The commercial use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) is a relatively new concept, one that has come about thanks to rapid advances in technology. If you want to operate RPAS commercially in the UK you need three things:
- A Pilot qualification form a National Qualified Entity (NQE)
- A Permission for Aerial Work (PFAW) from the CAA
- Insurance (Must comply with Regulation (EC) No. 785/2004)
The first two entail some level of complexity to achieve and you need to obtain a qualification before you can apply to the CAA for your PFAW. You can be insured while training with a company called Coverdrone. As of 12th February 2015 there are four NQEs that have CAA approval; EuroUSC Ltd, Resource Group Ltd, Rheinmetall Technical Publications UK Ltd (RTP-UK) and Sky-Futures Ltd. All will provide you with the training and qualification you need to apply for your PFAW but will you get the same service from each of them?
Having recently qualified, we found ourselves at the beginning of this process having to make a decision as to which training provider to go with. It was important to us that whoever we decided on would have to provided not just first class training but also an in depth knowledge of a very fast paced, ever changing industry.
Having weighed up a number of different aspects including cost, availability and location, and having fired a number of questions at them first, we decided to go with Resource Group Ltd. Before we booked onto the course, they were happy to discuss any queries we had and explained the process in great detail.
Once booked onto a course we received access to a web-based learning platform that provided us with the material we needed to know prior to attending the three day ground school. The training material was very well laid out and the system constantly checked our progress with topic based assessments. Some of the topics were harder than others but you can learn at your own pace and can always revisit things later. Anyone with links to manned aviation will find some of the content very familiar.
There was a lot of information to cover over a relatively short space of time and bearing in mind that we were in a room full of people that picked things up at very different speeds, the trainers did an exceptional job of providing clear and concise information at a pace that was manageable by all. This is where the importance of the web-based training came in as it ensures that everyone on the course had a similar base knowledge. On the last day you are required to sit a formal exam to assess your understanding and retention of the material covered. Testament to the training we received, all of the candidates on our course pass the written exam.
We were very keen to get ourselves booked in and flight assessed as soon as possible but this was to be the only slight snag throughout the whole course. Resource Group only had slots available over a month away and at locations that would require long drives with no guarantee of suitable weather conditions. This isn’t a slight on them; it just goes to show how busy they are and is something that is experienced across all NQEs at the moment! It would be good to see them find some assessment sites in Suffolk though. We watched the forecasts like a hawk but lo and behold when our assessment day loomed there was a severe weather warning and the winds were gusting 40mph+. Rather than being put to the back of the queue our assessor kindly moved us into a slot just two days later and despite a few April showers we managed to complete our flight assessments.
Now that we have been through the process and achieved our qualifications, it’s great to know that I can just pick up the phone or fire off an email to one of the guys at Resource Group (which I have done on a number of occasions), be it a general industry question or legislation clarification they are all too happy to help.