Mention the '7 KG rule' to anyone in the drone industry and you are guaranteed to spark a lengthy debate. The truth is, however, not everyone knows the letter of the law currently. Many prospective pilots are obsessed with building a rig below the fabled 7kg mark to enable flight in congested areas - even if it's to the detriment of their camera configuration or even redundancy.
'Congested areas' is an all encompassing term and is one which is difficult to define. It's very much open to interpretation. It would however be a mistake to assume that the term only applies to large cities. This is the CAA's attempt:
"In relation to a city, town or settlement, means any area which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes."
What you do in Congested Area's
So currently, if you have a rig over 7kg, it would severely limit the work you were able to undertake. The obsession with staying below this threshold then begins to make sound business sense. However, there are plenty of companies out in the field who already have a rig above this threshold. There's plenty more who are looking to adopt UAV technology and require larger camera systems in the air. Something had to change.
In response to pressure, the CAA have introduced CAOSC. These new guidelines will still allow a sub-7kg rig to operate in congested areas without permission. However, it now means those above the limit can now apply for abiding (1 year) special permission which (once approved) would allow any rig between 7Kg and 20Kg to operate in congested areas.
This is great news for everyone. It means the CAA can maintain better control as they will know exactly who will be operating rigs in much greater detail than before - there will be a real focus on airworthiness and operator competence for obvious reasons. It's great too for the industry, as it now means reputable companies no longer have to worry about the potentially crippling limitations of the 7Kg rule. It's a sensible step forward but as with everything there is a slight catch. CAOSC is entirely separate to your ops manual so will mean another chunk of paper work. The two documents have a mutual interest so any changes made will likely require amendments to both.
Be sure to contact your licensing company if you need any further advice. heliguy™ can also advise on how best to spec your rig in light of the rule adjustment. Contact us today to speak in person about this.