What the New UK Drone Regulations Will Mean For Your Business – Part 1

Part 1 – How the permissions and certifications changed in 2021

We’ve previously written about the big shift that took place in the UK drone regulations at the end of 2019.

Late that year, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) released Version 2 of Civil Aviation Publication (CAP) 722B, which was aimed at aligning and harmonising UK legislation with that of other member states within the European Union (EU).

We’ve gotten a lot of questions about how those regulations impact permissions and certification requirements for drone operators, so in this two-part series, we’re going to give you a detailed overview of how this impacts on your organisation’s operations.

The status quo for permissions and certifications

Under the pre-2021 regulations, commercial operators were required to get a recommendation from an National Qualified Entity (NQE), which allowed them to get a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO).

This had to be renewed annually.

UK drone regulations: Aerial view of London Hyde Park UK United Kingdom drone top view
Aerial view taken by a drone of London Hyde Park UK.

What’s changing with UK drone regulations?

Fundamentally, under the new UK drone regulations, permissions and certification requirements for UAS operators are no longer based around whether or not the operation is ‘commercial’ or ‘non-commercial’ (hobbyist). 

Instead, permission to operate is determined based upon the type of operation being conducted and perceived level of risk. The framework utilizes three categories that correspond to those factors: Open, Specific and Certified. For more on these categories, check out the EASA or CAA overviews.

The Certified category is for UAS above 25kg, which is not in scope of this series as these drones are subject to the same requirements as manned aviation, in terms of airworthiness and licensing. At this time, Consortiq believes that most pilots/operators’ operational requirements, and the UAS, will land them in the Specific category, so this will be the focus of this miniseries. 

A key message is that any permissions or exemptions that have been issued to operators by the Civil Aviation Authority will remain valid until their expiry date, and may continue to be used even if this is after the implementation of the new regulations. The overriding principle is that anything the CAA have authorised will not suddenly become illegal after the new regulations are in place.

The new types of permission

Broadly speaking, there are three permission pathways that organisations can take under the new regulations. We’ll explore them each in turn.

First, it is important to understand the category in which you wish to operate, as this is the driver for the required qualification.

Are your operations all to be conducted under 400′ from the surface? Is your drone carrying dangerous goods or dropping articles? If you answered ‘yes’ to the first question and ‘no’ to the second, then you may be able to operate in the Open Category.

Now, you need to look at your operational risks to establish the sub-category. First, the class of aircraft: Broadly under 500 grams (900 grams if properly certified C1 aircraft) you will be in A1; up to 2 Kg (4 Kg for properly certified C2 aircraft) you will be in A2; and, over 2Kg but under 25Kg, you will be in sub-category A3.

In order to operate in sub-category A1 (except properly marked C1 aircraft) and sub-category A2, you will require an A2 CofC. Next, you need to consider the operating environment attached to the sub-category. Sub-category A1 only prohibits flight directly over uninvolved persons, whereas A2 does not allow uncertified aircraft within 50m of uninvolved persons, and A3 does not allow flight within 50m of uninvolved persons or within 150m of any residential, commercial, industrial or recreational areas.

If you find these regulations to be too restrictive or you’re unable to operate within these confines, you are immediately in the Specific category and will require an Operational Authorisation (OA) from the CAA. Note, unlike under the previous regulations these separations are ‘horizontal distances,’ so they should be considered as cylinders around the uninvolved persons or areas.

So, how does this affect you? What permission pathways are available?

Renew your Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) if you hold one

Until the end of 2023, Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) holders will be allowed to renew their PfCO and receive an ‘Operational Authorisation’ (OA) based on your pilot’s certificates of recommendation obtained from NQEs.

This OA will come with the same permissions as the previously held PfCO. And, it’s not to be confused with the new Operational Authorisation, which is given upon your pilots holding the new GVC. 

However, if you allow your PfCO to expire, you cannot renew it using certificates of recommendation from an NQE as this option was removed post December 31, 2020. Instead, you’ll need to go through the process of getting a General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) in order to apply for a GVC OA, unless the A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC) suits your needs. 

1. Get a General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) and Operational Authorisation (OA)

If you don’t have a PfCO already and you want to conduct complex operations, you’ll need to get a GVC and, as the operator, apply for an Operational Authorisation (we’ll call this ‘GVC OA’ to minimize confusion).

The GVC OA is issued by the CAA. It’s based on a risk assessment completed by the UAS operator, or through a declaration of intent to operate in accordance with a Pre-Defined Risk Assessment (such as PDRA-01) or another pre-defined risk assessment. An OA under PDRA-01 has, by design, the equivalent operating conditions as a current PfCO with ‘standard permissions.’ Other PDRAs will be created as the CAA identifies the need for them. For instance, PDRA-02 already exists and is mainly used for R&D use cases.

The GVC OA is the new document designed to replace the PfCO. Depending on the risk assessment supplied at application, it offers roughly the same permissions using any aircraft, with the exception that, under the GVC permissions, the aircraft can have a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 25kg. Under the previous legislation, the MTOW was limited to 20kg.

Under the new regulations, if you choose to go with the GVC, your organisation’s pilots would need to get the certification from a Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE) — such as Consortiq — which involves training, a theoretical exam, and a flight skills assessment. 

Once your pilots obtain their GVCs, your lead pilot may apply for a GVC OA. Like the PfCO, each remote pilot’s GVC lasts for five years before requiring renewal. However, the GVC OA requires annual renewal. That involves a CAA review of your UAS operations documentation, including your up-to-date operations manual.

2. Get an A2 Certificate of Competency

Unlike the other qualifications, the A2 CofC is an individual certification that does not require a flight skills assessment.

It does, however, require a self-certified period of flight training, along with successful completion of a knowledge test. A2 CofC training and certification can be offered in either instructor-led or online format. As a result, the costs of training a team of drone operators can be significantly less expensive.

