A Guide to Operation Manuals
Heliguy are a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approved National Qualified Entity (NQE) who provide commercial drone operating in three locations across the UK; Newcastle, Manchester and Farnborough.
Commercial drone operators must obtain permissions from the CAA in order to make any profit from their drone. Not sure whether you need permissions? Head to our guide to find out here.
In this post, we’ll be walking you through the Operations Manual, but first, let’s take a look at the other stages required to obtain your permissions with Heliguy.
Heliguy’s commercial drone training is broken down into three sections. The following sections must be completed to apply for your Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO):
Commercial Drone Operators Training C-DOT – The Ground School section of the C-DOT course to give pilots with an understanding of safe drone operations, UK air law, airspace operating principles and the equipment used during flight. Following the classroom style learning, a theory exam must be completed to ensure comprehensive understanding.
Operations Manual – A document required by the CAA for all commercial drone operators. We will discuss this in more detail below.
Flight Assessment – The practical section of the C-DOT where pilots must demonstrate control of their aircraft by showing skill with basic manoeuvres as well as completing the safety checks and notifications they have specified in their Operations Manual. Head to our previous Insider post ‘Heliguy’s Drone Flight Test – A Visual Guide’ for more information.
Keep reading to find out what you should include in your Operations Manual.
The Operations Manual is detailed under the CAA’s ‘CAP 722 Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance’.
Like every aspect of the drone industry, the number of commercial operators has undergone a huge boom over the past couple of years. This, coupled with the occasional bad press with claims of drone ‘near misses’, has resulted in the CAA taking a tighter grip of the whole PfCO process with a heavy scrutiny of each Operations Manual submitted. Manuals that may have previously been accepted could now be rejected.
Because of this, you need to make sure all sections of the manual are completed to a high standard with completely accurate information. The manual must also be an original piece of work and cannot simply be copied from an existing document. Make the manual your own, with company branding and style. Creation of your own Operations Manual shows a comprehensive understanding of your procedures as the author.
What’s known as an Operations Manual is actually one section of an Operating Safety Case (OSC). There are two main sections that are usually required for first-time applicants of a PfCO. These are Volume 1 – Operations Manual and Volume 2 – Aircraft Systems.
The details in each of the volumes is required by the CAA however, the layout and appearance should be designed to reflect the processes and aesthetic of your company.
Volume 1 – Operations Manual
Volume 1 provides information on your company intentions for drone operation. Before getting into the sections of this volume, you must detail the following areas:
- Safety Statement – Completed by the Accountable Manager detailing how the company will safely operate the aircraft. The statement must include the Accountable Manager’s digital signature.
- Amendment Record – A table with updates of any changes and amendments made to the manual.
- Referenced Documents – Detail any source information you used such as Civil Aviation Publications.
- Acronyms and Abbreviations – Include an explanation of all used as part of your manual, even if they’re commonly known.
Once this information is included, move onto the below individual sections.
This section is designed to give an overview of your company and the contents of the manual. You should also include your intent and strategy for your commercial drone operations.
You should include contact details of the Accountable Manager for any queries relating to the manual.
This section is for you to include the safety details of your company. You should cover your company as a whole in addition to your drone operation.
Include any existing company policies relating to safety in this section such as health and safety policies.
This section is for you to provide the details of your company, the staff roles and general safety during operation. The following sections should be covered:
Structure – Detail the company structure in an organisational chart.
Roles and Responsibilities – Go through the company roles you have specified and note in basic terms their responsibilities. You should name the Accountable Manager but aren’t required to provide any other names unless desired.
Flight Team – Detail how the composition of the flight team may vary dependent on the type of operation such as the addition of crew members. This should be assessed in the planning stages of the operation late in the manual.
Qualification Requirements – Provide details on the qualifications required for members of your flight crew.
Operation of Multiple SUA – Information should be given on the mitigations for operating different aircraft (familiarisation with controls and emergency procedures). Factors such as the weight category of the aircraft used by the company and the differing legal limitations should also be included.
Training Program – Detail any additional training required for staff inclusive of health and safety etc. Note how this is delivered, by who and how it will be assessed.
