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UK pilots: The CAA and my potential £2500 fine!!

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by growe19, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. growe19

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    Please be aware that the experiences written about in this post refer to the UK Civil Aviation Authority and may not be the same in your country. And sorry for the length of this post. But please read to the end.

    A friend and I set up a name to post our aerial footage and photos under on Facebook.

    We've recently found that the CAA (Civil Aviation Authrority) are not happy with our practises so thought I would share our experiences with you guys so the same thing doesn't occur for you. I'm interested to know if people were aware of the rules and regulations before purchasing, after or even not at all until reading this post...

    With the ever growing popularity of Phantoms and similar devices the CAA are soon going to have a lot of issues on their hands. They've contacted us with a potentially very real £2,500.00 fine for the way we have been operating. I'm sharing this so that others are not faced with the same.

    A small fact; the seller we got our original Phantoms from has sold a minimum of 800 since the start of the year. We now both fly DJI F550 Flame Wheels.

    Now we stated to the CAA that we had not been charging for anything we had been doing no matter how commercial it appeared to be. However they said that we had been breaking other rules as laid out in CAP393 Articles 166 and 167. I only see rules broken in Article 167, but also feel these rules are out of date for modern equipment such as the Phantom with GPS.

    CAP393 Article 166: Small unmanned aircraft
    The next document is the one that to us seems more like a tax on the device instead of the requirement for a licence.

    CAP393 Article 167: Small unmanned surveillance aircraft - Meaning, ONLY IF A CAMERA IS ATTACHED!!!
    The CAA should really think about defining what a congested area is. They complained that we flew over a 300 acre derelict mental asylum that has been empty, closed and disused for over 16 years.

    And also let me state again. 167 rules only apply when a camera is attached. So the whole thing about a licence being required is BS, it is most definitely a tax.
     
  2. growe19

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  3. The Editor

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  4. growe19

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    "any area of a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes"

    Vague in my opinion. There is a vast difference between a city and space used for recreational purposes (a field).

    I think that their rules need majorly updating for devices like the Phantom that have GPS and can be safely operated in a 1 meter square space!!!
     
  5. The Editor

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    I think more importantly in their red tape they do not appear to have defined 'small'.

    Within their definitions of 'Light UAV's' by their own admission, requests for aerial work (paid) has been in the range of 7kg - 20kg (Excluding fuel/batteries).
    Anything under this weight appears to come under the classification of 'Model Aircraft' and could be argued are exempt from these rules or air worthiness certification.

    The thing I think is really making them poo their pants is the data paranoid... sorry protection act. They are terrified that anyone might capture an image of somebody (perish the thought) without that persons permission.
     
  6. rilot

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    What are the rules for "model aircraft" within their definition? If they classify "Light UAVs" as 7kg to 20kg then we would absolutely be exempt from this.
     
  7. The Editor

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    I think the problem is..... They don't actually know! The suits that draw up these rules and regulations have no idea what a Phantom is, or even a USB socket and no comprehension of a GPS enabled flying 'toy'. The majority of them are dinosaurs and as fast as they dream up these rules, technology marches on at a much faster pace and all their ponderings and regulations are outdated.
    I'm sure their main concern (apart from saftey regarding commercial air traffic) is purely revenue driven and how they can think up a 'tax' on these awfully popular drone thingies !
     
  8. EMCSQUAR

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    Define Irony - London has more cameras per square ft than any other city on the planet, yet they're worried about a small unmanned aircraft flying over a field without a license.
     
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  9. FrankB

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    Do all these rules apply to "real" helicopters with a "real" photographer taking pictures out the window?

    If not, why not? Don't the same issues about invasion of privacy, etc. apply?

    Next you'll have to get a license to take a picture of the London Eye from your Boeing 747 approaching Heathrow.

    Bloody ridiculous.
     
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  10. growe19

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    As far as I'm aware the weighting wording is either upto 20kg, or below 7kg. So the Phantom is defined in the below 7kg class.

