Frequently Asked Questions
Are the Open category separation distances from uninvolved persons still based on a ‘bubble’ around the person, so we can fly over the top of them?
No, the separation distances are all based on ‘horizontal separation’ (i.e. like a ‘cylinder around the person) and they must not be overflown at any height.
I currently hold a ‘standard permission’ (also known as a ‘PFCO’) that was issued by the CAA. What should I do after the new EU UAS regulations become applicable?
The first point for you to note is that your permission will still remain valid until its expiry date and you will not suddenly become ‘illegal’ on 1 November 2020. So, you can continue to operate as normal. When your permission’s expiry date approaches, you basically have two choices:
• You can renew your permission in the same way you have done in previous years; or,
• You can ‘opt out’ of the CAA’s oversight and operate within the limits of the Open category If you renew, nothing changes, other than the new document you receive will be called an ‘operational authorisation’ rather than a permission, but it will contain the same privileges as you currently hold.
If you decide to operate within the Open category instead, you will then be subject to all of the limitations of the Open category, dependent on which subcategory you operate in. Depending on the types of flights you wish to undertake, your remote pilots may be required to undertake some additional competency testing, or you may have to purchase a different type of unmanned aircraft.
Example; you can just operate under the A2 CofC but no overflight of unintended people and have insurance 785 / 2004 for commercial operations.
I’m unsure about which category or subcategory that I fit into; how do I work this out?
You need to approach the ‘question’ from one of two angles, either:
• What type of flying/where do you want to fly? – then look at the subcategory (A1, A2 or A3) that permits this.
•A1 Transitional UAS are UAS less than 500 grams
You can fly in the A1 subcategory with any UAS that is less than 500g close to uninvolved people (no minimum horizontal limit) but you must not intentionally fly over them.
(Examples; DJI Spark / DJI Mavic Mini / Parrot Anafi / DJI Air v1)
You must have taken the A2 CofC though to fly under the A1 Transitional weight class
• What type/weight of unmanned aircraft do you have? – then look to see which subcategory your aircraft falls into and hence, work out what flying you can perform.
If the type of flying you wish to conduct falls outside these parameters, or you cannot do the type of flying you want with the unmanned aircraft you own, then you will either have to replace your unmanned aircraft with a more suitable type, or conduct your operation in the specific category and apply to the CAA for an operational authorisation.
What are the limitations regarding flight near or over vehicles, vessels and structures as they are not mentioned?
The regulations are focussed on the safety of uninvolved persons and so there are no specific minimum distances set down for separation from ‘vehicles, vessels and structures’. BUT, this does not imply a complete ‘free for all’ as vehicles, vessels and structures will in many cases still have persons inside them which need to be protected. There are two points to take note of however;
• The current ‘endangerment’ regulation in the Air Navigation Order (article 241), still applies, and so it is an offence to ‘endanger’ such property with an unmanned aircraft.
. • The prescribed separation distances from uninvolved persons still apply to persons that are occupants of any vehicle, vessel or structure. So, you still have to apply the relevant limitations for separating from persons, unless you can be certain that they are unoccupied or, in the case of structures, you can be certain that the occupants will be protected because of how the structure has been manufactured.
Of course, the overall security and privacy situation must also be considered, as there will be a number of buildings where it would be inadvisable, from a security or privacy standpoint, to be flying close to without first obtaining permission to do so.
What limitations are there for night flying in the open category?
There are no specific limitations but remember that only VLOS flight is permitted in the Open category. Therefore, you must keep the unmanned aircraft within your visual line of sight at all times. Clearly, this means that at night the aircraft must be sufficiently illuminated for the remote pilot to be able to see it and carry out his/her collision avoidance responsibilities.
Are there any plans to allow current, & recently expired PFCO holders, or Model association members with an appropriate “Achievement Award” to be exempt from the requirement to undertake the A2 CofC test in order to fly in the A2 subcategory?
No. The A2 subcategory is part of the Open category and so has no oversight by the CAA. Therefore, any person operating on the Open category must comply with the full requirements of the category.
Can a current NQE certificate (or ‘full recommendation’) of remote pilot competency be used after 1 November 2020 to fly against another operator’s PFCO?
