Sunday, December 25, 2016

Drones of 20kg and above currently require third party liability insurance under EU law unless they are state aircraft, belonging to the military, customs or police services (EU Regulation 785/2004). In addition, all commercial drones, no matter their weight, require insurance. Leisure users of drones under 20kg do not currently require insurance. The EU Regulation in question also defines limits for the minimum amount of third party liability insurance required, based on the mass of the aircraft on take- off. We are also aware that the insurance industry is proceeding with caution into the drones sector, due to the lack of data on drones and the potential serious risks they could pose. Some insurers have stopped including cover for the use of a drone in larger, all-encompassing policies, such as house insurance. The Government is also aware that a lot of policies currently do not cover operator error. As most accidents and incidents contain an element of human factors this is an unacceptable position.

As drone use increases, the Government wants to ensure that the drone insurance market can adapt to match the pace of change and new situations in which drones are used. This is vital for the protection of those negatively affected by an incident, as well as to give businesses and individual’s confidence that they have adequately insured themselves.

They have 2 proposal options:

Work with industry to provide more suitable cover
Mandate improved policy cover for drone pilots.
The latter would involve the enabling of a primary power to set the standard for drone insurance. This would be categorized by risk factors, such as aircraft mass. Should this come into force the insurance industry would need to mitigate the risk by itself mandating operational processes and training.

Increasing leisure drone awareness of the law
The Government has already funded the CAA to advertise safety awareness for leisure drone operators in the form of Dronesafe and is looking to expand on this campaign. It is also considering mandating the inclusion of official guidance at the point of sale and increasing advertising of the rule sets and guidance. They are looking at what form this information should take and they are investigating the complexity of the laws as they stand.

We wholeheartedly support the initiative to give leisure users more information to make them safer and more knowledgeable with respect to the rules. Sadly, knowing the rules is not the complete picture.

There is currently no competency requirement or knowledge assessment for leisure users of drones. Given that leisure users of drones are often very new to the world of aviation, they are often unaware of the rules and how challenging flying a drone can be. The safety of other airspace users and the general public is dependent on leisure drone users adhering to the rules and understanding the risks.

The Government is therefore considering whether on top of the educational guidance on the rules that already exists, there should also be a knowledge or situational awareness test (similar to the driving theory and hazard test) that leisure users could or would have to undertake. Such a test could either be voluntary, or wrapped up into a mandatory registration process. There would likely be a similar threshold of exclusion to registration, i.e. drone owners/users of drones weighing below the drone registration threshold would not be required to take such a test.

Training is the key to operating safely in the air. The effectiveness of that training will define the end result.

We get a lot of prospective pilots tell us they can get the training cheaper. This is because the quoted training provider is covering the minimum recommended in the guidance document CAA CAP 722. To be considered a trained pilot, and to be an operationally competent pilot takes much more. The skills a pilot needs can only be taught by real pilots in our view, as the lessons learned in manned aviation have a direct correlation to drone flying. That training must be delivered by experienced instructors who have been taught how to get the message across in a number of different ways; to tailor the teaching to the learning style of the recipient. The difference in outlay is very small when you consider that the investment is in yourself. If you cannot invest in your own future what can you invest in?

The quality of our training is second to none. Merry Christmas!