    Also I don't think this has a single thing to do with privacy. I honestly think it's just a way for them to make money. Their rules are vague at best and very open to interpretation.
     
  11. UTR

    UTR

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    I emailed the CAA before I started flying and the data protection website about flying with a camera. The CAA were brilliant basically the rules boil down to if you want to fly a drone less than 7kg for non commercial use you don't need any permits even with a camera attached. The CAA guidelines are they would like to you stay below 400ft and within a range of 1500ft. This is simply to keep other airspace users safe. If you are flying they also state that you need to be 150m away from property and vessels and 50m away from people but this has nothing to do with privacy but to do with safety. Upon contacting the data protection people they have no issues what so ever about people flying with cameras and recording for non commercial use or posting on YouTube. If you are flying anything over 7kg OR for commercial gain you need CAA certification and you need to follow the guidance around the use of other peoples image. If you are flying FPV you need a spotter to make sure you are capable of taking avoiding action should something else enter the airspace.

    These rules are for safety and make perfect sense and in no way limit me flying my Phantom in any way.
     
    JBeG and Scottish Terrier like this.
  12. UTR

    UTR

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    Unless you have a battery failure/motor failure/radio failure/operator failure/GPS failure. Imagine your Phantom with 3 motors spinning dropping onto a person uncontrollably from 500ft up. Not withstanding being hit buy just a stalled Phantom falling imagine being hit by out of control rotors. They can do an awful lot of damage if you're not carful.

    Have some consideration for other people. The last thing we want to do is to be flying our aircraft over peoples houses giving them reason to complain. Just look at America, paranoia is rife with total bans on drones on the way. Just be grateful that the CAA ARE BEING SENSIBLE and not blanket banning us.
     
  13. UTR

    UTR

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    The Law

    Thanks for your message, it’s good to hear that you are taking a responsible approach to your flying and I hope that I can answer your questions sufficiently. I’ve attached a short briefing note which covers the basics of the regulations in (hopefully) simple terms, plus a pointer towards the main documents.

    In essence, the responsibility for the safe operation of the flight rests fully with the person that is controlling the aircraft; we have tried to keep the basic legislation as simple, as common sense and as proportionate as possible, and we only introduce additional ‘hurdles’ where we feel the risk to people not involved in the flying activity is the greatest.

    If you are intending to take aerial photographs on a commercial basis (ie. conducting ‘aerial work’), or if you are going to fly within congested areas or closer (than the distances listed within Article 167) to people or properties (vehicles, vessels or structures) that are not under your control, then you will need a permission from the CAA in order to do this.

    If you are not intending to fly close to people or properties, and not intending to get ‘valuable consideration’ (ie. payment) from your flight, then you do not need to get a permission; of course, you must still comply with the other requirements of Articles 166 and 167, and you must also ensure that you do not endanger anyone whilst flying your aircraft (article 138).


    So, in your case, the key points that you need to bear in mind are paras 1-3 of article 166 (due to the mass of the DJI Phantom and camera being well below 7kg) and all of article 167 – to answer your specific questions in turn:

    Are there any restrictions on flying these aircraft in terms of height or distance? – Provided that it is less than 7kg in mass, the primary restriction on height and distance comes from article 166(3) in that you must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft at all times. In other words, you, as the person in charge of the aircraft are responsible for avoiding collisions with people and property (including aircraft in flight) and so you must be able to see the aircraft at all times in order to be able to ‘see and avoid’ other aircraft or obstructions. This will naturally limit the distance and height that you can fly the aircraft, and it also takes into account weather conditions – as a guide, however, we usually quote 400ft vertically and 500m horizontally from the ‘pilot’ as being the maximum acceptable limits (these have been used by RC model aircraft operators for many years and have proved to be a good ‘rule of thumb’). Please note that the use of FPV equipment is not considered acceptable justification for flying the aircraft beyond your line of sight. We have, however, issued a general exemption from the requirements of 166(3) so that FPV flight can take place, provided that a competent observer is present. The details of this can be found at this link http://www.caa.co.uk/ors4no956

    Do I need to alert anyone that I am flying my quadcopter and who might that be? – In general terms, provided that you are complying with the requirements in articles 166 and 167, then you should not need to alert anyone. Clearly, you will of course need to get the permission of the owner of any private land that you intend to fly the aircraft from.

