Revised CAP 722: Updates To The New UK Drone Laws

  • CAA issues updates to new drone laws starting in the UK at the end of 2020;
  • For commercial operators, new Pre-Defined Risk Assessments (PDRAs) have been issued;
  • Changes are being made to the drone registration test – with an increased number of questions;
  • Fresh clarity on legislation for drones with ‘Follow Me’ mode, and guidance on commercial pilot currency;
  • Read this blog for an in-depth look at the updates, plus an overview of the new UK drone laws.

New guidance issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) highlights key updates to UK drone laws which are set to start at the end of 2020.

The Civil Aviation Publication, entitled Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance, was released yesterday.

It is a revised version of CAP 722; the primary guidance document for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems within the UK.

Key updates include:

  • Two published Pre-Defined Risk Assessments (PDRAs), which will help shape commercial drone operations;
  • More clarity on drone pilot currency requirements;
  • Increased number of questions in the drone registration exam; this is especially relevant to hobbyist and recreational pilots;
  • Fresh clarity on legislation for drones with ‘Follow Me’ mode;
  • New guidance to alcohol limitations.

The revised CAP 722 provides further clarity on certain aspects of the new UK drone rules which are due to start on December 31, 2020, having been delayed twice this year.

Read this blog for an in-depth look at the key updates to CAP 722.

The new rules will affect the majority of drone users in the UK. For an overview, use this accordion below, or click here.

Overview: New UK Drone Rules

New drone regulations are to be introduced in the UK on December 31, 2020 – and they have the potential to unlock more flying opportunities for more people.

The regulations will do away with the terms ‘commercial and non-commercial’ drone flights, and will instead focus on the type of operation being conducted; the level of risk; and the level of performance.

When the new laws begin, drone flights will fall into one of three categories. These are:

  • Open: Operations that present a low (or no) risk to third parties. Aimed at recreational users and some professional pilots.
  • Specific: Operations that cannot be performed or present a greater risk than the Open Category. Majority of enterprise pilots.
  • Certified: Operations that present an equivalent risk to that of manned aviation. These are high-complexity operations.

The Open Category

The Open Category will be divided into three specific subcategories, dictating how you can fly:

A1: Fly over people
A2: Fly close to people
A3: Fly far from people

New classes of drones (C0-C4) will be introduced, based on weight and other factors.

Certain classes of drone can be operated in certain categories/subcategories.

However, no drones with these classes currently exist.

Therefore, a Transitional Period will run from December 31, 2020, to January 1, 2023 (extended from July 2022), to give manufacturers a chance to introduce drones relating to the new class guidelines.

This means you can continue to operate your current DJI drones, which will become known as ‘legacy’ aircraft.

These legacy aircraft will fall into the various categories/subcategories, determined by their weight, your mission, and level of competency.

The table below provides the operational requirements for the Open Category. Click on the image to enlarge it for a better view.

A2 CofC Open Category Qualification – Why You Need It

Holding an A2 CofC will allow you to fly in the A2 subcategory, as well as the A2 Transitional and A1 Transitional subcategories of the Open Category.

If you don’t hold an A2 CofC, you could find yourself having to operate in the A3 subcategory (fly far from people), restricting where/how you can fly your drone.

If you have an A2 CofC (lasting five years before renewal), then the A2 subcategory (fly close to people) will let you fly a C2-class aircraft (based on specific criteria, including a 4kg maximum take-off mass) down to a maximum distance of 30m horizontally from uninvolved people. Or up to 5m in ‘low-speed mode’.

During the Transitional Period, an A2 CofC will let you operate ‘legacy’ aircraft (such as your current DJI drone without a class marking) with a flying weight of up to 2kg in the A2 Transitional subcategory. You will be able to fly up to 50m horizontally from uninvolved people.

Having an A2 CofC will also allow you to operate a ‘legacy’ drone with a flying weight of up to 500g in the A1 Transitional subcategory, which stipulates no intentional flights over uninvolved persons.

You can obtain an A2 CofC with Heliguy. Find out more here.

A2 CofC – How You Get It

Candidates can complete this course via Heliguy Blackbox, our online drone training platform.

