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UK PfCO and Public Places

Joined
Oct 29, 2014
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Location
Colchester, Essex
Hi,

I've held my PfCO for three years now (PFAW prior) and have been capturing aerial imagery from helicopters (RC and Full Size) from around 2003.

My question relates to 'Public Places', and launching from them in pursuit of imagery.

I find that I don't fly and capture what could be great portfolio shots due to this grey area that exists (at least in my mind) and I'd like to see how what the feedback is. These would be seen to be for valuable consideration as I'd use them for marketing.

Assuming there are no bye laws in place, and no local signs / bans to prevent you launching how often do you fly for yourselves to capture your own footage? Being a PfCO holder with the requirement to seek permission from landowners of land you overfly I have always seen this as being very restrictive for these types of flights, and one of those that could catch you out, so I've always kept away from them.

If it's for a job, I've no issue with hunting down the relevant owners etc. (harder than it seems at times), but for the occasional flight where you just want to fly and capture some stock footage, what are your views?

Do you go the go the whole hog, and seek permission every time, or do you try and find public land nearby (assuming its all within the confines of your permission clearances)?

Lets assume there are two scenarios:

1. Take off point and target are both on public land.

2. take off point is on pubic land, target is on private land.

Just trying to see what the consensus of opinion is and find a practical approach.

Cheers

Lee
 
I fly frequently from the intertidal zone with no permission. My PfCO or the ANO does not state that I need permission from land owners to flyover, assuming all standard rules are adhered to. However, I do try and inform where practical to do so, commercial or not.
 
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From what I understand, the CAA have softened their stance on permissions recently, accepting that you need to simply make sure you are not trespassing rather than always obtaining outright and explicit permission... but it's still a massively grey area.

So:

1) it depends on the land and the landowner - all land in the uk is owned by someone, even 'public' land. In the absence of explicit information to the contrary, I would anticipate that you should be able to take off and fly, so long as you remain within the ANO & your PfCO. Do note though the public rights of way are rights of way for foot traffic, byways are for foot traffic plus others such as horses and cycles, and BOATs (often called green lanes) are Byways open to all Traffic. Public land owned by councils or by the highways dept or the crown, you'd need to see if they have any UAS policies in place. The Crown does and some UAS use is permitted by them.

2) Presuming the answer to 1) above is that you can legally take off at that location without trespassing, then it makes no difference if the 'target' is public or private land. Once in the air, you have freedom of navigation within the rules laid down in the ANO.

the trouble is that drones are a new and evolving technology, and the laws haven't kept up with the advances recently.

If it's safe to take off/land and to carry out the mission within the ANO and PfCO, and you can do so without causing trespass or breaking any bylaws, then you should be good to go.

Sorry, doesn't really clarify anything ;)
 
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I think I’m with IrishSights on this one.

If you are taking off from a location that is open to the public (ie you are not trespassing), has no specific bylaws preventing drone flight and you have at least 30m clearance during take off and 50m clearance during flight from any people, vessels, vehicles, or structures for which you don’t have control then you are good to go. (Note to self, need to learn to construct shorter sentences!)

The ANO does not prevent you flying over empty land as long as your altitude is over 50m.
 
Thanks for the positive replies so far.

Picking up on what MrTVR said, assuming that you are not trespassing and have the relevant safety clearances etc (let’s assume the ground ops are all covered and legal), I’ve scoured CAP393 and 722 and the reference is focussed on taking off, landing and the clearances required whilst airborne, and not being on top of (unless you are in control).

Once above 50m, assuming you are not on top of persons or vehicles, and you maintain the MSD of 50m to everything you don’t have control over, I can’t find anything that starts otherwise.

Whilst the ANO does not specifically state you can do it, there’s nothing in there to the contrary that I can find. If there is feel free to chime in (I’ve had a long day with flight delays so may have missed something).
 