If you’re flying in a low-risk environment (i.e., slow-flying and light-weight aircraft ), having your pilots get an A2 CofC is a simpler, more cost-effective option than the GVC.

However, the A2 CofC isn’t likely to allow for most moderate-risk operations. Thus, sticking with the A2 CofC may be limiting for your organisation.

Under the A2 CofC, larger and heavier aircraft can be flown, but no aircraft over 2kg can operate within 150 meters of a commercial, industrial, recreational, or residential area. There are currently no UAS that meet the EASA C2 standards. Once such aircraft are manufactured and approved, the limit will be increased to 4kg. 

Additionally, aircraft weighing over 2kg must be subject to extended separation distances from uninvolved people, unless they are sub-4kg platforms that meet the EASA C2 standards. There are no platforms that currently meet those standards, so this is more of a ‘theoretical’ than an actual allowance.

An additional consideration is that many organisations have based their standards and operating procedures on the Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) in order to ensure a safe and competent drone program.

Allowing all your organisation’s operators to continue with just a A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC), which is an individual qualification, could therefore lead to multiple pilots self-certifying their own training and procedures.

Having multiple pilots all flying under the entry level A2CofC could make it harder for your organisation to ensure total safety and risk mitigation of its operations.

It could also make it harder to get suitable enterprise-level insurance, as most UAS insurance packages have low liability covers for A2 CofC operators.

Which to choose: PfCO Renewal, GVC, or A2CofC

Generally speaking, if your organisation wants to conduct complex operations, such as monitoring and inspection of critical infrastructure, mapping or surveying, or disaster response, the A2CofC alone is unlikely to give you the adequate level of permissions and safety framework for your operations.

A major difference is the A2CofC will not permit flight in restricted airspace, this is in the specific category and requires the GVC. So if you ever intend to operate in any restricted airspace an A2 CofC will not suffice.

Rather than opting for just the A2 CofC, you’ll be better off doing one of three things:

  1. Renewing your PfCO (if you have one);
  2. getting a GVC and GVC OA;
  3. or getting a GVC and GVC OA along with an A2CofC

Reasons to get the A2 Certificate of Competency

In general, A2 Certificate of Competency (A2CofC) is more restrictive than the GVC OA except in one area, and currently only in theory.

According to CAP 722 Version 8, under the A2 CofC drone operations, drones meeting EASA’s C2 standards can be operated to a minimum safe horizontal distance of 30 metres from uninvolved persons, and this can be further reduced to 5 metres horizontally when the system’s ‘low-speed mode’ is selected.

Under the GVC OA and PfCO, flights may take place within a minimum of 50 metres of any uninvolved person, except that during take-off and landing. This distance may be reduced to 30 metres under certain circumstances.

So theoretically, you might have your pilots get the A2 CofC along with the GVC as a handy add-on that could allow you to operate in reduced distance use cases in the future.

However, as mentioned above, there are currently no drones that meet the EASA C2 standards, and therefore under the A2 CofC, drones must be operated to a minimum safe horizontal distance of 50 metres.

The one current benefit to flying under the A2 CofC is that under it, you don’t have to adhere to an operations manual so long as you are complying with the CAA’s drone code. This could minimize paperwork for small operations.

However, if your organisation is safety-conscious, you’re likely to want to adhere to an operations manual to reduce risk anyway. 

In a nutshell, if you need the GVC OA, it’s not likely that the A2CofC will help your organisation much in the short run, but once UAS are developed that meet the EASA C2 standards, the A2CofC could open the doors to some reduced distance use cases.

At Consortiq, we’re  committed to maximizing our customers’ results, so we’ve actually added the A2CofC to our GVC training at no additional cost.

When to convert your Permission for Commercial Operations to the General Visual line of Sight Certificate with an Operational Authorisation

If you have a PfCO,  it depends on a variety of factors such as your organisation’s budget, personnel capacity, and operational goals.

In Part 2: Transitioning from PfCO to GVC: When, How, and Why, we’ll explore when to convert to a GVC in greater detail.

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn is an experienced management professional who is currently pursuing her master’s in Data, Economics, and Development Policy at MIT while serving as principal consultant at Consult92.

Miriam developed a love for UAS technology when she served as operations manager at Consortiq. Today, having completed over 30 successful projects in 10 countries, she loves solving a wide variety of logistical, technical, and cultural challenges for her clients so that they can focus on what care about most.

Ready to Get the Drone Training You Need? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

What the New UK Drone Regulations Will Mean For Your Business – Part 2

Transitioning from Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) to General VIsual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC): When, how, and why.

In part 1 of this mini-series, What the UK’s New UAS Regulations will Mean for Your Business in 2021, we provided a basic overview of how Civil Aviation Publication (CAP) 722, effective 31 December 2020, will guide the adoption of EASA Implementing Regulations when it comes to permissions and certification requirements for drone operators in the UK. 

In a nutshell, for the next three years, current Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) holders will be allowed to renew their PfCO and, in turn, receive an ‘Operational Authorisation’ (OA) with the same terms and conditions that they previously held.

However, by the end of 2023, these organisations will need to have their pilots convert their qualifications into General Visual line of Sight Certificates (GVC), and then apply for a new Operational Authorisation (OA)  that corresponds to the GVC rather than recommendation certificates from an NQE.

We’ll refer to that as the ‘GVC OA’ so as not to confuse it with the OA into which up-to-date PfCOs will be converted in 2021. 

This begs the question: given the inevitable transition from the PFCO-compatible OA to the GVC OA, should organisations currently operating with a PfCO make the GVC switch now or later?

In this article, we’ll explore a few factors to consider if you are on the fence about renewing your PfCO or making the GVC OA transition in 2021. 

