Flying a Drone Commercially - Practical Flight Assessment.
Updated: Nov 10, 2019
Good Day from Southsea - Ian Crowson Photography
Flying a Drone Commercially in the UK
If you charge someone or make money from flying your drone you need Permission for Commercial Operations from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). Getting permission is fairly involved and requires a Certificate of Recommendation from a CAA approved NQE provider. I used 3iC. Who are excellent providers.
I'm a Outdoor Pursuits instructor, turned Coastguard Officer turned Sailing and Navigation Instructor. Now I'm a photographer. I bought a drone to get a camera up there. Then a bigger drone to get a bigger and better camera up there.
But the truth is that I'm much better at taking photos than flying a drone.
To get PfCO from the CAA is a bit involved and the process includes a practical assessment of drone flying skills. I needed to get commercial permission as I've found drone photos have sold well. If you make money from your drone you have to join the PfCO club.
Here is one of my videos, South Parade Pier to the Spinnaker Tower.
Flying a drone is easy, bit a common sense and off you go. My buddy Dave All Trades says so and he's built his own drone. Then you have a session on Youtube watching drone crash videos. By the time my practical test arrived I was a severely worried self taught drone pilot. My first practical assessment had already been terminated early due to my assessor, an ex Naval Officer, arriving 16 minutes late having lost his phone off a boat. He was agitated and very soon I was too. We were short of time. I'm a slow motion "take your time" sort of doddering old man. Absolutely a non military inclined sort of person. Effectively I failed. Enough said.
Back to a cold November morning somewhere on the edge of an Army firing range in Wiltshire where I passed.
The practical assessment requires preparation of a Pre Deployment Survey and Risk Assessment. OS Maps and Google Earth are a big help here along with the 1:250000 Air Map. I enjoy maps and stuff like that so I went OTT hoping it would make up for low quality flying skills.
I met my assessor M/s Dawn Hadlow at the site, a grass runway. Firstly there was a talk about my Pre Deployment Survey. Damm, the one I took with me was for my first test. Apple iCloud saved the day via my mobile phone.
Now Dawn Hadlow is actually a notable historical figure being one of the first RAF female jet pilots and the first woman instructor. Should I be worried, not at all. She really is a very nice person and put me at ease. What I had to do is get her to be my observer after a suitable briefing. Tell her what I was doing, like starting props, landing and stuff like that. Slight problem as I fly my drones on my own and try to ignore anybody who comes near me.
After doing a last minute on site risk assessment I put on my orange waist coat. I set up warning cones and signs, pegged down my landing pad, positioned my fire blanket and extinguisher and was ready to go.
I flew the drone in a square pattern, up and down the grass runway and fairly simple stuff. She told me to do a reveal sort of move, where you fly up and away. Simple with my Inspire 2 where the camera swivels to look backwards. I was using my Phantom 4 Pro and I forget It needed to fly backwards. Wally! Whilst I was flying all sorts of messages I've never seen before kept coming on screen, some suggesting I should not be operating there. Dawn said it was OK. The strange thing was that when it came to a demo of using ATTI mode the controller just would not change from P. mode. I rebooted everything but still no go. It worked in Southsea a few days before so who knows.
All I need to do now to have PfCO is send in my Operations Manual and about £250 to the CAA. Was it all worth the effort? maybe! I did create about two inches thick wad of A4 paper. Thanks again to 3iC my training provider for help and guidance.
Did I waste my time and money?
It looks like PfCO is flying out of the window in June 2020.
See CAP1789. Link:
Bye from crow's-eye,
Ian Crowson Photography of Southsea
Every drone owner must register with the CAA by the end of November 2019
If you own a drone in the UK see here https://register-drones.caa.co.uk.