UK CAA sets out guidelines on unmanned aircraft

UK CAA sets out guidelines on unmanned aircraft

7-Apr-2010 Source: CAA

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has today issued updated guidance on the use of unmanned aircraft, following recent legislative changes. The advice includes the new regulations affecting small, unmanned aircraft used for surveillance work.

Small, unmanned aircraft are increasingly being used for commercial aerial work such as surveillance and data gathering, as well as aerial photography and survey work. These new activities could bring unmanned aircraft into much closer proximity to built up areas and large groups of people. Unlike manned aircraft, or even model aircraft used for recreational purposes, there have been few established guidelines for operators, some of whom may not be aware of the potential hazards involved.

Therefore, operators of unmanned aircraft weighing less than 7 kg and undertaking aerial work, now require permission from the CAA. Unmanned aircraft being used within 150 metres of a congested area, or 50m of a person or vehicle, also now have to be authorised by the CAA. The new rules are intended to ensure public safety by applying appropriate operational constraints.

Expanded guidance regarding the reporting of incidents and occurrences involving the use of unmanned aircraft is also included in the revised CAA publication. Such reporting is viewed as being a vital element in the successful development of the emerging civilian unmanned aircraft industry.

A copy of the document, CAP 722: Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance, is available here

In line with continued developments in Unmanned Aircraft Systems terminology, and the principle that unmanned aircraft are still to be treated as aircraft rather than as a separate entity, the term ‘UAV’ has been gradually phased out from CAP 722 and replaced with the simple term ‘unmanned aircraft’ (UA). In line with this, the term ‘pilot’ (ie. the person who operates the controls for the aircraft) is used more frequently. The term ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft’ (RPA) is also emerging in some areas, although it has not yet been wholeheartedly accepted for use in the UK.

The CAA is the UK’s specialist aviation regulator. Its regulatory activities range from making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards to preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency.

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