Before we dive into these factors, here’s a quick reminder … if your organisation’s operations are consistently low-risk (i.e., feature slow-flying and light-weight aircraft), having your pilots get an A2 Certificate of Competency (A2CofC) could be a simpler and more cost-effective approach than having them get the GVC.

However, the A2 CofC isn’t likely to allow for most moderate-risk operations, which are key to most enterprise-level UAS programs, so we’re focusing on the GVC and PfCO for the rest of this mini series. 

Without further ado, here is an overview of the factors that your organisation should take into consideration when deciding whether to make the GVC switch now or later.

What types of operation does your organisation plan to do?

The CAA’s new regulations are focused on risk and mitigation, rather than whether or not an operation is commercial.

Future approvals of new use cases (e.g., EVLOS) will be based on this risk-based framework. So, in theory, converting to a GVC OA could allow your organisation to take advantage of new use-case approvals in the future by letting you operate under the most up-to-date framework.

In contrast, if you simply renew your PfCO and get a corresponding OA, you will not be able to expand into new operations within this risk-based framework. 

However, the process for getting special permissions under the GVC OA requires you to submit a extended-risk assessment, and other details, as per the current Operational Safety Case. And, this could pose a short term challenge to your organisation’s operations if you have a lag in approval and you need to conduct non-standard operations, such as EVLOS/BVLOS, or operations around people, during that time.

If your organisation has an Operational Safety Case (OSC) that enables you to conduct those types of operations under your Permission for Commercial Operations, you will maintain those permissions in 2021 and beyond as long as you renew your PfCO before it expires.

So, in short, if you rely on an OSC to get things done, you’re probably better off renewing your PfCO, as the process of getting approval for a new OSC will require time and resources.

How much are you willing to risk?

If your organisiation’s budget has been hard-hit by the pandemic, getting your pilots GVCs could be an untimely strain on your budget, as it requires each of them to attend an Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE)-run course consisting of theory training, a theory exam, and a flight skills assessment.

On the other hand, do your current procedures comply with the new regulations? Are you confident that your team fully understands what is required to fly in an FRZ?

If your answer to these or similar questions is ‘I’m not sure,’ then sending your UAS team to a GVC course can a great way for them to gain insights from instructors with years of experience as drone pilots, spin up on practical UAS applications through case studies and discussions, and get better at applying theoretical aviation knowledge to your organisation’s day to day operations.

By upskilling your team, you could save your organisation thousands of pounds in the future by making your operations safer, more effective and in line with current regulations.

What kinds of platforms and sensors do you want to use?

Finally, transitioning to a GVC OA could widen your UAS and sensor options, as the GVC OA platform maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) limits are up to 25 kilograms.

Currently, the PfCO only allows for a maximum of 20 kilogram (under the standard permission). An extra 5 kilograms of MTOW leeway opens the door to a lot of heavyweight platform-sensor combinations that could improve your organisation’s UAS program potential.

However, since a basic tenet of these new regulations is that existing permission holders should not be disadvantaged, it is likely (but not 100% certain as of now) that those who convert to the PfCO OA will have the same MTOW restrictions as those who get the GVC OA.

Are you looking to grow your drone team in the future?

Going forward, pilots trained to the GVC process will be allowed to fly under a GVC OA rather than a PfCO renewed OA. 

This means that all new drone pilots will need to be qualified under the GVC, not the PfCO process. In other words, you might not be able to add newly qualified pilots to your company’s OA if you are operating under your old PfCO.

If you want to expand your pool of UAS operators in the next few years, it may be prudent to make the switch to GVC OA sooner rather than later.

Hopefully the CAA will release more information on this in the coming months.

Bringing it all together

To sum up:

  • If your organisation doesn’t have a PfCO yet, you’ll need to the GVC OA no matter what, unless your operation fits A2CofC’s low-risk criteria
  • If your organisation has a PfCO, you might want to switch to the GVC OA if you:
    • Don’t rely on an OSC and want to take advantage of the new risk-based permissions framework
    • Want to use heavier UAS and sensors
    • Want to upskill your UAS operators with latest regulations
    • Want to expand your UAS operator talent pool
  • If your organisation has a PfCO, you might want to wait to switch to the GVC OA if you:
    • Rely on an existing OSC within your current permission or the standard current permission is sufficient to get things done
    • Are financially recovering from COVID-19
  • No matter what you decide, remember you will need to convert all Remote Pilots to GVC by Jan 2024!

Feeling overwhelmed?

There’s a lot of confusion about the new permissions and certifications protocol, and given the many factors for your organisation to take into consideration, you may feel overwhelmed. 

If you’re interested in going the GVC route, know that Consortiq is here to help you make that transition, regardless of where you got trained initially. As a former National Qualified Entity (NQE) and current Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE), Consortiq and will be offering industry-leading General Visual line of Sight Certificate (GVC) training to support the issuing of this qualification.

Candidates who have previously completed their training with us can convert their NQE recommendation across to the GVC.

For the moment, this will be based on the following factors:

  • Frequency of flying
  • Completion of an Operations Manual
  • Date of initial training

For most pilots, we’ve previously recommended an updated theory exam will be enough for us to issue a GVC. However, where frequency of flying isn’t maintained and initial training is before January 2020, it’s likely that you will need a new flight skills assessment and theory exam.

And if you’re simply not sure where to start, we can help with that too.

Our drone consultants bring with them a wide range of experience in the drone field and have helped clients ranging from startups to Fortune 500 companies develop UAS solutions that fit their specific needs.

If you’re not quite ready for that level of engagement, we’re also happy to provide you with free resources and insights into the UAS industry and regulatory developments via our blog.

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn - Contributing Author

Miriam Hinthorn is an experienced management professional who is currently pursuing her master’s in Data, Economics, and Development Policy at MIT while serving as principal consultant at Consult92.

Miriam developed a love for UAS technology when she served as operations manager at Consortiq. Today, having completed over 30 successful projects in 10 countries, she loves solving a wide variety of logistical, technical, and cultural challenges for her clients so that they can focus on what care about most.