    Are there any issues or rules that I need to be aware of with me flying it with a camera on board? (GoPro Hero 3 weight 73g) Total weight of aircraft and camera < 1.5KG – the specific regulations are contained in article 167. Please note that these ‘rules’ exist purely to protect people that are not involved in the flying activity from possible injury. They are not there for privacy protection or similar. You do, however, need to be aware that the collection of images of identifiable individuals, even inadvertently, when using surveillance cameras mounted on a small unmanned aircraft, may be subject to the Data Protection Act. As this Act contains requirements concerning the collection, storage and use of such images, you need to ensure that you are complying with any such applicable requirements or exemptions. Further information about the Data Protection Act and the circumstances in which it applies can be obtained from the Information Commissioner’s Office and website: http://www.ico.org.uk

    The flight control gear operates on 2.4GHz and the Video on 5.8GHz are there any restrictions on these frequencies for aircraft? – Ofcom has produced a guide to use of radio transmitters and the law that gives a overview of licensing in the UK http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/enforc ... cement/law . Also they have a specific section on their website relating to model control http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/spectr ... ces/ofw311 . Information covering the technical requirements for most licence-exempt short range devices is covered in IR 2030 http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binari ... R_2030.pdf.

    I have been told that if you fly one of these setups for commercial purposes that you need a pilot’s licence is this true? - As stated in article 166(5), if you want to operate a small unmanned aircraft for the purposes of aerial work, then you need to have a permission granted to you by the CAA. In order to grant a permission, we would need some proof of the pilot’s overall airmanship skills and awareness and his/her ability to operate the aircraft safely – this is not a ‘Civil Pilots Licence’, but it is an independent assessment of an individual’s knowledge/ability.

    Will I need any sort of certification for non-commercial use? – No, provided that you observe the requirements of articles 166 and 167. If you wish to fly inside any of the minimum distances stated in article 167 however, then you will need to apply for a permission to do so from the CAA.

    Are there any restrictions around me flying this in a park that is at the end of my street? I’m always careful to keep away from other people and property etc. – As above, articles 166 and 167 contain the specific restrictions.

    Do I need to be a given distance from any airfields? Closest is 13.91 miles? – According to the strict letter of the law, no. The obvious thing is to apply some common sense to where, and how, you fly. The main requirement, however, stems from 166(2) and 166(3) in that you may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that you can do it safely, and that you must continually monitor the aircraft visually and avoid collisions by ‘seeing and avoiding’.

    There is an army base about 3.5 miles away is this too close? – No, unless there is some local byelaw, or other airspace restriction which prevents flight in the area. I’d need to know where you are talking about to answer precisely.

    Hopefully, this will be enough to answer your questions sufficiently, but please come back to me if you need any more clarification.

    I have to say again thank you to Gerry from the CAA who responded to me in such prompt notice it was brilliant. Below are the sections of the Air Navigation Order 2009 that were mentioned above.

    SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS - GENERAL INITIAL GUIDANCE

    The Regulations related to all flying operations within the UK are contained within CAP393 Air Navigation: The Order and the Regulations (ANO 2009). I have copied the Articles that specifically apply below for your information.

    The overriding/all encompassing Article within the legislation is Article 138, which covers the subject of endangerment and applies to all aviation activity at all times:

    Endangering safety of any person or property

    Article 138

    A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.

