Keeping everyone safe when flying a drone

You have probably read quite a bit in the news recently about drones making a nuisance of themselves by flying near airports and other places where they are not allowed. Well I would like to re-assure you that my humans go to a lot of trouble to make sure I behave in the skies!

Our pilot Paul has spent a lot of time and money to obtain a professional qualification from the Civil Aviation Authority. Known as a “Permission for Commercial Operation” or PFCO this allows us to charge money for any aerial work. To obtain the qualification Paul had to attend a ground course, do a flight test and write a very long operations manual. He also had to buy special drone insurance.

It is illegal to charge for drone work unless you have a valid PFCO and insurance.

Before we leave home on a commercial flight the humans fill complete a site survey and risk assessment, with details of the weather, nearest airfields and possible hazards such a power lines. They have to check maps to make sure we fly a safe distance from buildings, roads and people.

There are strict rules governing drone flights in the UK and we are not allowed to fly over towns or other ‘congetsed’ areas. 

They must also see if there are any local “Notices to Airmen” or NOTAMS in force. These are warnings of any aerial activity that could make my flights unsafe. For eaxmple a couple of weeks ago was kept on the ground while the Red Arrows performed at a nearby Steam Rally.

Drone Rangers at work

When we arrive at the flying location, the humans have a good look around just to make sure nothing was missed on the map. And a good job too: recently we arrived at a site to find someone had planted a 40 metre chimney right in the middle of my flight path!

Then I am carefully taken out of my case and given good examination to make sure all my bits are in good working order. Just like a ‘real’ aircraft the humans work through a safety check-list before I am at last allowed to leap into the wild blue yonder, or grey yonder as it seems to have been most of the summer.

Well this is bit I was born for, soaring high above the beautiful Shropshire countryside with the Buzzards and Red Kites, a dream job indeed.

Observer Sue helps Paul with the pre flight check-list

Down on the ground Paul is concentrating hard on making sure I am positioned correctly to get the best shots for our clients. At the same time one of our trained observers is scanning the ground and sky for anything that might put me or anyone on the ground in danger.

One of our main concerns is keeping out of the way of other aircraft. To prevent collisions I am not allowed to fly higher than 400 feet and 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! My observers are very skilled at spotting / hearing them and are quick to alert Paul at the first rumble of rotor blades. As an extra precaution the humans 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 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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