On 20 and 21st December 2018, Gatwick Airport was thrown into chaos by the sightings of a drone near one of the runways that went through the night and most of the following day. 1000 flights were delayed or cancelled, meaning over 140000 thousand passengers were left stranded at the airport’s busiest time of the year. Some were trying to go on winter sun vacations, some were simply trying to get home to spend Christmas with family, as well as thousands of other reasons that are all equally as important, frustrating and upsetting for those caught up in the madness.
We were all glued to the story as it unfolded over the course of hours, and then days. Sightings were still being reported 32 hours after the first spot. Although one poor innocent couple were arrested and then released on suspicion of being the perpetrators, having their Christmas ruined by false accusations and vilification by some UK tabloid press, no other suspects have yet been apprehended.
What this incident, as well as the slightly less disruptive occasion at Heathrow three days later, has highlighted is that many, many people have drones, or access to unmanned aircraft. We all know someone who got a drone for Christmas. In fact, in the UK, nearly two thirds of drone sales are thought to be Christmas gifts. Now while the genuine rogue pilots at Gatwick and Heathrow may or may not have been licensed – impossible to say as the registration of drones doesn’t come into effect until towards the end of 2019 – the incident truly highlights the impact of poorly planned and researched flights, and demonstrates the vital importance of using a registered and insured professional company for any and all drone work.
Let’s look at an example:
Your business needs aerial photographs or video footage to put on your website and in your client brochures. Why would you pay hundreds, or even thousands of pounds to a regulated company to gain the relevant footage and not just ask your nephew, Keith, who has a hobby drone and can do the work for a fraction of the price, or maybe even for free?
Now we should be asking some basic questions:
- What happens if Keith has a problem with his aircraft that means he cannot fly at all, or it causes the craft to crash into property or a person causing damage and injury?
- Has Keith studied and prepared for unforeseen eventualities when flying an aircraft?
- Has he spent years perfecting both his photography as well as his pilot skills?
- What if Keith is unaware of a nearby airport? It’s not just the main hubs you need to worry about – smaller airports and army bases are also covered by the CAA regulations. You may not know there is a small airport or army base just down the road from the garden, site or house of which you wish to get shots until the neighbour calls the police who issue anything from a £2500 fine or up to 5 years in prison.
Here are 5 great reasons for using a regulated CAA approved operator for any aerial work attached to your business:
1.Protect yourself and your business – You and your business could be liable if you use an unregulated and uninsured person for your paying work.
2. Safety and Insurance – in order to undertake paid work, drone pilots must have completed training, have an approved detailed operations manual to the CAA, and have public liability insurance.
3. Permissions and use of software – a regulated drone operator will spend time gaining the correct permissions to fly in the relevant zone, and offer solutions to any problems that arise. They may use specialised software, for example, giving details of an area that may not be immediately obvious from the ground, as well as planned flights by other aircraft, both manned and unmanned.
4. Optimum results – if your nephew had been given a pair of scissors for Christmas but not done any kind of professional training, would you ask him to give you a free haircut? Similarly you won’t get the best from the shoot relying on inexperienced operators!
5. Professionality – by using someone who is regulated and licensed they will have many hours of flying time experience, all the relevant insurances as well as photography and video knowledge, you ensure that you are protected and the public are kept safe, and importantly your project is delivered at the highest possible standard.
In short, to get the best, safest, and legal footage you need, it is essential to always use a regulated drone company for your project!