There is so much that’s been said about drones and there use, some might read this and think what a load of rubbish, but this is just one view on the use of drones, the media input, what is being put forward by the CAA and the “2019 Drone Registration Scheme: Charge Proposal Consultation Document”, which is being put forward.
Owning a drone.
Being a photographer doing portrait work, street and landscape are just some of the things I cover, I got a drone back in mid 2018 after doing a whole load of research of what was out there, how much they cost, what regulations are involved, the kind of insurance I needed and what could I do with the images. Just some of the many things I considered for my use.
The market place is full of sorts of drones from small toy type drones, to top end drones used in film and commercial work and ones in between. Even the cheap drones on online sites like eBay can look the business, but then you read the reviews and they’re nothing but rubbish with many not being able to be controlled and fly off into the sunset. In the last few years’ drones have been able to carry or fitted with a camera. The advances in camera technology has seen new cameras that are small and light and able to film in 4K video and produce images up to 20mb at 10-bit colour, and have the same kind of manual control as a full-frame camera. Other advancements have been longer battery time and being smaller, easier to carry and quick to launch.
So after much time researching, I got the DJI Air, but then the DJI Mavic Pro 2 came out and I got that one, purely for the sturdy build and better camera. Theses drones are over £800 to £1,500 and then you buy accessories, extra batteries, ND filters and other bits and bobs that can add up to near £2,000 depending on what you buy.
If you’ve never flown a RC plane or drone, the DJI series has been design to be able to learn how to fly within a number of flights, but has built-in features like obstacle avoidance, maximum height and distance, GPS and a controller that is full of information that shows you where you are and controls the camera all in one, but it does take a lot of effort to learn so your £2,000 investment doesn’t end up smashed. Many take out special insurance to cover the drone for damage or being lost (as it can happen), but more importantly public liability insurance encase it damages property or person/persons.
The current regulations for hobby and commercial drone pilots are quite clear to a degree, but there are grey areas. I wanted to take landscape images so I could add them to my other landscape work on my website done with a normal camera. I don’t sell direct from my website, but I do get some that visit that ask to buy a print. The commercial side of having a drone, is being involved in work to survey, film work as just some of things that you do as a business and get contracted to carry out that work, even the idea of using a drone to film a wedding is commercial work as its contracted. To undertake this work you need to sit a course and be issued with what’s called a PFCO, this stands for Permission For Commercial Operations. It’s not a license as some think it is but it’s a permission granted when you’ve done the course by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), which cost each year. I took to social media where other like-minded drone pilots from both sides of hobby and commercial to ask if I needed a PCFO to sell prints? It seems that when you ask grey questions, grey answers or ones saying one thing and the others coming up with a different answer.
So I turned to the CAA directly to get their answer, and they say that if you have taken the image for yourself at the time and then at a later date you can sell a copy of that image without having a PFCO. So this for me is good news, some might feel I’m taking work from them, but why, I’m only taking landscape images within the regulations and meeting all the criteria required, and I’m not interest commercial work in what they do or have the kind of drone needed for the work they carry out.
There is no doubt that some, who have had a drone over the course of a few years, have use drones illegally at places like airports. As many things, drones became a thing that hit the YouTube channels in the USA, but I’m not blaming our American friends but there FAA regulations are a bit different than the CAA. But people have posted video of flying around airports and this has raise concerns that has been met with regulations with flying near airports to be no-fly zones. But people still post images of drones being flown at extreme heights to see if they can, as well as the drone crashes that make for thousands of views. But in the UK, things came to ahead when at Christmas, a drone sighting closed Gatwick airport for a number of days. The media, went with it like bears to honey, with so say images of the said drone, and then a couple were named and shamed as they were arrested only to be released without charge and found not to even own a drone! Since the incident, there have been programs and interviews that have asked questions as to why there are no images or video of the drone, not even with all the tech equipment that was rushed to the airport did they have any data to show there was a drone. People have been stupid with drones, that’s for sure as one was found and arrested after climbing the old Severn Bridge near Bristol with a drone to do a selfie. And then there was a RC model aircraft near the perimeter fence at Heathrow. Drones have been used to bring drugs into prisons, but all of this is by as small minority that will go out of their way to break the law, just like any other law breaking way. There are people buying drones and then joining social media to ask where can they fly or showing video of flying right on top of animals and of course scaring them, and the media joins these groups to ease drop on what’s being said and then writing stories without asking the person they quote what they meant by their comment.
All of this is putting pressure on the drone pilots with new regulations have been put into place or coming into effect later this year.
Consultation by the government and CAA
The drone industry and use has grown with more looking to spend real investment money into a drone for the use as hobby pilot, and the government and CAA have been good to bring in a consultation to ask drone pilots for their thoughts on what they think is needed and should be part of the drone code. But the latest proposal by the CAA doesn’t meet hardly anything that we have put forward; instead they have come up with just a registration fee of £16.50 per a year based on 170,000 users. To put this into context a firearms license that last for 5 years works out at £18, a replacement-driving license cost £71.60 and covers for 10 years. The amount of deaths from the use of vehicles in 2017 was 1,793, yet to date not one fatality has been caused by the use of a drone in the UK, yet it cost more to register a drone than to hold a driving license!
Making sense of their idea for registration is confusing as there are two ways to register. The first one is as drone owner or in their words responsible for the drone, you register and pay your fee and then you get a registration code for your drone, but it doesn’t state if this is just for one drone or £16.50 per a drone. The second way is you fly drones or RC aircraft, you read the rules, do the online test, tell them who you are and then you get a flyer number, but it states you only need to a single registration if you own and fly a drone, but it doesn’t state which one to do.
Its taken them nearly two years to come this far, yet its unclear, over priced and no guidelines for manufactures to point buyers on what they need to do if they buy their product, or a flight registration system that many have asked to be in a real-time app.
We are only a few months away when all of this going live, and many associations and hobby pilots and commercial are not happy with the proposal. What is needed is an open forum meeting with the CAA to invite members from all areas to meet with the CAA and figure out what is going on and to deal with the fundamental issues that effect all. Many completed the government consultation and feel their words have not been listen to and this is just another hopeless attempted to show they asked drone pilots for their views, but will still go ahead with their proposal whatever we say.
Many that have been flying model aircraft might feel that drone pilots have brought this fee onto them, but like all things, it’s a minority that don’t give a dam about regulations or will even take part in the registration. This is understandable when the media has jumped on false news of drones flying near aircraft, yet not one single image has been captured to prove otherwise. Drone pilots and model aircraft flyers do make mistakes, it happens, but not intentionally. All flight safety is taken before any flight takes place, why, because they don’t want to loose their investment.
Some would say this is being run as badly as Brexit, which says a lot about the good old British way of doing things, its got out of control when it doesn’t need to.
These are just my views on a problem that doesn’t seem to be getting solved properly and taking into account the vast industry this effects and needs a system that’s priced in a form like other things we need to pay for the use of. This comes across as another moneymaking system for the government to exploit which is unfair and unjust, which I’m not the only one that feels this way.