    With regard to the operation of UAs at the smaller end of the market, it is the aircraft's mass which is the deciding factor with regard to the permissions/approvals that are required, and 20kg is the significant number. If the mass is above 20kg then there are a number of significant hurdles to jump (particularly with regard to airworthiness) but if it is 20kg or less (which I am assuming is what you are looking at), then it is classed as a 'small unmanned aircraft', for which the requirements are a little less stringent and are covered within Articles 166 and 167

    Small unmanned aircraft

    Article 166
    (1) A person shall not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small aircraft so as to endanger persons or property.
    (2) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
    (3) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.
    (4) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more than 7 kg excluding its fuel but including any articles installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly such an aircraft:
    (a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic control unit has been obtained;
    (b) within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless the permission of any such air traffic control unit has been obtained; or
    (c) at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in airspace described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b) above and in accordance with the requirements for that airspace.
    (5) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly such an aircraft for the purposes of aerial work except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.

    Small unmanned surveillance aircraft

    Article 167
    (1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.

    (2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are:
    (a) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
    (b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
    (c) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or
    (d) subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.

    (3) Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.

    (4) Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.

    (5) In this article ‘a small unmanned surveillance aircraft’ means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.

    Interpretation

    Article 255
    ‘Small unmanned aircraft’ means any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20 kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight;

    ‘Congested Area’ means, in relation to a city, town or settlement, any area which is substantially used for residential, commercial, industrial or recreational purposes.

    Take note also that for electrically propelled vehicles, the battery itself is considered to be a part of the aircraft - it is the battery's charge that is the fuel. The logic for this is that the battery is basically the 'fuel tank' or, in other words, when the battery has run out of fuel, it still weighs the same.

    In addition, we have also published some additional limitations within CAP722, which is the CAA document that deals with the operation of unmanned aircraft within UK airspace, with the significant points being:

    a. The person in charge of the aircraft must maintain direct unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions

    b. For an aircraft being controlled in this manner (which is termed 'Line of Sight') the unmanned aircraft should be kept within a distance of 500m horizontally and 400ft vertically of the 'pilot'.

    c. The flight should not be conducted within a specified distance, normally 150 metres, of any congested area of a city, town or settlement

    d. The aircraft should not be flown within a specified distance, normally 50 metres, of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure not under the control of the aircraft operator except that during the take-off or landing an aircraft to which this subparagraph applies shall not fly within 30 metres of any person other than the person in charge of the said aircraft or a person in charge of any other small aircraft or a person necessarily present in connection with the operation of such an aircraft.
    You can get access to the various CAPs that are mentioned via the CAA's Website by typing:

    http://www.caa.co.uk/cap393 or http://www.caa.co.uk/cap722

    In essence therefore, provided the aircraft has a mass of 20kg or less, the current regulations state,

    1. The operation must not endanger anyone or anything
    2. If the flight is to be conducted within 'Controlled' Airspace, or within the ATZ of an airfield (the dimensions of an airfield ATZs vary, but have encompass the airspace within either a 2nm or a 2.5nm radius of the airfield) permission to fly must be obtained from the ATC unit/authority and the flight must be operated in accordance with that permission and any additional restrictions required by ATC. Obviously therefore, there is an inference that the 'pilot' needs to have a degree of awareness about the airspace that he/she wishes to fly in.
    3. The aircraft must be kept within the line of sight (500m horiz, 400ft vert) of its 'pilot'. Operations beyond these distances must be approved by the CAA (the basic premise being for the operator to prove that he/she can do this safely).
    4. Small unmanned aircraft (irrespective of their mass) that are being used for surveillance purposes are subject to tighter restrictions, which invariably will require permission from the CAA before operations are commenced
    5. CAA permission is also required for all flights that are being conducted for aerial work (ie. you are getting paid for doing it)
    6. The 'pilot' has the responsibility for satisfying himself that the flight can be conducted safely

    Please also note that there is currently no 'protected' frequency band allocated for the control link between 'pilot' and UAV. Some control freqs are also 'shared' with other uses (such as Bluetooth and WiFi, or a band for research and development systems). The UA manufacturers should be well aware of this, however it would be worthwhile checking with them to ensure that there are no other related precautions which need to be taken with their specific machine. The last thing that you want is to have a bit of kit that you routinely need to use in your work adversely affecting the flight of the aircraft!