Yes, if it is being applied to a current permission or one that is renewed as an operational authorisation and its text allows this level of competency. The ‘operator/permission holder’ will hold the responsibility to ensure all remote pilots can operate safely and legally; within this, we would expect any remote pilot to ensure that he/she is sufficiently conversant with the new regulations. Note: In the future, there will come a point in time where we will require all ‘NQE full recommendations’ to have been converted into a GVC.
Some RAEs will be offering a ‘conversion course’ for this. While the exact timescale has not yet been finalised, we expect this to be either 3 or 4 years from now (1 Nov 2023 or 2024), based on the fact that the GVC is required to be renewed every 5 years. CAP 722 will detail this when it is amended in October.
Can an existing UAS be ‘retrospectively marked’ with a ‘C’ Class from 1 November 2020 (e.g. will my 3kg drone will become a ‘C2 Class’ aircraft)?
No, this is completely wrong! The ‘CE’ Class markings do not work retrospectively. So, a current 3kg aircraft, for example, will never become a C2 model; it will only ever be ‘a legacy unmanned aircraft that weighs 3kg’. In the same fashion, a current 800g aircraft will not become a C1 model; it is just ‘a legacy unmanned aircraft that weighs 800g’.
In order to be given a particular Class marking, the aircraft must have been designed and manufactured to the relevant standards of that class marking. The only way you can get an aircraft with a ‘CE class marking’ is to buy one that has this marking.
The ‘legacy unmanned aircraft’ do not suddenly become unusable however:
• In the case of the 3kg ‘legacy aircraft’ it can only be operated in the A3 subcategory (far from people) within the Open category, or flown in the Specific category in accordance with an operational authorisation granted by the CAA.
• In the case of the 800g ‘legacy aircraft’, it could be operated in the A2 subcategory until 30 Jun 2022, using the transitional provisions, provided that its remote pilot has passed the A2 CofC theoretical test.
Will there be any changes or further training required with other existing qualifications/permissions in order to comply with the new classes or categories (such as BVLOS operations etc)?
No, if you wish to continue with the privileges you have today, you simply renew your current permission/exemption at its expiry date and continue to operate in the Specific category. This is the same as people will have done in previous years, except that the new document you receive will be called an operational authorisation.
I’ve read social media blogs from people saying that the GVC is equivalent to a PFCO and that this is all I need to operate. Is this correct?
No, it is not correct. Your ‘blogger’ has misunderstood their purposes and the PFCO and the GVC must not be viewed in the same context.
• The GVC is a remote pilot competency qualification; its nearest previous equivalent would be the ‘NQE full recommendation’
• The PFCO is a type of operating permission, which is a written authorisation from the CAA to conduct a type of UAS operation; under the new regulations, these are called ‘operational authorisations’
So, in order for a UAS operator to obtain an operational authorisation, all of the remote pilots they use will need to have reached a suitable level of competency for that operation. The GVC is a simple way of expressing a remote pilot’s competence to fly any VLOS operation.
Note.- From November 2020, any new operators wanting the equivalent privileges of a PfCO, will need to apply for an operational authorisation and follow the requirements set out in UKPDRA-01 which will be detailed in the update to CAP 722 when it is published in October. This will require remote pilots to complete the GVC and the operator will need to submit their operations manual to the CAA in a similar way to which they do currently. The operator will then be issued with an operational authorisation with equivalent privileges to those an operator would gain today from a PfCO.
Now that the commercial operations ‘trigger’ for getting a permission from the CAA has gone, can I just tear up my permission and carry on without any reference to the CAA?
It very much depends on the types of operation that you ‘want to do’, and on the aircraft that you are ‘doing it with’. If you can work within the various limits of the Open category, then you are free to do so without requiring you to obtain CAA authorisation, but bear in mind that to remain within the Open category, there are a number of limitations, both on the size or manufacturing standard of the unmanned aircraft and the competency requirements. These may either prevent you operating, or require you to go to additional expense (by having to purchase a different aircraft and/or undertaking an additional competency test) in order to do so. If you need to operate in a residential, commercial, industrial or recreational April 2020 | CAP1789 45 area (what we currently term ‘congested areas’) you will still need an authorisation from the CAA.