Get the Drone Training You Need Within the UK! Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Drones in 2020: A Year in Review for UAS

As the year comes to an end, it is worth looking back and reflecting on the UAV industry, which greatly evolved in 2020.

The year has been challenging for both people and industries alike. While 2020 could easily be categorized as chaotic, drones have risen to the occasion and fared relatively well.

With COVID-19, massive fires in Australia and the United States, extreme weather events, and the economic toll of it all has led many to believe 2020 is the worst year ever. While there is plenty of evidence to support that view. However, for the drone industry, there’s plenty of optimism due to UAV uses throughout the year.

Let’s discuss three very noteworthy takeaways.

Increased Drone Use

As the global pandemic started picking up steam, countries worldwide enacted necessary safeguards to curb the virus’s spread.

Most businesses needed to pivot in response to the new restrictions. As working remotely became the norm, many companies were forced to take a fresh look at how technology could allow them to operate while still keeping their employees safe.

UAV technology was one of the first to receive increased attention as the pandemic grew. Drones were used for sanitation, public service announcements, and the delivery of medical supplies.

Additionally, benefits such as minimizing the people needed for tasks like industrial inspections, removing people from dangerous situations (to include exposure to the coronavirus), and performing tasks quicker and more efficiently for cost savings became more attractive.

Drones in 2020 - drone being used for emergency services

Supportive Regulatory Control

Governments worldwide have tended to err on the side of caution in regards to regulating commercial drone operations.

Safety has, of course, been their primary concern. As is typically the case, necessity creates a willingness for greater flexibility and support. 2020 has undoubtedly been a year where governments have looked to the UAV industry for assistance.

Evidence of this trend can be seen in countries like the United Kingdom, where drone operations, such as those in the Isle of Wight, helped provide needed medical supplies. In November, the British government announced drones providing COVID-19 relief were among the first wave of winners, receiving government funding (£33 million) for ground-breaking aviation projects addressing significant global challenges.

Flexibility in regulatory agencies, such as the FAA in the United States, was also present in 2020. While the FAA didn’t bend any of their rules for drones, they did work cooperatively with businesses to maximize the operations within existing structures. Additionally, more Part 135’s (package delivery by drone) were approved.

Improved Public Opinion

Since the commercial drone industry started picking up speed a few years ago, public opinion has been mixed.

Initially, there was great concern over drones invading privacy and causing safety issues. It was only two years ago when in December 2018, a drone infamously shut down England’s second-largest airport (Gatwick) three times in three days due to suspected drone sightings in the area.

This year, however, has done much to improve the public’s perception of UAVs. Drone delivery services have been particularly helpful in combating COVID-19 and providing locked down businesses a method to still operate.

For example, Zipline, the second-largest drone delivery company, partnered with Walmart to deliver health and wellness products to residential customers in the United States.

While the scope of these programs is still relatively small, many people are starting to see that drone operations can be safe and beneficial. With new strains of the virus spreading and many areas worldwide experiencing spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases, 2021 will likely provide increased opportunities for UAVs to improve public support further.

Bringing It All Together

While 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as a challenging year, the drone industry fared better than most.

With drone use cases and adoption increasing, government regulations becoming more flexible, and public opinion of UAVs becoming more positive, the drone industry proved its resiliency. These positive trends are likely to continue into 2021, thus, for drones, the future looks bright.

The team here at Consortiq would like to thank you for reading throughout the year, and we look forward to helping you with your drone operation in 2021. To book a consultation, make sure to contact us using the form below! Also, make check out the rest of our articles, as well as the Unmanned Uncovered podcast, by clicking here.

Have a great holiday and a happy new year!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Drones in the United Kingdom: A 10-Year UK Drone Industry Outlook

The year 2020 has been challenging, to say the least.

The human and economic toll of the global pandemic has had a lasting impact on us all. Hardly any industries in the UK have remained untouched by COVID-19. During lockdown, around 7.6 million jobs are at risk—a term used to encompass permanent layoffs, temporary furloughs, and reductions in hours and pay.

As a result, the UK’s GDP for 2020 is expected to shrink by 9 percent overall.

Is the Drone Industry a Saving Grace for the UK Economy?

As 2020 continues to wind down, a sense of relief can be felt as a challenging year is coming to a close.

While some industries — such as accommodations, food services, and retail — have significantly suffered, others have been more resilient. The UAV industry has fared relatively well in these trying times, and has a positive outlook for the coming decade.

Recent estimates project that, by 2030, drones will have a significant impact on the UK economy. The UAV industry is poised to increase the UK’s GDP by £42 billion and create a net cost savings for the economy of £16 billion.

Even more promising, given the furloughs caused by the pandemic, is the potential for job creation. By 2030, jobs within the UK drone industry should reach 628,000, with over 76,000 drones operating in British skies.

Drone photo of London, England

Why is the Drone Industry Growing So Much in the UK?

It is important to explore the reasons for this projected growth and positive economic contribution.

An understanding of the “why” will help you make the decision to investigate how you too can benefit from drones. The beneficial applications of drone technology produce cost-savings and improved efficiencies. The UK is taking advantage of several of these benefits to manage costs, lower risk, and improve safety.

The challenges of current conditions in the UK, and globally, will force many businesses and civic organizations to streamline budgets and innovate to stay alive.

Drones are one of the tools major industries are working with in the UK to do just that. Further expansion of their use is inevitable.

The UK’s oil and gas industry serves as an excellent example of why drones will continue to produce significant economic returns. Over the past 50 years, the industry has generated over 300,000 jobs, with around 60% of these staying within the United Kingdom.

The same period also accounts for an estimated £330 billion in production tax.

