Barry Clack

Owner, Box Cottage Photography

Author Bio ▼

Presenter, film maker, drone operator, aerial cinematographer.
May 31, 2018

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Mobile access series #1: What you need to know

Cleared for takeoff – what you need to know about using drones for your security business

Drones with accessories suitable for surveillance, intelligence gathering and inspection are no longer the sole preserve of “big business” or the emergency services. Nor do you need to purchase bespoke or specialist commercial platforms to perform many basic tasks that could enhance your client offering.

The increasing availability – and reducing cost – of high-performance “off the shelf” consumer models and their “SME-friendly” commercial derivatives from the likes of DJI and Yuneec means that it has never been easier to introduce drone technology to your portfolio.

However there are strict rules governing the commercial use of drones as laid out in the Air Navigation Order. This is the legislation that governs the operation of all aerial operations in the UK, including unmanned aerial systems, also known as UAS or, more popularly, drones.

If you are looking to leverage this fast-growing new technology to gain an advantage over your competitors, there are two ways you can use drones in your business and stay on the right side of the law – both of which will involve making sure that the drone pilots you use are covered by a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO).

Contract an authorised drone operator

For some security professionals, drones are a valuable tool for occasional use at known times. Examples could be security for a pre-planned event, a contract for regular checking and assessment of physical perimeter security, or short-term VIP protection tasks.

In cases such as these, contracting a fully qualified drone operator may be the most suitable approach. The UK’s airspace regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), currently lists over 6,000 holders of a PfCO in the UK, the majority of whom are individual freelance drone operators and specialist drone-operating companies.

Before contracting a drone operator you need to ensure that they have a valid PfCO and that they are fully insured for task you require. Operators with a PfCO will undertake full due diligence checks including site surveys and check for airspace restrictions, gaining any necessary permissions or exemptions to ensure they can operate. Not all PfCO holders can operate in all locations – some will have enhanced permissions that allow them to operate at night, or in built-up areas, most will not.

Engaging an approved operator can be an ideal way to access drone technology for occasional use on specific contracts and enhance your client offering.

Run your own in-house drone operation

Engaging contractors is not going to be sensible if you need a rapid-reaction drone solution, where you’ve been engaged on a long-term project for clients, or in sensitive situations where using your own security-cleared staff is the only option.

In cases such as this putting your own staff through the necessary steps to gain a PfCO could be the right choice.

The CAA has delegated the responsibility for training and assessment for the award of PfCO to several National Qualified Entities (NQEs). These training organisations offer courses designed to take staff from zero experience to fully competent and safe drone operators. The courses include ground school and theory exams, as well as a practical flight test and the production and assessment of a drone operations manual.

Several NQEs have specialised in corporate training for civil and private organisations, and once your organisation and staff are approved you will have the flexibility to deploy this valuable resource whenever the need arises.

You will need to make sure that as well as being awarded a PfCO, all your drone operations are specifically covered with appropriate insurance. Specialist drone insurers have now entered the market, and already innovations are appearing such as “pay as you go” cover and policies which provide specialist flight safety and monitoring apps.

IFSEC Drone Clinic

As part of the IFSEC International 2018 Drone Zone the CAA will be holding a “drone clinic”. Experts will be on hand to answer all your questions about the commercial use of drones and giving advice on regulatory compliance, training, and specialist operations. Register to attend here.

 

 

 

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