My current aircraft already has a setting on it where I can reduce its speed. Does this mean that I can fly in the A2 subcategory down to 5 metres from uninvolved people?
No, it doesn’t. The ‘low speed mode’ that is referred to in the A2 subcategory is a mode that is specifically designated for the C2 Class of unmanned aircraft. Any other ‘reduced speed operation’, whether electronically or physically limited, close to uninvolved persons would need to be the subject of an operational authorisation and cannot be ‘automatically’ used in the Open category. So, for the device that you have mentioned above, unless the UA has been marked as a ‘C2 class’ UA, then these capabilities are not relevant (nor is any form of ‘skilful manoeuvring’). Existing aircraft will not be able to operate at the low speed mode distances.
What are the separation requirements from uninvolved people in the A3 subcategory?
There should not be any uninvolved persons “endangered within the range where the UA is flown during the entire time of the UAS operation”. This means that there should not be anyone that is not part of the flight in any part of the area that the aircraft is planned to be flown, and people should be at least 50m away from the ‘boundary’ of the flying area.
If an uninvolved person ‘strays’ into the flying area, then the aircraft must be moved away from that uninvolved person immediately. The 1:1 rule (see next question) allows remote pilots to make a quick and simple assessment of the relative risk.
However, if the person stays in the operating area (as opposed to just ‘passing through’), then the flight would need to be stopped.
Some people have mentioned a ‘1 in 1 rule’. Can you explain what this is?
The ‘1:1 rule’ is offered in the AMC/GM documents as a simple ‘rule of thumb’ (as opposed to an exact rule in law) which can be used to quickly work out what separation from uninvolved persons is safe enough in the short term. It is based on the relationship between the unmanned aircraft’s height and its distance from the uninvolved person (the 1:1 line) and works as follows:
A2 subcategory – (for C2 aircraft only) when operating in low speed mode within 30m of uninvolved persons, remote pilots should aim to maintain a horizontal separation distance that is greater than, or equal to, the aircraft’s height (using the same units of measurement) E.g. if the aircraft is at 10m height, it should be kept at least 10m horizontally away from uninvolved people. Operations where the aircraft’s height is greater than the separation UAS Height 1:1 line (h=d) (h) Distance from persons (d) Above (high risk) Below (lower risk) April 2020 | CAP1789 46 distance (i.e. above the 1:1 line) should be avoided or kept to the absolute minimum time necessary, due to the increased risk. Don’t forget that the absolute minimum separation distance when in low speed mode is still 5m horizontally.
A3 subcategory – The 1:1 rule is a short-term separation measure for dealing with unexpected issues. If the aircraft is above the 1:1 line (i.e. closer to the person than its height), then it must be moved further away quickly, or its height reduced, until below the 1:1 line. If the aircraft is below the 1:1 line, then the remote pilot can continue to monitor the situation until the person has vacated the operating area. But the separation from any uninvolved person must not be reduced below 50m horizontally at any time.
I have previously held a PFCO but it has now expired. Can I use my previous remote pilot competency assessment instead of a GVC to obtain an operational authorisation based on a PDRA after 1 November 2020?
No. No credit will be given for permissions that have expired. Any new application must comply with the remote pilot competency requirements that are stated in the relevant PDRA.
Am I compelled to use the SORA when I apply for an operational authorisation?
No, you can still use the OSC methodology, as detailed in CAP 722A after 1 November 20 if it is more appropriate to your operation. Article 11 sets out the specific points that must be contained within an operational risk assessment. You may choose to use your own methodology if you wish, provided that it complies with Article 11, but it should be noted that the subsequent assessment may take longer to assess by CAA staff, and hence incur an increased charge.
In CAP722B it states that I can fly at extended visual line of sight (EVLOS) if I undertake module 1. Can I add this onto my existing certificate of competency that I have obtained from my NQE?
No, you will need to upgrade your NQE recommendation to a GVC prior to undertaking module 1 of the GVC. Some RAEs will be offering an upgrade course to convert your certificate of competency to a GVC to save you from having to repeat things you learned during your NQE training.