RECENT ARTICLE: Ultimate Guide to UK Drone Licenses & Regulations in 2020 and Beyond

Cost management in the oil and gas industry is best illustrated through the reduction of downtime. Imagine the daily operations on an offshore oil rig.

These engineering marvels are capable of retrieving vast amounts of resources from the ocean floor. They require extensive preventative maintenance. Many of the areas that need to be inspected are very dangerous for people.

Flare stacks, which are used for burning off flammable gases released by safety valves, require frequent inspections. When humans inspect these structures, the system must be turned off.

Drones, on the other hand, can conduct these inspections while the stack is still live. In some cases, keeping the flare stacks live can save an estimated £4 million per day.

Detecting some issues before they become significant problems helps to lower risk. Drones are now being equipped with gas detection equipment to survey pipelines and other structures with pressurized gases.

Early detection saves lives, reduces repair costs, and prevents major environmental disasters.

Drones have a positive impact on safety by reducing human exposure to unsafe conditions. Working at heights is one of the most significant contributors to workplace death and injury in the UK. Drones can inspect equipment hundreds of meters high without any risk to people.

Bringing It All Together

Benefits such as those listed above are by no means unique to the oil and gas industry. Many of the UK’s largest industries, such as utilities, public defense, health, agriculture, and construction, benefit from UAV technology for similar reasons.

Additional positive benefits for the UK, which also translate into increased UAVs utilization, can be seen in applications that benefit British citizens. Drones are seeing use by law enforcement, emergency medicine, and research.

Drones that transport medical supplies during a pandemic, such as those on the Isle of Wight, serve the greater good. Additionally, they create jobs and increase productivity.

These examples illustrate why drones are projected to have such a lasting and significant impact on the UK’s economy. With a growing list of use cases and more businesses taking a look at how they too can benefit from UAV technology, drones in the UK have a bright future for the coming decade.

If you have yet to investigate using drones now is the time. Complete the form below and we’ll help get you started!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Ultimate Guide to UK Drone Licences and Regulations in 2020 & Beyond

In the past few years, the humble drone has transformed from obscure geeky gadget to total must-have for any techie worth their salt.

As drones’ popularity has grown though, so has the incidence of disruptive and potentially even dangerous situations involving their use. UK drone laws have necessarily become more stringent in order to counteract this, and remote pilot training is more relevant today than ever before.

Legislation surrounding drone licences, and drone laws in general, are subject to frequent changes. It’s tough to stay up-to-date with what you can and can’t do with your drone. 

But, never fear! Consortiq are here to help keep you up-to-date with these continuous changes.

Once you become interested in drones, you might consider some fairly straightforward questions — but do they have straightforward answers?

  • Are drone licences required, even for hobbyists?
  • What if I don’t have a ‘licence’ but I’ve been offered some commercial drone work?
  • How are drone licences obtained?

Whether you’re an experienced flyer or a droning newb, Consortiq’s ultimate guide to drone licences and authorisations will fill you in, clarify any misunderstandings, and guide you in the right direction.

And, you’ll save time in order to invest in what matters the most to you: getting out there with your drone!

Drone aerial surveys offer a quicker, safer solution

Drone licences: What are they?

Before we even get started, any experts reading this will note the elephant in the room: technically speaking, drone licenses don’t exist.

In the UK, operating a drone is more ‘permission to fly’ from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) than an actual licence. 


Okay, let us explain.

The CAA, the UK’s aviation regulator, does not license drone pilots to users per se. So long as CAA regulations are followed and an individual demonstrates that they are able to operate a drone following set guidelines, the regulator grants the pilot a Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) through an National Qualified Entity (like Consortiq) to fly their small unmanned aircraft (SUA), which is the CAA’s blanket term for drones and model aircrafts – hold that thought though!

The regulations are changing!

Do I need permission from the CAA to use a drone, and what are my responsibilities as a drone flyer?

Droning is a fantastic hobby. It gets you outside, it’s fun and creative and it encourages you to see the world from a whole new perspective — literally.

But in order to fly your drone safely and with the utmost regard for safety — both your own and others’ — it’s important to be fully aware of your legal and ethical obligations.

You need to understand:

  • How to operate your drone safely and legally.
  • You and you alone are legally responsible for anything and everything that happens during your drone’s flight.
  • You must always be able to see and orientate your drone..
  • Your drone must never fly above 400ft of the ground.
  • How to recognise and ensure your drone is in full working condition and able to take flight without incident.
  • Your drone must never fly within 50m of a person, a vehicle or a building when you are not in total control of said individual or object.
  • The images and footage you obtain must not break privacy laws.
  • You must never fly near an aircraft or close to an airport; both actions are illegal and endanger the safety of huge numbers of people.

Most importantly, you must register as an operator and a flyer, as it’s against the law to fly without passing an online test and registering. 

‘Okay…stop. I only need a permission/register my drone if I’m using it commercially? Right..’

At this moment in time (November 2020), you, as a drone owner, need to remember three things:

  1. Everyone must register as a flyer and have an operator registration on their aircraft. Both obtained  via the registration system – regardless of their use.
  2. Operate your drone in-line with the Drone Code.
  3. Lastly, the current system defines users/pilots in 2 categories, commercial or hobbyist.

Don’t get too comfortable with the above, as previously mentioned- this is going to change! 

There are a number of other considerations to account for as a responsible drone operator.

Are you equipped with the knowledge to be able to act if your drone’s power fails or runs out? Will it land somewhere safe? And are you far enough from buildings, people and airfields?

Bear in mind that you may be several miles from an airfield and still a hazard to manned aviation. Height, in particular, is difficult to judge, especially from a ground perspective.

You could be well above 400ft without having the faintest clue. Military helicopters often return to airfields at 500ft. Fixed-wing aircraft may start descending at 1,000ft from 3 miles away.

So keep your drone in sight at all times, and think about the kind of aircraft that could be potentially flying nearby.

