The CAA has already laid down the framework for a robust set of regulations for Commercial Drone Operations in the UK. These are due to be overturned by the new EASA regulations as early as July 1st 2019 but compliance is not required until July 1st 2020. From July 2020 onward you may use previously obtained permits and exemptions up until July 2022.
A set of regulations that have been operating quite nicely in the UK will be replaced by the EU regulations which have not yet been tested. Under CAA Laws there have been very few incidents, but now with more relaxed regulations, more operators will be getting permissions without any or very little training.
The new regulations are grouped into 3 categories, Open, Specific and Certified. You could say this loosely relates to the hobbyist, commercial operator and an OSC holder. Categories are defined by risk levels, UAV weight and pilot certification and training standards. Pilot qualification for the open category can be as simple as an online exam.
As before regulations include anything from TOAL distances to flying over crowds and congested areas. You can see a more detailed breakdown of the regulations in our earlier two-part blog ‘Understanding EASA Drone Regulations’
A person will now be able to fly within 5m with little training and potentially no experience. Do we really think this is safe? The new regulations will allow anyone with a few quid to go out, purchase a drone and fly in what is at the moment considered “unsafe” conditions. Drones are getting smaller and the cameras are getting better. No matter how small the drone – flying into someone’s face will do considerable damage. Again this raises the question is 5m ok for a beginner? The CAA would never consider you for an OSC for reduced distances unless you had a good safety case and relevant flying experience.
Drone jobs in rural areas far from crowds (such as wind farm inspections) can be performed by someone who has simply sat an online exam and used an online Ops Manual writing service. Companies may start using inhouse UAV (or UAS as the EU prefer it) operatives if the only requirement to do such jobs is an online exam. Aside from the effect this may have on established commercial drone companies what about UK NQE training centres also?
Of course, there are benefits to these new controls. The ability to operate in EU Member States using a common set of rules. But, will anyone really use this benefit? There are not many Operators that operate outside of their home country, it just doesn’t make economic sense, more costs are passed onto the Client. Those that do, probably less than 1%, will already have the correct permissions in place, although some EU states like Belgium & Netherlands are still notoriously difficult to obtain permissions to fly from. For the rest, it’s like having a 3D TV, it’s nice to have, costs lots of money but is never really used.
Civil Aviation Authority
As of 12th August it is very worrying, as 31st October looms ever closer, that the CAA have no idea what will happen.
Will the new EASA rules be implemented?
Will it be necessary considering the current framework is working?
Furthermore, with the new CAA registration scheme coming into effect in November are UAV users going to have register again in June next year for the EASA?
Are the CAA happy with the new EASA regulations?
What happens on 31st October? The UK will almost certainly be leaving the EU. Will the EU allow UK Operators to use their permissions in Member States? Hopefully..
We think these are very important issues that need to be addressed and indeed should have been addressed well before now considering it has been 3 years since the referendum.