What do the July 2018 UK drone legislation changes mean to me?

Elliott Corke – www.dronetraining.co.uk – 30/7/2018

This post, however you have found it, is aimed squarely at drone operators who already hold a permission for commercial operations (PfCO) issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). I have focused on the changes most relevant to commercial operators and I will leave you to interpret the rest yourself.

The first thing is... don't panic! The legislation changes will make very little difference if you already hold a PfCO. If you are a recreational user (as well?) I will create an additional post explaining that at some point.

Reference documents:

http://www.caa.co.uk/cap1687 - Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2018 -Guidance for small unmanned aircraft users

CAA Newsletter (in the absence of a formal document at present)

Changed definitions:

SUA Operator: “In relation to a small unmanned aircraft, is the person who has the management of the small unmanned aircraft.” So this is generally the PfCO holder. The “person” may be an individual or a company.

Remote Pilot: “in relation to a small unmanned aircraft, is an individual who - (i) operates the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft by manual use of remote controls, or (ii) when the small unmanned aircraft is flying automatically, monitors its course and is able to intervene and change its course by operating its flight controls”
In your manual, you probably previously called this person the PiC. This is a clarification as in some cases in manned aviation the PiC isn’t necessarily flying the aircraft.

1)    Changes not in the ANO relating to permissions (mainly from the newsletter)

a) There are now only two classes of SUA on the standard PfCO:

0-20kg multirotor (we assume this includes helicopters as well but awaiting clarification)
0-20kg fixed wing

As a result, there is now no differentiation at 7Kg in terms of the PfCO and we will only carry out one flight test for each aircraft type.

b) All classes of aircraft can now be flown in congested areas by PfCO holders (recreational users with drones of any mass are still not allowed to fly in congested areas). You still need to adhere to the other articles of the ANO that apply (94, 95, 241), so separation distances (150/50/30m) are not affected and the core ideas of VLOS (94(3)), the remote pilot being satisfied the flight is safe (94(2)) and the concepts of recklessness and negligence in article 241 still apply.

c) Flights at night will be automatically granted provided a procedure for this has been established in the Ops Manual. Procedures covering night operations must also be incorporated into your Ops Manual for renewal applications. 

So, if you haven’t yet added night ops, this can be added at renewal (presumably within the renewal fee).

d) Current permissions will be grandfathered until an application is submitted to the CAA. However in the interim current Permission holders will need to use CAP 1687 to update their procedures accordingly to meet the new requirements.

(So you don’t need to scramble madly to update the CAA. You can adapt your manual to the latest requirements and then submit it at renewal.)

2)    ANO changes (mainly from CAP 1687)

CAP 1687 summarises the changes to UK drone legislation in the update to ANO 2018.

So what has changed?...

Some definitions have been updated (commercial operations, SUA operator, remote pilot)

There are two sets of changes. One set come into effect on 30th July 2018. Others do not come into effect until late 2019 in order to allow the CAA time to implement the changes.

a)    Changes coming into effect now (30th July 2018):

i)               (Article 94A summary) All drone operators without an exemption from the CAA are limited to 400 feet. You may think this was previously the case, but there was a loophole that basically allowed recreational users to fly at any height as long as they had VLOS. That has now changed and the default position is that drones must be flown below 400 feet unless you have an exemption from the CAA.

ii)              (Article 94B summary) The CAA have implemented “flight restriction zones” around aerodromes that mean if you are flying within 1km of the aircraft boundary you are required to seek additional permissions from ATC or the CAA. These permissions are summarised in the table in 94B of CAP 1687.

UPDATE: The flight restriction zones are now clearly shown in the free "Drone Assist" app.

iii)            Article 94 remains largely unchanged but takes out the 400 foot height limit referred to previously as that is now covered in 94A. It does still mean that remote pilots flying drones over 7kg in controlled airspace must still have permission from ATC.

iv)            Article 95 also remains largely unchanged apart from updating to remote pilot and SUA operator. As you can see from 95(2a) flights over or within 150m of a congested area are still not permitted for SUA operators without a CAA permission.

As you can see, for the vast majority of operations the above will have no impact whatsoever. Frankly, if we were working that close to an airfield previously we would always talk to ATC anyway.

b)    Changes coming into effect 1st October 2019:

i)               (Article 94C summary) Basically, operators of all drones over 250g will have to register with the CAA. We don’t know what form this will take so I can’t give you any more information at this point. It is assumed that existing PfCO holders will class as already registered and new applications will register as part of the process or already be registered as a recreational user.

ii)              (Article 94D summary) This says that a registration number must be issued to anyone operating a drone over 250g and that for a given flight, the operator must hold a certificate valid at the time of the flight and the registration number must be displayed on the aircraft. (Effective 30th November 2019)

iii)            (Article 94E summary) This lays out the requirement for evidence of pilot competency (for recreational as well as commercial pilots). The requirements have not been decided yet. It is likely there will be different requirements for recreational and commercial pilots and potentially for different classes of operation in line with the proposed European regulations. This will not be required for drones under 250g.

iv)            (Article 94F summary) This states that the CAA must provide acknowledgement of the evidence of competency above in order for it to be valid.

v)              (Article 94G summary) Defines “SUA operator” and “Remote Pilot”

So, in practical terms this means that by quarter 3 in 2019 the CAA will have to have in place competency and registration arrangements for both recreational and commercial operators of drones over 250g. We don’t yet know what form this will take, but we hope there will be good consultation with the industry to make this as seamless as possible.

3)    What else is going on?...

In order to facilitate these changes the government are hoping to increase police powers to deal with breaches of the ANO. This is likely to take the form of on the spot fines for pilots who breach the ANO. The government have just released a consultation and a bill will go before parliament later in the year. LINK TO CONSULTATION.

This consultation includes:

a)     Should a minimum age requirement be in place for drones?

b)    Are the new 1km restrictions around airports enough?

c)     Methods of enforcement of breaches of the ANO

d)    Counter-drone proposals

e)    If there should be a system to notify all drone flights

As the TAA we will be contributing to this consultation. I will publicise our response in due course.

Hopefully, these changes will not have a major impact on day to day operations initially. For those TAA candidates who are within the first year support package following initial PfCO issue we will provide you with details of how you can update your operations manual in due course. If you are outside that first year or not a TAA candidate but want to remain up-to-date using our systems we will provide details of our subscription service soon. You are, of course, quite within your rights to make the updates and reapply yourself but we know that people do find the renewal service helpful so we want to cater for that moving forward.

Any glaring errors in interpretation are mine alone, so if you spot anything please let me know. Otherwise continue to fly safely and let’s keep building this industry!

Elliott Corke - www.dronetraining.co.uk – 30th July 2018