It’s summertime, and the drone flyin’ is easy… Preparation and knowing the rules will help keep everyone safe8 July 2016
As the British summer warms up just in time for the nation’s school holidays, more and more drone enthusiasts are taking to the skies and exploring countryside and coast from above.
If you’re the owner of a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS, or drone), the chances are that before long you, too, will be heading out, remote control at the ready, keen to get airborne as soon as opportunity knocks.
Of course, it’s not only RPAS activity that increases in the summer months – commercial passenger air traffic is set to grow soon too – so it is essential that all airspace users focus on flying safely and responsibly.
With our specialist aviation history and wealth of experience, NATS is well-placed to offer advice and training for pilots of drones and we offer a CAA-accredited instruction course for RPAS operators that is ideal for pilots looking to earn money by operating their drones.
Hobbyists and drone enthusiasts are also welcome to join us, to hone their skills and gain practical tips on safety and best practice (and many do) but, for those who are unable to attend, we’ve put together a checklist of essential RPAS dos and don’ts to help keep everyone safe in the skies.
As airspace users, drone pilots have an obligation to consider the needs of others in the air and a responsibility to take all reasonable precautions to avoid creating potentially unsafe incidents. Meticulous pre-flight checks to ensure the drone is in excellent working order and responsive to its pilot’s remotely-given commands is essential, as is familiarity with the area in which the flight is to take place (consider referring to a street-view internet mapping service, for armchair reconnaissance!).
Every drone pilot, from the enthusiastic hobbyist to the most seasoned commercial RPAS operator, should always bear in mind that they are ultimately responsible for the safety of each and every flight they undertake and they must ensure that collisions with people or other objects can be safely avoided at all times. Failure to comply with any of the CAA’s Dronecode rules may lead to criminal prosecution, while the operation of a drone fitted with camera functionality could leave a pilot liable to prosecution under UK privacy laws.
Various free-to-use resources are available to help drone enthusiasts enjoy a summer of safe flying, and we recommend that pilots should take full advantage of all the information they can gather.
Useful RPAS information sites include: uavforecast.com, a useful weather website for checking local flying conditions; skydemonlight.com, an online tool that identifies airfields and controlled airspace; and, if you’re planning to fly in an area used by military aircraft, you should confirm that no planned operations will conflict with your activity by calling the relevant telephone number as published at gov.uk/low-flying-in-your-area.
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