PfCO update for renewals and applications regarding the competent observer role

Commercial drone pilots, especially filmographers, should be aware of a change to the standard permission for PfCO applications and renewals.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has tweaked paragraph 3c of the permission of Small Unmanned Aircraft / Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft, in line with the Air Navigation Order (ANO) 2016.

Under the changes, the remote pilot must now be fully and solely responsible for the drone, keeping it within the ‘direct, unaided Visual Line of Sight (VLOS), out to a maximum range of 500 metres’.

The previous permission allowed the UAV to be flown by a remote pilot with the help of a ‘competent observer’ maintaining VLOS on the remote pilot’s behalf.

How the permission is worded

The previous part of the permission stated:

  …the small unmanned aircraft shall not be flown….Unless the small unmanned aircraft is maintained within the direct, unaided VLOS of the remote pilot, or a competent observer under the control of the remote pilot who is operating in accordance with procedures specified in the approved Operations Manual, out to a maximum range of 500 metres unless a lesser control link radio range has been specified by the manufacturer.

The new part of the permission states:

…the small unmanned aircraft shall not be flown….Unless the small unmanned aircraft is maintained within the direct, unaided VLOS of the remote pilot, out to a maximum range of 500 metres unless a lesser control link radio range has been specified by the manufacturer.

What you need to consider

It means that filmographers, for example, who are controlling a drone should now carefully consider using a separate camera operator, as the pilot is now required to keep their eyes predominantly on the UAV.

James is Heliguy’s Blogger and Drone Content Executive. James keeps our readers up to date with drone news within the ever-changing industry.

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