Crew Health – Include a statement on the requirements and procedures for ensuring staff are fit to work as part of your flight team. This may be putting the onus on staff to self-assess their well-being according to a specific model.
Accident Prevention – Detail how you will mitigate the risk of accidents. Equipment, operational planning, weather and human factors should be considered as a minimum.
Accident and Incident Procedure – Provide the information on your accident and incident response and process you will use to report events to the appropriate organisations.
Documents, Logs and Records – Detail all documents, logs and records used in any capacity along with who they’re assigned to. You should include these as part of your appendices.
This section is for you to detail information on the specific procedures relating to your flight operations.
Operating Limitation and Conditions – Provide detail on the operating limitations and conditions specific to your weight classification of aircraft in accordance with the regulations.
Risk Management – Explain how your organisation will conduct risk management and how hazards and risks will be assessed. More information on what to include in an assessment can be found here. https://www.heliguy.com/blog/2017/09/28/drone-safety/
Communication – Discuss how the crew will keep in contact with themselves and any third-parties such as air traffic controllers or the emergency services.
Pre-Notification – Detail what process will be used if operating in or close to an Aerodrome Traffic Zone, controlled airspace, aircraft operating site or potentially sensitive site. Outline who will be notified and by what means.
Site Permissions – Detail the procedure for gaining landowner permission and how you will record it.
Weather – Note the method used for obtaining the weather reports with a focus on the impact on aircraft operation as well as onsite weather readings such as wind speed, precipitation and visibility.
Determine Intended Tasks and Feasibility – Discuss how you will assess the feasibility and safety of each flight from the planning stage up to the flight. Appendices should be included as applicable.
Operating Site Planning and Assessment – Provide information on the planning and assessment of the operating site. This should include factors such as controlled airspace, NOTAMs, physical hazards and all other relevant information.
Onsite Procedures – The following sections should be detailed: site survey, operating area, crew briefing, cordon procedure, communication, weather checks, refuelling, and loading of equipment.
Pre-Flight Assembly and Functions Check – Summarise the checks completed prior to flight. A separate pre-flight checklist should be created to be used before each flight and filed as an appendix.
Flight Procedures – Include a basic description of flight operation and who is responsible for each area.
During and Post Flight Check – Detail checks completed within and after the flight.
Emergency Procedures – Detail the procedure of what will happen in different emergency scenarios. You should include what the event may be, pilot response, crew response and any follow-up action that may be required.
The following documents could be included as an attachment to your Operations Manual, dependent on what you have discussed:
- Final copy of your PfCO once issued by the CAA
- A copy of your insurance documents. Insurance should cover you for your Flight Assessment
- Maintenance log for aircraft inspection and repairs
- Tasking request form including the preliminary information on tasks and clients
- Pre-site planning form for airspace information, risk assessments etc.
- On-site survey for immediately before the flight
- Incident log to record the details of any job incidents
- A log book for all flight times
- Battery log for charging and discharging
Volume 2 – Aircraft Systems
Volume 2 covers the details of your specific aircraft, most of which will be found in the aircraft manual. You must create a version of volume 2 for every aircraft you use commercially.
Similarly to volume 1, you must start volume 2 with an amendment record and acronym and abbreviation list. You should also include a picture of your aircraft on the title page.
The following subsections are required under a section titled ‘Systems’:
Design and Manufacturing – The aircraft manufacturer, distributor, type and model name should be included.
Design Flight Envelope – Detail should be provided such as max thrust, max velocity, operating temperature, flight time etc. Some information may not be available for all aircraft so include the maximum available. For custom-built aircraft, the maximum information should be included.
Air Vehicle Characteristics – Details of the physical size and weight of the aircraft.
Design Features – Include details such as off the shelf status and any assembly required.
Construction – Note the materials the aircraft is constructed from.
Electrical Power – Detail battery type and specifications.
Propulsion System – Include motor and propeller specifications.
Flight Management System – Provide any available information on the flight management system.
Navigation, Guidance and Landing Aid – Detail the systems used for navigation and aircraft flight modes available.
Payloads – Provide the specifications of any additions to the aircraft including fixed and detachable cameras.
Emergency Systems – All system failsafe modes should be noted such as the various RTH functions.
