Flight Safety

Why you should always use a CAA qualified Drone Operator

Virtual Shropshire Drone Rangers go to a lot of trouble to ensure our flights are both legal and safe. With multiple spinning rotors and speeds in excess of 30 mph drones  are essentially flying food blenders. In the wrong hands they have the potential to cause serious damage or injury.   


You have probably read quite a lot of bad press about drones flying near airports, over towns and other places where they are not allowed. In the UK anyone can purchase a drone and fly it without training. As a result there are many drone owners who are totally oblivious the strict regulations governing drone flights. For example drones cannot be flown within 50 m of buildings, people or vehicles unless the operator has obtained prior permission. In addition unqualified pilots are not allowed to fly within 150 m of congested areas – which excludes them from most towns and public recreation areas.  Anyone breaching these regulations can face a hefty fine and confiscation of their drone. 

You can read the detailed CAA regulations here.

One of the key regulations is that it is illegal for drone pilots to operate commercially unless they have a qualification issued by the Civil Aviation Authority. 

This is known as a “Permission for Commercial Operation” (PFCO) and Virtual Shropshire’s pilot Paul Hutchinson obtained his qualification in July 2015. This involved attending a ground course, performing a flight test and writing a very long operations manual. Plus many hours of flight practice and research. It is also a legal requirement to hold specialist drone insurance – we have £5 million pounds cover.

Copies of our PFCO and insurance certificate will always be send to clients prior to flights.

You can check if a drone operator has a valid PFCO on the CAA website here.

Before every commercial flight we have to complete a site survey and risk assessment.. 

It is also essential that we check if any local “Notices to Airmen” or NOTAMS in force. These are warnings of any aerial activity that could make flights unsafe. For example we recently had to keep our drone on the ground while the Red Arrows performed near Shrewsbury! You can learn more about NOTAMs here

Drone Rangers training session

When we arrive at the flying location, the drone is subjected to a full pre-flight safely check-list before being launched. At least one of our trained observers will accompany Paul on all commercial flights. Observers play a vital role in ensuring all flights are conducted safely:

During each flight the observers will be constantly scanning the ground and sky for anything that might put the drone or anyone on the ground in danger.

One of our main concerns is keeping out of the way of other aircraft. To prevent collisions we are not allowed to fly above 400 feet, whilst civilian aircraft are not allowed to fly below 500 feet, so in theory there should always be at least 100 feet separation. However Shropshire is a designated low flying area for the RAF and it is not unusual to see one of the helicopters from RAF Shawbury sneaking up on us from behind a hedge! Our observers are very skilled at spotting / hearing them and are quick to alert Paul at the first rumble of rotor blades. As am extra precaution we always phone RAF Shawbury to let them know where and when we are flying..

So remember if you are looking for someone to shoot aerial photos or video always make sure you choose a qualified and insured operator!

If you have any questions about our work or would like to book a flight please contact Paul on 01952 728623 or email info@dronerangers.co.uk


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