Frequently Asked Questions

What are the rules regarding privacy?

Any UAV fitted with a camera is potentially covered by the Data Protection Act and as such all privacy laws can be applied to their use. For more information visit https://ico.org.uk/for-the-public/drones/

How hard is it to fly a drone?

With the addition of fully stabilized flight controllers with GPS, it has become much easier to operate drones. Most people should be able to take off with a drone and keep it in the air. The challenge comes when more advanced flying skills are required to navigate obstacles and get that perfect shot, here nothing can replace practice and spending more time flying will only be to your advantage.

What’s the difference between the drones with 4 propellers and those with 6, 8 or even 12?

The bigger aircraft normally have a higher number of propellers, the number of propellers helps with lifting heavier payloads but also gives redundancy against failures. This is very important when flying over valuable subjects or carrying expensive cameras etc.

What’s the largest size of drone that I can fly?

There are 2 categories of PfCO in the UK. Up to 7kg and 7kg to 20kg. The under 7kg category suits most of the smaller off the shelf aircraft on the market and is suited to hobbyists. The larger category up to 20kg is for the more commercial companies carrying much bigger cameras. Most of these aircraft are classed as ‘heavy lift’ and can be very complicated.

How is the aircraft affected by the weather?

Most aircraft can fly in winds up to 20mph but most cannot fly in rain currently. Gusty conditions around buildings need to be carefully planned for but are manageable. Very cold weather has an effect on batteries, making flight times slightly shorter.

Can you fly over people?

All UAV operators have restrictions on how close they can fly to people. You must maintain an exclusion of 30m at point of take-off and 50m at all other times, away from any person, vehicle or building that’s outside of your control. Obviously, if you are in control of the building or the people you can fly much closer.

Are there any limits on where you can fly?

There are certain restricted aviation areas where you can’t fly, but they are few and far between. Most places can be flown in but you may have to do some extra paperwork.

Urban and congested areas such as towns and cities may require extra permission called an Operational Safety Certificate.

I’ve seen some people flying drones using the view from the camera, does this make it easier?

First Person View or FPV, is the practice of flying an aircraft using the view from a camera mounted on the aircraft. Although it’s great fun, flying a drone commercially using FPV is illegal. The pilot has to be able to see the aircraft at all times. This is called Visual Line of Sight or VLOS.

Will my British Model Flying Association (BMFA) insurance or 3rd Party liability insurance be sufficient to fly commercially?

Commercial operation of UAV’s is not normally covered under 3rd Party liability insurance and is definitely not covered by the BMFA insurance. Specific UAV insurance will be required as you are operating your drone as part of your business.

I don’t have a drone yet. Do I need one for the course?

For the theory part of the course, you don’t need your own drone. In fact, the theory part of the course may help you decide which drone is best for you. Your Operations Manual will be specific to the drone you choose and your practical flight assessment will be flown with your own aircraft so you must have it by then.

How long does it take to get qualified?

The proof of competency course is initially just 2 days in a classroom environment. You will then be required to write your operations manual before taking the practical flight assessment, which takes half a day. There isn’t a time limit for this but you should aim to have it done within 6 months.

How far away can the drone fly?

The maximum distance that any UAV or drone can fly away from the pilot is 500m. But most importantly, the aircraft must stay in sight and the pilot must be able to control the aircraft still without any visual aids.

How high can the drone go?

The maximum height that any UAV can fly at without special permission from the CAA is 400 feet (122 m) above ground level. This is normally high enough for most applications. But most importantly, the aircraft must stay in sight.

What does “aerial photography” mean?

Any image taken from the air, whether video or photos can be called aerial photography. In the past aerial photography was most commonly taken using helicopters, however these days aerial photography has become much more accessible to everyone with battery powered multi-rotors, drones, on the market.

What do I need to do in order to fly my drone commercially?

To operate a UAV or ‘drone’ commercially, you must have permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – the CAA control all airspace use in the UK. This comes in the form of a Permission for Commercial Operation or PfCO. To get a PfCO you must prove that you are competent to safely operate your aircraft.

How do I prove I am competent?

The CAA has appointed several organisations or National Qualified Entities (NQE) who are able to prove your competency with your drone. Cambridge UAV Academy is a CAA approved NQE.

Do I need to take a test?

As part of your training, we will teach you the laws and best practice of how to operate a drone safely commercially. There is quite a lot to understand so there is a multiple choice test for you take to make sure you understand and can operate your UAV safely. There will also be a practical assessment once you have completed your operations manual.

I’ve heard that I have to write an operations manual, is this difficult?

The operations manual is a vital part of how you’re going to operate your UAV company commercially. It details all the procedures that you will use to ensure you fly your UAV safely.

As part of your course at Cambridge UAV Academy we will supply you with the CAA template for the operations manual and explain each stage carefully. We’ll also assess your manual and recommend any changes prior to you submitting it to the CAA with your application for PfCO.

Would one of the small drones for sale in Electronics Stores be suitable for commercial flights?

Professional UAV’s are far superior quality to the ‘toy’ drones that you see in the shops. Many hours of testing and development have gone into providing a safe, reliable and efficient system that can give the best results commercially.

The very small toy drones are great fun for holiday pictures etc. but aren’t suitable for the quality production you would require for commercial use.

Do I need to get a Pilots qualification to fly a drone?

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulates all commercial UAV operations in the UK. It’s actually a criminal offence for anyone to operate a UAV or even a toy drone for any commercial purposes without having a Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) from the CAA. Even taking pictures of your neighbour’s house for a pint is considered commercial work.

How is the aircraft flown?

You fly the aircraft using radio control from the ground. The signal is encrypted similar to a mobile phone signal but much safer. If there is a breakdown in the signal then safety protocols take over. The pilot has to be able to see the aircraft at all times. This is called Visual Line of Sight or VLOS.