Modifications – Describe any alterations made to the aircraft following its initial design.
Remote Controller – Include all specifications of the remote controller including frequencies, power output and device specifications.
Whole System Single Points of Failure (SPOF) – Detail any aspect of the aircraft that if it failed, would cause system failure.
RPS – Provide details of any supplementary device that’s used when operating the aircraft. Include physical technology and apps.
Maintenance and Inspection – Explain the intended maintenance checks and logs for the aircraft including their frequency.
Spares – Describe the process of how and where to obtain spares, as well as validity checks.
Repair – Detail who will action any necessary repairs.
Known Failure Modes – Include common issues like battery failure, RTH issues and pilot error.
Failsafe Features – Note any information on failsafe designs within your aircraft.
Transportation Requirements – Detail how you will transport your equipment including carrying cases and everything else used.
Appendices – Include a pre-flight checklist for your aircraft and flight procedures list as well as any other supporting documents used in this section.
Volume 3 – Safety Assessment / OCS
As we mentioned in the above, for new pilots applying for their PfCO, only volumes 1 and 2 are likely to be required. Volume 3 is usually only for experienced pilots who’re applying for exemptions for reduced operation limitations from the CAA.
For this, you would have to include risk and self-assessments to show skill and knowledge levels as well as ensuring complete risk mitigation.
Exemptions are addressed on a case by case basis with the CAA.
Heliguy are able to provide individual guidance on a consultancy basis for support with volume 3 of an Operations Manual.
General Operations Manual Tips
Here are some general tips to keep in mind when you’re writing your Operations Manual:
- If you use terms like ‘ALARP’, make sure you use them in the right context. Using phrases and acronyms without a thorough understanding will waste the time of the NQE and may result in a rejection of that version from the CAA.
- Do your research! Know what you’re talking about.
- Make the information clear. Don’t try to sound intelligent and use ‘big’ words. The Operations Manual can be hard enough to understand so just keep it simple.
- We’ve said it many different times in different ways but make sure it’s an original piece of work created by you. Don’t buy templates or pay for services to write the details for you.
- Keep in mind that everything you write in the manual, you will have to do on every single flight. Only include what’s necessary.
- If in doubt, speak to your NQE. They’re there to help you through each stage of the process so use them when you need them.
Why Choose Heliguy
When completing training through Heliguy, our team will walk you through the confusing process of writing your Operations Manual. Guides and samples will be supplied to aid the writing process.
The team will review your manual before submitting to the CAA to ensure its approval and avoid delay in the process.
Heliguy have an impeccable approval rate for Operation Manuals, likely due to their high standards.
Heliguy are also a DJI approved retailer and repair centre with a wealth of knowledge on all things drones. All of the team offer assistance with a variety of different queries due to their wide-ranging experience.
For more information on why Heliguy stands out from other PfCO, head to our previous blog post here.
Other Training Available from Heliguy
As well as Heliguy’s PfCO training course, several other training options are available through Heliguy:
- New Pilot Event – In partnership with DJI, Heliguy offer a free monthly event in their Newcastle training facility. Attendees will be given an overview of DJI’s product range, an insight into the drone industry including businesses and basic air law and have a chance to get some hands-on experience with drones.
- Drone Video Editing Course – In Heliguy’s Newcastle office, a video editing course is available. The course is a beginner’s guide on how to capture the best drone footage and edit into something commercially worthwhile.
- ES-Dot Training – Tailor-made training for the emergency services including the Police, Fire & Rescue, Ambulance, Mountain Rescue, Coast Guard and control centre support staff for the deployment of UAS.
- Flight Assessment Preparation – A training day design to help prepare you for your flight assessment. We will deliver a theory refresher, discuss case studies and deliver individual advice and support.
- NQE Adoption – For a candidate who have completed their Ground School with another provider or have a PPL or CPL licence. We will arrange a refresher or help with the submission of your Operations Manual and Flight Assessment.
Keep checking back to Heliguy’s Insider Blog for more announcements, insights into drones and, of course, the latest news from the drone industry.
David is Heliguy’s Blogger and Head of Digital Content Production. David keeps our readers up to date with drone news within the ever-changing industry.