It is your responsibility and no one else’s.

Drones and education - girls using drone in sand.

Why is a ‘Permission’ important?

The vast majority of drone pilots are respectful of drone laws. Most just want to have fun or make a living whilst flying their drone safely and legally.

However, there have been instances where drones have been flown with flagrant disregard for the safety of others, and that is never acceptable, irrespective of circumstance.

In 2016, over 50 pilots of commercial airliners reported that their planes had almost hit drones. Even military aviators aren’t immune: in 2016, a Navy Lynx flying at 2,000ft missed a drone by just 30ft.

There is continuing research into the full impact a drone would have on a plane, but it doesn’t take a genius to understand that 3kg of plastic, metal and lithium-polymer battery crashing into a helicopter windscreen — or even, heaven forbid, a tail rotor — is going to create potentially lethal complications.

In even more recent memory, Gatwick Airport was closed for 3 full days in December 2018 after reports of drone sightings near the runway. A staggering 140,000 passengers and 1,000 flights were disrupted, making it the most significant aviation disturbance since the 2010 Europe-wide ash cloud after the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull (try saying that after you’ve had a few).

It’s incidents such as these that have led to authorities in recent years striving for far more stringent rules and regulations for drone flyers to abide by.

How do I get permission to operate drones in 2021?

Ok – Strap yourself in. 

The CAA announced a delay in implementing new EU regulations that were meant to be ‘live’ from July 2020 due to COVID-19. These are expected to be implemented at the earliest 31st Dec 2020. 

Previously we were a National Qualified Entity (NQE), we have now transitioned to the new Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE) scheme, this allows us to train organisations and individuals to the new standards set out in CAP722 (8th Edition) and issue the correct certificates to ALL drone users.

We have been spending a lot of time preparing our training products to meet the new requirements. We’ve also already launched our General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) course, the other good news is that the A2 Certificate of Competence (A2CofC) will be launched shortly, as expected. 

Drone Consultants - 3 reasons to use them - Consortiq

The training process is changing in 2021 - This bit gets technical

Why is it changing?

This is an attempt to harmonise the regulations for UAS across the whole of the EASA region and as a result it will make it easier for drone users to fly UAS in other European countries.

Great news, right?

What do the new regulations entail?

The new rules are based solely on risk and as such do not have ‘commercial’ or ‘non-commercial’ (hobbyist) differences, they are solely concerned with the risk the UAS poses; what type it is and where it is being flown in relation to the risks around it (primarily uninvolved persons).

This means that the new regulations apply to every owner of a drone that weighs more than 250g. 

STOP – I already have a PfCO!

As of the 31st December 2020, existing PfCO holders will have a choice as to what they do next…renew their permission for another year, and receive an Operational Authorisation with standard permissions’ (OA) using their existing qualifications.

The expectation here is that they will convert their Remote Pilots qualifications over to the GVC within three years.

Or transition their operation to an OA under the new regulations by requalifying their pilots under the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) or potentially see if they can operate solely under an A2 Certificate of Competence (A2CofC).

Any permissions or exemptions that have been issued to operators by the CAA will remain valid until their expiry date and may continue to be used, even if this is after the implementation of the new regulations. The overriding principle being that anything the CAA have authorised will not suddenly become illegal after this date.

The PfCO has provided standards and operating procedures that assist Insurance Companies and Health and Safety departments with ensuring a safe and competent drone program for a relatively infant industry.

It is unlikely that large organisations will drop the standards set out by the PfCO and allow all their operators to continue with just a A2 CofC, which is an individual qualification and could therefore lead to multiple pilots self-certifying their own training and procedures.

The new regulations are focused on risk and mitigation, rather than defining drone usage as recreational or commercial use. For these reasons, we believe it will become more difficult for companies to ensure total safety and risk mitigation of their operations if they have multiple pilots all flying under the entry level A2 CofC.

Legal? Yes, but not necessarily best practice for SME’s and large organisations. 

After 31 December 2020, PfCO renewals will be returned as an ‘Operational Authorisation with standard permissions’(OA). There are a few limitations with the ‘hybrid’ approach, mainly around remote pilots and their ability to operate under another company’s GVC and not having the ability in having bolt-on permisson’s like a true GVC.

Apart from this, you can continue to operate under the same exemptions.

Any new Remote Pilots will need to meet the GVC standards and on completion, they can be added to your OA. Note this position can only be maintained until 2023 at the latest.

Remote Pilots

Remote pilots (RP) are named individuals who have completed their PfCO training and have been issued a full category recommendation, but never submitted their own Operations Manual for an application for a PfCO for an organisation.

This area has the potential to catch a lot of people out! Whilst they can stay on as a named RP within an existing OA, their ‘qualification’ isn’t valid if they decide to fly for another organisation/ business. They will then be forced to start again with a GVC course and a new application with the CAA.

What is the best drone course, GVC or A2CofC?

The best drone course will depend on what drone you operate and what you want to do with it.

Currently if you fly a drone under *500g like a DJI Mavic Mini then the A2 CofC drone course is the best choice. This will allow you to: 

  • Fly in the Open Category A2
  • Operate drones up-to 4kg
  • Flights can not be closer than 30m of uninvolved people or 5m in ‘low speed’ mode.

*Until 30th June 2022, you can fly any aircraft under 500g MTOM anywhere that is legal to do so as long as you do not intentionally fly over uninvolved people.

If you fly larger and heavier drones and your operation requires you to operate outside of the A2CofC limitations, then you’ll need to consider a GVC Drone Course. All our GVC courses come inclusive of an A2CofC for reassurance and will enable your operations to be even more flexible!

This will allow you to: 

  • Operate in the Specific Category
  • Operate outside of the Open category
  • Fly any drone 0 -20Kg (25Kg from 1st Jan 2021)
  • Fly Closer than 150m horizontally from any kind

Breath……..in……aaaaand…..out! That’s the technical bit done! 