The A2 CofC is typically a one-day Ground School course, culminating in a theory examination.

But the advantage of utilising Heliguy Blackbox is that candidates can complete the syllabus at their own pace whilst still retaining access to our training team throughout the process.

What Does The A2 CofC Course Involve?

The course covers topics such as basic principles of flight, congested area operations, avoiding collision, battery safety, and
environmental factors, followed by the theory exam.

There are no requirements to complete a practical flight test or Operations Manual.

What Do I Have To Do In The Exam?

The 75-minute exam – sat in formal conditions – comprises 30 multiple-choice questions.

It is a closed-book format and the minimum pass mark is 75%.

Any candidate with a recognised disability/additional needs will receive an extra 15 minutes.

Heliguy candidates who are unsuccessful can re-sit at a later date for no additional fee.

Candidates training online can sit the exam remotely, using a webcam to maintain virtual exam conditions.

Do I Have To Do Anything Else?

Yes. You must also complete a period of practical flight training, either with Heliguy (additional fee applies), or under self-monitored
circumstances. You can do this before or after the Ground School course.

Before you start training, ensure you have registered your drone and completed the training assessment of the CAA’s Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service.

You cannot use your A2 CofC until the new rules start.

The Specific Category

Specific Category operations will follow similar requirements/permissions afforded by the PfCO, to become known as an
Operational Authorisation.

GVC – Qualification For The Specific Category

The GVC is a remote pilot competency certificate which provides a single qualification that is suitable for VLOS (Visual Line of Sight) operations within the Specific Category.

The Specific Category hinges on an Operational Authorisation being held by the drone operator, which has been issued by the CAA, before the operation can be commenced.

The Operational Authorisation – to replace the term PfCO – will be based upon a risk assessment that is completed by the UAS operator, or through a series of Pre-Defined Risk Assessments (PDRA) and/or Standard Scenarios (STS).

The GVC can be augmented by a number of additional modules, such as EVLOS, which will be released at a later date. Heliguy will release more information about these bolt-on modules soon.

The GVC, along with any additional modules that are attached to it, is valid for a period of five years.

You can obtain a GVC with Heliguy. Find out more by clicking here.

Until 31 December 2020, candidates will be taught a hybrid syllabus, comprising the current and future drone regulations for the UK.

Upon successful completion of the GVC course, candidates can apply to the CAA for Standard Permissions to operate commercially.

From December 31 2020, holders can continue to operate under the terms of their current permissions, but on renewal, these will convert to an Operational Authorisation.

GVC – How Do I Get It?

Candidates can complete this course via Heliguy Blackbox, our online drone training platform.

The GVC is typically a two-day Ground School course, culminating in a theory examination – the advantage of utilising Heliguy Blackbox is that candidates can complete the syllabus at their own pace whilst still retaining access to our training team throughout the process.

What Does The GVC Course Involve?

The GVC course syllabus will cover topics such as airlaw/responsibilities, UAS airspace operating principles, airmanship/aviation safety,
meteorology, and navigation/charts, among other things.

The GVC course will culminate in a theory test.

Candidates will also be required to complete a practical flight test, which will be taken on a separate date following successful completion of the course, as well as complete an Operations Manual.

What Do I Have To Do In The Theory Examination?

The exam – sat in formal conditions – comprises 40 questions. It is a closed-book format and the minimum pass mark is 75%.

Any candidate with a recognised disability/additional needs will receive an extra 10% of the allocated assessment time.

Candidates who are unsuccessful can re-sit at a later date for no additional fee.

Candidates training online can sit the exam remotely, using a webcam to maintain virtual exam conditions.

Do I Have To Do Anything Else?

Yes. You will need to register your drone and complete the mandatory Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service
training and examination.

What Happens If I Already Hold A PfCO?

Holders of a PfCO valid beyond December 31, 2020, can operate under the terms of their current permission, until the renewal date.

However, existing PfCO qualifications will remain valid only for a finite amount of time and will in the future need to be revalidated by an RAE such as Heliguy, at which point you will achieve the General Visual Line of Sight (GVC) qualification.

