Want to learn to fly your drone in the UK for business?
So you want to go into business flying UAVs? Or just want to be qualified with an RPCS certificate (Remote Pilot Certificate SUAS)?
What do you need to know?
First things first, do you need to actually need to know how to fly? No, you do not need experience. It helps, of course, but you do not need to have completed any hours in order to take the courses. I had 3 hours experience when I applied.
Do you need a drone to take the course? Before taking the course it is worth investigating what UAV will suit your purposes best. Whether that be a 4 rotor, single battery, 4k camera equipped smaller UAV such as the DJI Phantom or Yuneec Q500, or something more advanced. In order to complete certification with the CAA you will need the full technical specification of the UAV to be used.
The UAV really needs to be under 7 kg in weight fully laded with payload. There is a grey area between 7 kg and 20 kg, but most people will be flying UAVs under 7 kg. For instance, my DJI Phantom 3 is around 1300 grams.
The courses available differ in various ways, but the basic ingredients are the same. You will be taught CAA law as it applies to remote controlled aerial vehicles (this includes fixed wing, helicopters and quadcopters), basic knowledge of weather and it’s effects. You will also be taught principles of flight, basic knowledge of LiPo batteries, risk assessment, site surveying and mission planning.
Typically these causes are 3 day intensive courses with a multiple choice exam on the final afternoon. In order to progress you will need to pass the exam by at least 51%. As long as you pass you can progress, you don’t get extra for achieving 100%.
It is worth noting that you do not need to sit the exam every time you buy another drone. You will be the qualified person, not the drone. You can have two drones, you only need to qualify once.
The next stage is compiling your Operations Manual. Although you normally receive a template guise to the OM, you really need to write one yourself, from scratch, using the template as a guide. As this will need to be submitted to the CAA for final approval, it is quite a technical document and you should allow 2 weeks to complete the task. You will need your UAVs technical specifications to complete this. You can incorporate one UAV, or multiple UAVs in the document, but you must provide the technical specification of each UAV in the document.
There is no extra charge for incorporating additional UAVs in the OM, it just makes the manual a bit longer to write. I started with one UAV in mine, and if I wish to add another I will need to update my manual and re-submit it to the CAA for approval.
Any major amendments made to the OM will need to be submitted to the CAA for further approval.
So, now you are nearly there. You have your manual, you have taken the exam, what is next? Next is usually the flying test. So here is where you really need to start practicing and getting some hours clocked up. In order to take the test you must be fully insured. It is worth contacting an insurance company a month before you need to set up your insurance to start the ball rolling.
The test is a series of missions given by the instructor on the day. You will be expected to have completed a site survey of the area, a risk assessment, weather forecast and a mission briefing prior to arrival at the site of the test. On arrival you will need to complete a site check, looking for anything which was missed in the planning stage, such as pylons, trees, weather etc which may affect flying.
The test itself is relatively straight forward with various exercises, tricky maneuvers and landing.
Passed the test? Now, armed with your RPCS certificate and rating from the training company, you will apply to the CAA through their online application service. Once the application, manual and fees are submitted and acknowledged, you will have to wait for the CAA to confirm your Permission to Fly for Aerial Work, or PFAW for short.
It does currently take the full 28 working days for your PFAW to come through. But once you have it, you are an aviator. A commercial operator. You can turn your hobby into a job.
Good luck with your mission.