Aerial Filming and the Law

Posted By: Matt Harris

Back in December we spotted a great opportunity in the market to extend our services into aerial filming. So we bought a DJI  Phantom quadcopter and all the accessories and started to teach ourselves how to fly and film. The results were pretty amazing with what seemed like a very small learning curve.

We then looked into the commercial side of operating and quickly discovered that the CAA are pretty hot on the legislation for these 'aircraft'. 

In order to operate legally and provide commercial services (i.e anything for financial recompense) you need to have CAA permissions; and in order to receive this you need to undertake a 2/3 day course, a written examination, write an ops manual (on how you as a company will operate safely) and then undertake a practical flight examination.

From start to finish we found the whole process is pretty lengthy and takes in the region of 5 months until you actually receive your offical permissions from the CAA.

Without this you can't get insurance and you're essentially operating illegally.

We actually think this is a very sensible approach. Lets be honest, it's too easy to get carried away, we hadn't any experience of flying before and certainly crashed a few times learning. This big gap from academic to practical examination allowed us to practise our flying skills and most importantly get a real understanding of safety, airpsace and operating in urban areas.

Model flying predominantly takes place in big fields, away from populations. Not the most photogenic of locations. The type of imagery we're trying to capture takes place at the other end of the spectrum and so a working knowledge of airspace is paramount.

As we work for some pretty big clients we knew that we had to do this officially and as the last thing this industry needs is a bunch of flying cowboys then it's vital to help this industry thrive. 

You need to be aware that anybody offering these services has to be able to prove their qualification, permission and insurance as it's just too risky to do otherwise.

It's vital to maintain the reputation of the industry at the outset as this is an entirely new sector with the potential to cause safety issues if undertaken lightly.

So make sure that whoever you're dealing with, that they have a qualification from one of the two organisations in the UK offering them right now Euro USC or Resource Group, the CAA Air Navigation order (2009) and requisite liability insurance.

It's easy enough - just look on their website for the CAA logo (below) as they can only show that if they've passed all the exams and successfully had all of their documentation approved.

For more information visit the CAA site here.

We've got some really exciting developments taking place with our aerial work - lots of filming work and we've teamed up with a fellow pilot to offer some simply outstanding work from an Octocopter....

Watch this space..

In the meantime here's our aerial showreel in case you missed it.