When you renew after the new legislation begins, the PfCO will become known as an Operational Authorisation, but you will be granted the same Standard Permissions as before and these will be converted into a PDRA.

The change in regulation must, however, be reflected within the Operations Manual accordingly.

However, if you have never had a PfCO and decide to sit an equivalent course, or if your PfCO has expired before December 31, 2020, and you don’t renew it, you will need to complete the GVC training.

Publication of PDRAs For Commercial Drone Pilots

Are you a commercial drone operator flying by standard permissions currently afforded by a PfCO?

Then the revised CAP 722 will be of interest as it contains the first published set of Pre-Defined Risk Assessments – crucial for the majority of enterprise missions.

Two PDRAs have been published: UKPDRA01 and UKPDRA02.

What Is A PDRA?

The intention of a PDRA is to reduce the amount of evidence or safety mitigation required to be presented by a UAS operator.

These permissions are built around simple, repeatable and high-volume types of operation, with easily defined safety rules.

They enable the drone operator to abide by standardised and pre-defined operational limitations.

UKPDRA01 – Does This Apply To Me?

UKPDRA01 enables drone fights within 150 metres of any residential, commercial, industrial or recreational area.

The drone must have a take-off mass of less than 25kg.

This particular PDRA will provide the same operating privileges to those previously available under a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO).

Under the new rules, a PfCO will be replaced by an Operational Authorisation, obtained by a drone operator who has passed a GVC exam.

As part of this PDRA, UAS operators must produce an Operations Manual which details how the flights will be conducted and have the correct insurance cover.

UKPDRA01 enables the following operations:

  • Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) only, maximum 500 metres horizontally from remote pilot; use of a UAS observer situated next to the remote pilot, is permitted;
  • Maximum height not to exceed 400 feet above the surface;
  • Flight permitted within 150 metres of any Residential, Commercial, Industrial or Recreational Area for UAS;
  • No flight within 50 metres of any uninvolved person, except that during take-off and landing this distance may be reduced to 30 metres;
  • No flight within Flight Restriction Zones unless permitted by the relevant aerodrome;
  • No flight over or within 150 metres of open-air assemblies of more than 1,000 persons.

However, there is one thing to bear in mind.

Aspects of this PDRA could change as it contains current regulations, which will soon be updated.

Or more specifically, we expect that the rule relating to no flights over or within 150 metres of open-air assemblies of more than 1,000 people will be amended.

This will likely soon change from the quantified 1,000 persons to the ability of people within that group to ‘escape’ from any risk posed by the UAS. The separation distance will remain the same.

UKPDRA02: Who Is This For?

The UKPDRA02 is a very specialist permission.

It applies to operators of drones with a maximum take-off weight between 25kg and 150kg who are conducting flights for research and development testing.

The purpose of this Pre-Defined Risk Assessment is to enable UAS manufacturers/developers to conduct initial ‘proof of concept’ flight tests without the need to produce a full risk assessment.

Only pilots with a valid GVC are permitted to fly under this PDRA and an Operations Manual which details how the flights will be conducted must be presented.

Numerous conditions apply to this PDRA, such as:

  • Flights must be conducted within a sterile area free of any uninvolved persons;
  • Daytime operations ONLY and within VLOS;
  • No flight within 50 metres horizontally from any uninvolved persons;
  • Maximum height not to exceed 400 feet above the surface;
  • Articles may be picked up by, raised to, and dropped or lowered from the UAS, provided the activity is confined to a sterile area defined for this purpose, and is conducted in a way that will not endanger persons or property;
  • Operations must not be conducted in controlled airspace (Class D and E), except with the permission of the appropriate Air Traffic Control Unit.

Currency Requirements For Drone Pilots

The new guidance document provides more detailed advice on currency requirements for drone pilots operating under an Operational Authorisation.

The guidance states that in addition to the minimum two hours flight time within the last three calendar months, practice should include:

  • A requirement to practice all manoeuvres that are relevant to the Operational Authorisation.

