As the growth of the drone industry continues, there is no doubt that more and more people will begin offering aerial services of some sort. For anyone looking for a company to provide aerial photography & cinematography there are number of things to be aware of when looking to hire a professional drone operator. These are 5 key points to bear in mind.
1 – Qualifications
Firstly, all companies offering any form of aerial work* should hold some form of qualification from a National Qualified Entity. Currently (as of February 2015) there are four NQEs who provide complete training that will give individuals the skills required to operate a drone safely and legally. It is an important process and indicates a level of competency, any pilot who has completed an NQE training course will have some form of certificate or identity card to show the weight categories that they are qualified to fly. A Professional Drone Operator will provide these without question. If a company is unable to, or reluctant to provide this then find someone else, as they are likely not qualified and more importantly, not insured.
*”…aerial work means any purpose, other than commercial air transport or public transport, for which an aircraft is flown if valuable consideration is given or promised for the flight or the purpose of the flight.”
2 – Insurance
This brings me onto the second point; insurance. All companies offering any form of aerial work must, at the very least, have public liability insurance to cover their operations and the insurance must be compliant with EU Regulation (EC) No 785/2004. It is important to check that the level of cover is sufficient for the task that is to be undertaken. Operating in a Congested Area* or areas of high risk may require a higher level of cover and any reputable company should be able to provide you with a policy document that outlines this and all other aspects of the cover so don’t be afraid to ask.
*”…in relation to a city, town or settlement, means any area which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes.”
3 – Operations Manual
Another requirement for all companies operating commercially is the Operations Manual. The Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (ARPAS-UK) give a great definition of the Operations Manual:
“Put very simply, your Ops Manual covers four things: Who you are, what you are flying, what you want to do with your RPAS and how you will do it safely.”
The Operations Manual is a living document that will be continually updated as a business grows and develops. It’s incredibly important and is a CAA requirement for a PFAW. Without it, a professional company cannot operate commercially.
4 – Permission for Aerial Work
The Permission for Aerial Work (PFAW) is granted by the Civil Aviation Authority and can only be awarded to companies who have complied with the first three points above. Without this, any company operating for ‘valuable consideration’, which could just be a case of beers, is breaking the law. It is important for anyone commissioning any form of aerial work to check that their chosen vendor has this permission before engaging with them. You can see whether a chosen company currently holds a PFAW by checking the ‘CAA Approved Operator List’. It is important to note however that this list is updated monthly so there is a legitimate reason why a company may not be on it, if that is the case call the CAA to check. A Permission for Aerial Work will also outline any special permissions given as well as the weight categories that a company is authorised to fly RPAS in, up to 7kg or up to 20kg.
5 – The Process
Finally, there is a basic process that a professional drone operator will go through. This process will be outlined in their Operations Manual. It’s probably a completely separate blog post in itself so without going into too much detail, these are the steps you should expect companies to go through as part of their interaction with you as the client:
- fact finding exercise and brief from the client so an initial assessment on flight possibility can be given;
- thorough pre-deployment survey involving airspace classification, charts and satellite imaging;
- on site survey with MET check and risk analysis;
- pre-flight checks;
- post-flight checks; and
- delivery of data.
So there you go. I hope this provides you with a better understanding of what to expect from a professional drone operator and it gives you the confidence to ask relevant and important questions to ensure you have the right team for the task you have in mind. If you would like to know more or would like to discuss you aerial imaging requirments then please do get in touch.