    As a final point, you should take careful note that the collection of images of identifiable individuals, even inadvertently, when using surveillance cameras mounted on a small unmanned surveillance aircraft, will be subject to the Data Protection Act. This Act contains requirements concerning the collection, storage and use of such images. You should ensure that you are complying with any such applicable requirements.

    Details regarding obtaining CAA Permissions is available at http://www.caa.co.uk/uas and also in CAP722 Sect 3 Chapt 1.
     
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  14. UTR

    UTR

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    After contacting the http://www.ico.org.uk they have no issues about flying with cameras. Also the Metropolitan Police guidelines about recording in public is that it's perfectly legal even recording police officers exercising their duties.

    If you're not sure about the rules all of these bodies and organisations are really helpful.

    The guidelines in the UK are just about being responsible an having respect for other people.
     
  15. The Editor

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    All interesting stuff and thanks for posting.

    Of course the 'collection of data/images etc' and mention of the data protection act is really of no consequence if you are flying for recreational purposes. Since it has always been legal (and still is) to film/video record in public places without restriction, the fact that we may or may not record peoples faces is immaterial. If they were to enforce this it would mean they also have to enforce no picture or video taking by any tourist/visitor/day tripper etc in any public place anywhere in the country. This would mean you would not be allowed to photograph or capture any images of your family or friends for fear you may inadvertently also photograph a stranger in the background walking past.
    Yet another example of the looney PC brigade being over zealous and terrified of their own shadow for fear of upsetting someone.
     
  16. rilot

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    Personally, I think the UK regulations are sensible. It essentially breaks down to:

    If flying for pleasure:
    Don't fly like an idiot
    Be safe
    Make sure you can see your quad

    If flying for business:
    Be certified
    Don't fly like an idiot
    Be safe
    Make sure you can see your quad

    Unfortunately, I can see the CAA tightening up the rules as time goes on. At the moment, MC flying is still restricted to hobbyists really. However, with the price of devices like the Phantom now in to the range of "toys" we can expect more and more idiots flying them in the street and crashing them in to people / property.

    Enjoy it while it lasts people and be safe.

    Remember, every time you fly you are an ambassador for the hobby. Act like a dick and you draw bad attention to all of us
     
  17. The Editor

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    Very true words

    Unfortunately, like you, I fear a lot of Phantoms will find their way into Xmas stockings this year and younger fliers will be out there come the New Year with the dangers that will bring. There will always be someone like that idiot in Manhattan that made the news with his stupidity and I only see numbers of people like him growing :shock:
     
  18. fly-catchers

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    Very useful information. Currently I am doing my first tentative flights over nearby fields where apart from the odd dog walker is clear of people. No properties, only woods in the distance. Can't see myself wanting to fly in more challenging areas for quite some time! But had hoped to film along the seafront at some point. Thinking early in the morning during the summer. Would be interesting to have more detailed clarification from the CAA about Quadcopters and their like. In the past when people flew RC planes etc- it was mainly for the flying experience. Now with devices like the Phantom taking photos/videos is perhaps an even greater reason for flying them.
     
  19. Captain Tobias

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    Just get out there and fly responsibly and the chances of you breaking the caa regulations are pretty slim.

    Only an irresponble idiot/moron would fly his quad:-
    - So far away that it is out of sight
    - Next to people or pets
    - Along roads/motoways or buildings

    :)
     
  20. DJW

    DJW

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    Thanks for all the information above that has been translated into plain simple English that I can understand! I fully understand their view point and where they are coming from and what they would expect you to do and more importantly what the law allows me to do. I know that if I use common sence in black and white then everything is fine.

    Of course things could change but the guild lines above seem right.