I have been down in Cardiff all week this week doing my Remote Pilot Qualification (RPQ-s). Although I have been flying drones (in my case quadcopter) for a couple of years I have never gone down the route of getting qualified until now. In the UK there is no legal requirement to hold a qualification unless the drone is being used for commercial use or is being flown in congested areas with a camera attached.

I enjoyed the training. It covered a massive amount of topics including meteorology, map reading, chart reading, principles of flight, GPS, RPAS components, air law, human factors in aviation, air safety, airmanship, post crash management, operating procedures and the permissions required for aerial works. We had some long days in the classroom and a fairly tough exam at the end of it but I am pleased to have passed – it seems a long time since I had to sit a paper exam!

Heres a summary of the process for this interested in gaining a qualification to use a drone/quadcopter/SUSA commercially here in the UK:

1. Identify what you want to do and what drone/multi rotor best suits your needs. I started with a DJI Phantom and now have a Phantom 2 and a DJI S900. https://www.dji.com

2. Learn to fly. You can do this via a flight school or you can teach yourself. You will need a big open space though and permission from the landowner. Its worth joining the British Model Flying Association so that you can access insurance for public liability and areas that you can fly. (We will be providing flight training courses here in North Wales in the next few months so keep an eye on our website www.filmuphigh.com

3. Choose a qualification. As of 12 February 2015 there are four NQEs that have CAA approval:

EuroUSC Ltd
Resource Group Ltd
Rheinmetall Technical Publications UK Ltd (RTP-UK)
Sky-Futures Ltd

I chose the Resource Group but wouldn’t recommend them. The package cost ¬£1600 and the customer service was pretty poor throughout the process.

4. Pilot Competency Flight Assessment. This is the practical element of the qualification where you are tested on your operating procedures and your ability to fly including dealing with emergency scenarios. You will need to be insured for the flight test. I use John Heath insurance who provide public liability, professional indemnity and accidental damage cover.

5. Get your operations manual verified and apply to the CAA for a permission for aerial works. Your insurance will be invalid without this permission and you will need to work under the CAA Guidance that legislates the use of Small Unmanned Aircraft.

The legislation that covers us is:

Civil Aviation Publication (CAP) 393 – Air Navigation Order
Specifically Article 166 – small unmanned aircraft and Article 167 small unmanned surveillance aircraft – anything with a camera on.

Civil Aviation Publication (CAP) 722 – Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance.


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