Our Journey to CAA Permissions
Flyby Photography’s journey begun humbly thanks to my partner, Carly who worked in Insurance contractor management. She saw the benefit of drone use for Aerial Asset Inspections (Drone Surveys) and realized that these were becoming more and more frequent, a cost effective, safe and quick solution for a pre insurance works survey.
I made my inquiries and came across a company called Coptrz, and realized there was a PFCO (Permission For Commercial Operations) course coming up in the following weeks in Brighton.
Fast forward two weeks, and I’m there, it is all a little unreal and I’m wondering if I have jumped a little deep into this without spending more time researching the Industry. The training provider was Uplift Drone Training, and the course tutor was Matt- An airline pilot who Co-Owns Uplift.
We went around the group and introduced ourselves, (there was only around five trainees) and it became apparent that I was the only one there that has never operated (or even seen) a drone, it became a little daunting but was soon put at ease, with everyone in the group having little to no knowledge in Aviation, although I studied Aerospace Engineering at college, and previous to that obtained a BTEC in Aviation, so the principles of flight were still nestled in the back on my brain.
The course was spread over two days (comprehensive course) and this covers the basics from theory of flight to understanding Aviation charts, to risk mitigation and working practices.
At the end of the classroom based training, you sit a theory test (multiple choice) which is fairly straight forward if you have paid attention to the course material.
You are then sent on your way to write your dreaded Ops Manual- a 50ish page document about your company and operations with in depth information about your chosen airframe(s) and operating practices, this is a legal document and you are expected to work to this manual when you get your permissions to work.
Uplift give the candidates a rough template to follow when you write your manual, but the content must be unique to your operations, the CAA will reject and manual that they believe to be copied, and this ensures that you know your operations inside out moving forward, into getting your business off the ground.
After a number of revisions, the team at Uplift passed my ops manual as complete, and invited me to do my flight test, they gave me the address of the test and an idea as to the manoeuvres that would be required to pass, but other than that they said to “treat it like an operational job” meaning that all the appropriate flight planning, and risk assessment would have to be done as it were a real job- All very daunting but good practice!
The test was booked, and the weather looked as if would be touch and go- again the operational limits of your airframe are in your ops manual, and you must abide by these, the examiner would not call the test off, it was solely down to the pilot to make the decision for if it would be safe to fly. Thankfully the Gods were looking down on me that day, and the test went without a hitch, uplift later sent the proof of theory and flight test to the CAA along with my ops manual and recommendation to them for permissions.
The waiting game
The current target for standard permissions to be issued is 28 working days, Flyby Photography’s came in 30. This was an extremely long wait, but well worth it! It gave us chance to develop our business model, and to start developing our website in the background and getting other business in check ready for operation.
Are you thinking of becoming a drone operator, or want to know more about the process? Leave a comment below.