In Summary

  • The new regulations SHOULD be introduced at the end 2020 – no commercial or non-commercial (Hobbyist) distinction
  • Operations that are low risk may be conducted with little or no training if in the right area using right aircraft type
  • Training (A2CoC theoretical test) will be required as operations in the open category become riskier i.e. closer to people or heavier aircraft
  • It will be easier to fly UAS within Europe

Three new levels of qualification/training

  • Basic Competency Test for drone Flyers which is part of the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education System (DMARES). Users must complete an online course and pass a 20 question exam. The current ‘Flyer ID’ registration test.
  • The A2 Certificate of Competence (A2 CofC) – required to fly in the Open Category A2 (near people). Users must complete an online course and pass a 30 question exam. There is no practical flight assessment for the A2 CofC but operators will need to self-declare that they have completed training flights. 
  • The General VLOS Certificate (GVC) is required for operations in the Specific Category. This requires operators to take a course which will be similar to the current PfCO courses. Theory, Operations Manual and Flight Skills Assessment
GVC Course Online Drone Training

The GVC framework

Consortiq will champion the new General Visual line of Sight Certificate (GVC) and will be offering top-class training to support the issuing of this qualification.

Our GVC also comes with the A2CofC as standard for no additional charge, so this is one less thing to worry about! This process will include both a practical and theoretical exam, and will efficiently prove whether or not a pilot is able to follow set guidelines and fly a drone under ‘abnormal’ conditions.

During the course, candidates will be required to produce an Operations Manual using our online tools to assist with the completion and upon completion will undergo a practical flight skills assessment with a flight examiner. Candidates will be required to operate to their Operations Manual procedures.

The GVC is valid for a period of five years. 

Consortiq is an RAE

Exciting change has happened for Consortiq.

We are now a Recognised Assessment Entity, meaning we are an organisation approved by the CAA to submit and issue certificates on the CAA’s behalf.

Is there an age limit on registering to operate a drone?

There is currently no upper age limit to apply for a PfCO or any of the new training requirements for the new regulations. 

Minimum age limits from January depend on the category and class of the operation: 

  • Private built UAS weighing less than 250g and toys in class C0 – No minimum age
  • All other UAS in the Open category – 12 years (there are exceptions under supervision) Specific category operations – 14 years 
  • To directly supervise another remote pilot – 16 years 
  • To be a UAS Operator – 18 years 
Woman flying drone - uk drone licences and regulations guide

UK drone licences (PfCO-GVC-A2CofC) applicable abroad?

If you have obtained any authorisation from the UK CAA, it is valid throughout all 4 countries of the UK.

However, your PfCO and the new GVC and A2CofC will not necessarily be valid overseas. It’s important to check the relevant authority in your destination country to ascertain local and federal requirements for flying SUAs.

Currently there isn’t any central authority spanning multiple countries that issues drone licences; they remain approved exclusively on a country-by-country basis. As previously mentioned, the new, 2021 regulations will make it easier for operators to use their drones abroad.

It still won’t be transferable just more recognised as a level of qualification. The goal is for any operation that would receive an authorisation in the state you hold an authorisation in should be authorised by any other EU state upon submission of the required paperwork.

Are you ready to see the world through a fresh pair of eyes?

Droning is a truly amazing activity.

Whether you’re a hobbyist loving the experience of seeing your homeland from a never-before-seen perspective or a serious flyer shooting breathtaking bird’s-eye imagery of the world far below, droning is liberating, stimulating and fun.

It captures the imagination, gets you out in the fresh air and shows you the familiar through unfamiliar eyes. What’s not to love?

In order to fully enjoy droning, you must comply with the rules and regulations that are in place specifically to keep both you and the public safe. Furthermore, SUAs pose a genuine and severe danger to manned aviation, so it’s imperative that you understand drone laws and, of course, obtain the right qualification and authorisations ) before flying.

Not only does your qualification protect you legally, it’s also beneficial to both your clients and your business if you’re making a living from the incredible data your drone is capturing.

And remember, ultimately, it is your responsibility to fly legally, safely and responsibly — no one else’s.

Are you ready to take to the skies? Consortiq can help you attain the correct qualifications with our training.. We are industry leaders in drone training, consultancy and data acquisition. . Consortiq’s bespoke training is tailor-made to you and your particular needs, from a specialist portfolio of configurable services and products.

Consortiq make it easy to find the training that’s right for you.

Any questions or just fancy a chat about all things drone-y? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today and one of our friendly team will be delighted to help you out! Together, Consortiq will take you to the skies.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

What You Need to Know About Flying Your Drone Over People

Whether you’re a drone pilot in the United States or the United Kingdom, you’ll have your fair share of regulatory limitations from either the FAA or CAA.

You may already know that you’re not able to fly out of your visual line of sight without a waiver. But, did you also know that flying over people requires similar approval?

Unless people are directly involved with the drone operation, located under a covered structure, or protected inside a stationary vehicle, you cannot fly over them.

Let’s start with the “why.”

Why Can't You Fly a Drone Over People?

Quick answer: It’s dangerous.

As with most any other regulation, it’s about safety.

The main concern posed by airspace regulatory agencies is that the drone will fall and cause injury. Many of the most popular drone models, such as DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro, weigh about three pounds.

If an error occurred while the drone was flying at 400 feet (i.e. losing GPS signal), the impact would produce 16,259 Newtons of force. That’s more than enough to kill a person fairly easily.

Additionally, drone rotors spin between 5,000 and 7,000 rpm. At that speed, the propellers become incredibly dangerous to bystanders. A gust of wind at the wrong time could lead to major lacerations.

Now, you might think it’s easy not to lose control of your drone, but that’s not always true. In the video below, you’ll see that an emergency landing was necessary after the device lost GPS signal. Had people been under the drone, the results could have been disastrous.

