wish to operate UAS that weigh more than 4kg you should contact your regulator to ensure the UAS meets the standards required for the type of operation proposed. There is also a two-year transition period for manufacturers in this regard.

During the transition phase, UAS that weigh less than 500g can be used in category A1, and UAS that weigh less than 2kg can be used in A2 to a distance of 50 metres from people. drone in construction

The overarching concept of how the Open category will be used in the future is that it be simple. That is, a person would buy a drone on which there is a ‘class number’. The person can then read the information that comes with the drone about what they can and can’t do with a drone of that class, and then fly the drone in accordance with those rules.

The Specific Category

This is for operations that can’t be done within the Open Category rules, but are not complicated enough to be in the Certified Category. If you are going to undertake these kinds of operations you need to be authorised ‘accredited’ in advance. In the UK, the expectation is that the process will be quite simple and entail telling the CAA what, where and how the UAS will be operated, and demonstrate that the operation is ‘safe enough’ by providing a safety risk assessment and/or safety case.

It is also envisioned that the CAA will create standardised procedures for flight operations in this category that can then be used by authorised organisations to undertake operations. There will be Standard Scenarios designed so that authorised organisations can simply ‘declare’ that they will operate within them however these will not come into force until December 2021.

At this stage, advice from the EASA is that until the effects of Brexit are known these will not be implemented in the UK.

Another difference is the EASA regulations provide for a Light UAS Operator’s Certificate whereby operators could potentially authorise their own operations, however, the UK will not be implementing this part of the regulations from 31st December 2020. Therefore a UAS operator in the UK must still apply for authorisation to fly under a PDRA.

Certification and Registration

In the Certified category, the UAS must be registered, and in the Open and Specific categories the operator must also be registered. Operators must also be registered if they are operating a drone that weighs less than 250g if the drone is able to collect personal information (eg. Camera or listening device) if the drone is not a toy; and if the drone is able to transfer kinetic energy of more than 80 Joules to a human if there’s a collision (eg. The drone may be light but it may be able to travel very quickly).

Minimum Age

While the EASA regulations do not specify age in terms of registration, the UK regulations require a minimum age of 18 to be registered to operate small UAS in the UK. This requirement will continue.

Remote Pilot Training

Unless operating in A1 category with a drone less than 250g, all operators are “required to complete an online training course and successfully complete an online theoretical knowledge examination before they can fly (in the UK this is referred to as the ‘flyer ID’). This test is also viewed as the ‘foundation’ upon which all other levels of remote pilot competency are built; it is a multiple-choice examination and there is no requirement to undertake any practical flight test.”

Additional training requirements will be implemented for operators in the Specific and Certified categories, most common will the new A2 Certificate of Competency (which can be delivered by accredited training providers. From your point of view it is essential that you have a process in place to ensure that anyone operating a drone in your workplace has:

a. the relevant organisational authorisations, and; b. holds the relevant licence for the operator.

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Drone Safety for Managers (UK)

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