There is also a requirement to practice responses to abnormal conditions and in-flight failures on a regular basis, such as:

  • The ability to identify a deteriorating situation and react accordingly;
  • Taking manual control after a failure of any automated system;
  • Practice flight in ‘manual’ modes;
  • Identification of the potential for GNSS and compass loss or degradation.

These requirements have long since been detailed within the Operations Manual which Heliguy GVC candidates receive and as such, no amendments are required.

Drone Registration: Number Of Exam Questions To Increase

One of the changes which will impact the majority of drone pilots – especially hobbyists and recreational users – is the increase to the number of questions on the drone registration test.

The Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service started in the UK in November 2019.

Anyone who wants to fly a drone or model aircraft weighing between 250g and 20kg (soon to increase to 25kg) must register with the CAA.

There is a requirement to obtain a Flyer ID by completing free online training on the CAA’s website, culminating in a free multiple choice exam.

This applies to anyone above the age of 12 for the Open category, and 14 for the Specific category.

However, as of December 15, 2020, the number of questions will increase from 20 to 40. The questions will remain multiple choice.

The Flyer ID is valid for three years.

Addition Of ‘Follow Me’ Mode Legislation

Rules relating to drones with Follow Me modes have now been more clearly defined.

DJI drones with this feature include the DJI Mavic Air 2, Mavic 2 Pro, DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, and DJI Phantom 4.

Previously, there was a grey area surrounding drones with this capability, as Follow Me mode contravened other requirements.

However, provision has now been made, and this is incorporated in the new CAP 722 under the Open Category, which details the requirement for the aircraft to remain within 50m of the Remote Pilot when in Follow Me mode.

Alcohol Limitations

The CAP document now separates the alcohol limitations between the Open category and the Specific and Certified Category.

Open Category

The regulatory requirement is that remote pilots must not perform their duties under the influence of alcohol.

While no actual limits are specified, the alcohol consumption limitations that are prescribed for driving a car may be considered as an appropriate limit when flying in the Open category, ie, if you are fit to drive a car, you are fit to fly a drone.

These limits are:

Level of AlcoholEngland, Wales, Northern IrelandScotland
Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath3522
Micrograms per 100 millilitres of blood8050
Micrograms per 100 millilitres of urine10767

Personnel carrying out support functions that are directly related to the safe operation of the UAS while in flight, such as unmanned aircraft observers, or airspace observers, should comply with the same limitations.

Specific Category

The requirements are more stringent for the Specific Category, due to the more complex types of mission being performed.

Again, the regulatory requirement is that remote pilots must not perform their duties under the influence of alcohol.

But, while no actual limits are specified, the limits prescribed for manned aviation in Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 (RTSA 2003) Section 93 should be complied with.

These state:

Level of AlcoholAll UK Nations
Micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath9
Micrograms per 100 millilitres of blood20
Micrograms per 100 millilitres of urine27

Personnel carrying out support functions that are directly related to the safe operation of the UAS while in flight, such as unmanned aircraft observers, or airspace observers, should comply with the same limitations.

UAS operators will be expected to propose details of proposed alcohol limits for operational personnel within the risk assessment associated with their particular operation and will be reflected within the Operational Authorisation.

The same rules apply to operations in the Certified category.

Keep Up To Date With The Changes To Fly Legally And Safely

This edition of CAP 722 includes some fundamental advice and changes for drone pilots.

However, it is likely that we will see amended versions of CAP 722 over the coming months with the adoption of the EU regulations, coupled with the UK Exit from the European Union.

As we understand, in addition to the newly-released version of CAP 722, the Department for Transport (DfT) intends to amend the Air Navigation Order so that it reflects the applicability of the new UAS regulations.

Therefore, UAS operators are strongly encouraged to sign-up to the CAA SkyWise system to stay abreast of regulations as they change.

Heliguy will also be publishing more guidance to the new rules in due course, and please feel free to contact our training team for help and advice.

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Revised CAP 722: Updates To The New UK Drone Laws
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Revised CAP 722: Updates To The New UK Drone Laws
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New guidance issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) highlights key updates to UK drone rules which are set to start at the end of 2020.
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Heliguy
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