U.S. FAA Regulation

FAA § 107.39 states that, if you’re flying over any part of a person, even just an extended arm, it’s considered as “Operations Over Human Beings.”

The only exception to the rule is when people are directly participating with drone operation. Examples of that might include the remote pilot, the visual observer, and anyone who might maintain the perimeter to keep others out of the area of operation during flight.

Thankfully, the FAA offer a waiver to that rule. Like all waivers, it helps if an expert is there to assist you in the application process is quite thorough. It also takes about 90 days to get that waiver reviewed and approved/disapproved.

It’s also not easy to obtain. As of Oct. 15, 2020, the FAA has granted only 153 flight over people waivers. The good news is that 64 of those have been approved in 2020.

The increase in approvals this year suggests that with a professional and well-developed application, the FAA is comfortable with trusting qualified operators to fly over people.

Perhaps the most important part of the FAA’s mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. As flying a drone over people can certainly raise safety concerns, the FAA made sure this was specifically called out as one of the limitations of the Part 107 sUAS license.

How to Get the “Flying Over People” Waiver

The FAA wants you to address two issues when applying for the waiver.

First, they would like to understand the likelihood of an accident occurring as you are flying your drone over people. Second, they would like to know the severity of potential injuries caused by your drone hitting someone should there be a malfunction or operator error.


Related Article: BVLOS Waiver – What You Need to Know


Likelihood is primarily a review of how safe your operation of UAVs is. As an organization that uses drones for commercial purposes, you have probably established standard operating procedures and training manuals.

In addition to these materials, the FAA would like to see detailed records of any incidents that happen, which shouldn’t normally occur. Examples might include drone malfunctions or pilots crashing drones into people or property.

For incidents such as those mentioned, you should identify any hazards or trends that have been recurring. More importantly, it would be best to show you have developed fixes for aircraft issues and have mitigations in place to prevent human errors.

Severity assumes a situation where a drone does fail will occur. If this situation were to happen, how bad could the potential damage be?

To mitigate the potential damage, the FAA looks for drones to fall into one of three categories.

Category 1 drones are very small, typically less than 0.55 pounds. A UAV of this weight is not likely to cause any damage.

Category 2 drones are considered to cause a minimal amount of injury or damage. The drone’s kinetic impact should not be capable of exceeding 11 ft. pounds of energy transfer.

Category 3 drones can cause more damage, not to exceed 25 ft. pounds of energy transfer.

Likelihood and severity combined help to determine whether or not a waiver is granted. To have the best chance of getting approval to fly over people, most organizations should consult the help of experts in the field.

By some estimates the rejection rate for these waivers is in the high 90% range. A reputable drone consulting firm will be able to access your organization’s needs and prepare you for the application process.

A 107.39 waiver can open a whole new world of opportunities for your UAV operations. Take the time to understand the balance between likelihood and severity for your organization. Develop appropriate mitigation techniques to make your operations safe and submit a waiver application with procedures and data to back up your claims of being a safe and responsible utilizer of UAV technology.

U.K. Regulation

Within the UK, Article 95(2)(d) states that you should never fly your drone or model aircraft closer than the defined legal distances. These are defined within the article as a distance of no less than 50 metres

However, with the introduction of the Drone and Model Aircraft Education and Registration Service (DMARES) last November (2019), and ‘several UAS incidents,’ the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had to issue a safety notice (Number: SN–2020/002) this past January.

The safety notice was to provide additional guidance to remote pilots in the form of suggested best practice when considering flight over people, in accordance with articles 95(2)(d) or 95(3) of the Air Navigation Order (ANO).

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Upcoming European UAS Regulations

It also served as a reminder to ensure operators were “reasonably satisfied that a flight can be safely made” (Air Navigation Order article 94(2)), as the law states.

When the 50m rule was introduced within the ANO, some ambiguity surrounded it.

Examples such as ‘string attached to the drone,’ or it being referred to as the ‘50m bubble’ rule, have been discussed at length. Where flights that need to be conducted within congested areas, and where careful planning is essential, we’ve seen operators use the Pythagorean theorem to work out the minimum viable distance and heights to stay legal.

Either way, the rules are clear and simple:

  • Never fly closer than 50m to people.
  • Distance can be reduced for take-off and landing to 30m. 

Even though hovering your drone at ‘51m’ directly above an uninvolved person may be legal and, as per Article 95, it’s safer to avoid flying or hovering directly over them, you’re responsible for flying safely whenever you fly (Article 94(2)).

Crowds of more than 1,000 people

If you want to fly near crowds greater than 1000 uninvolved persons, the 50m rule extends to 150m.

The standard states that you can fly above uninvolved persons, but that’s not the case for gatherings of this size. As an operator, you are never to fly above crowds at any height. 

A crowd is defined as any organised, open-air gathering of more than 1,000 people.

This includes:

  • Sporting events
  • Music festivals or concerts
  • Marches or rallies
  • Carnivals

Within the UK, if you want to operate within these restrictions, you will need to apply to the UK’s CAA for an Operating Safety Case (OSC) to reduce these distances. You’ll also need to have deep pockets, and your organisation must have operating experience that clearly demonstrates safe, compliant and competent operations.

Bringing It All Together

No matter where you’re flying, you’ll need some type of clearance to fly over people … or to avoid doing it altogether.

If your job requires drone flights over people to limit shutdowns and disruption, or to capture more compelling footage, then we’re here to help you achieve those goals. The best way to get started is to speak with our team of UAS experts as part of a risk-free drone consultation.

Whether you want the know-how to do it yourself and the waivers to go along with it, or you’d rather us do the work for you, we’ve got you covered.

There’s no reason to put a limit on your innovation. With Consortiq, there’s always a better way. Complete the form below to schedule your consultation, drone training, or drone service today!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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