No, querying the 50m min alt. I've not seen anything in ANO or PfCO that stipulates a min height for uas. A min separation from people and infrastructure/objects yes, but not height.

I think the CAA would apply common sense (I know, many things in life are common, but sense ain't one if them :D ) when deciding if ground, plants, trees and hedges needed to be 'under your control' - only time I've felt ground wasn't under my control was when experiencing an earthquake & after imbibing a bit too much o_O:D
 
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No, querying the 50m min alt. I've not seen anything in ANO or PfCO that stipulates a min height for uas. A min separation from people and infrastructure/objects yes, but not height.

I think the CAA would apply common sense (I know, many things in life are common, but sense ain't one if them :D ) when deciding if ground, plants, trees and hedges needed to be 'under your control' - only time I've felt ground wasn't under my control was when experiencing an earthquake & after imbibing a bit too much o_O:D

My answer was somewhat sloppy, i was rushing, as usual.

I thought initially that you were suggesting that the ANO imposed flight restrictions over land for which you didn’t have permission to operate from. I didn’t realise your question related to my reference to the 50m MSD in the same sentence.

I was referring to the 50m MSD from the PfCO. Whilst it may not be a legal requirement, I have always tried to maintain 50m MSD when flying (with a camera) over land for which I have no permission to operate from. Am I going ott with privacy concerns here?
 
Just to clear things up a bit.

There is (and never has been) a minimum height requirement regarding sub 20kg UAV's anywhere in the ANO. Only a maximum agl limit of 400ft.
The usual separation rules of 50/30m obviously apply (unless permitted closer via OSC) for People, Vehicles, Vessels, and Structures not under your control although the restriction of 150m from a congested area for sub 7kg has been rendered moot since the publication of IN-2014/184 which allows for operation within a congested area as standard.
 
Thanks all, very helpful comments.

I've just scoured my PfCO (issued last March) and as NickU mentioned, the CAA have relaxed their approach.

Reading my PfCO, as long as I am not trespassing and there are no bylaws in place (therein lies another conversation) or have the landowners permission, and assuming all MSD's are maintained (including the 150m of an open area assembly etc.) once airborne and I'm pretty clear to navigate the airway.

I'm surprised the CAA have removed the 'directly overhead' references to highways and property not under the pilots control though.

Thanks everyone.
 
Hi heliraptor.

It seems that the CAA are Tweaking the wording of the PfCO (PFAW as was) quite regularly.

Please can you post your PfCO wording so we can compare it to our (older) permissions?
 
Sure, valid form last March so soon to be renewed, but it varies quite bit from the previous year

Note: Just the under 7kg section uploaded as that's all I fly.

full
 
Last edited:
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Landowners don’t own the air over their land. The FAA does. That’s why rules and regulations are established by them and not local or state governments.

You can fly in any public place as long as you’re following FAA rules and or local codes. Absolutely no issue with flying over private property unless it’s a sporting event, power plant etc... All the things under the FAA rules and regulations.

Sounds like you are from the UK. Not sure if regulations are the same there or not.


Hi,

I've held my PfCO for three years now (PFAW prior) and have been capturing aerial imagery from helicopters (RC and Full Size) from around 2003.

My question relates to 'Public Places', and launching from them in pursuit of imagery.

I find that I don't fly and capture what could be great portfolio shots due to this grey area that exists (at least in my mind) and I'd like to see how what the feedback is. These would be seen to be for valuable consideration as I'd use them for marketing.

Assuming there are no bye laws in place, and no local signs / bans to prevent you launching how often do you fly for yourselves to capture your own footage? Being a PfCO holder with the requirement to seek permission from landowners of land you overfly I have always seen this as being very restrictive for these types of flights, and one of those that could catch you out, so I've always kept away from them.

If it's for a job, I've no issue with hunting down the relevant owners etc. (harder than it seems at times), but for the occasional flight where you just want to fly and capture some stock footage, what are your views?

Do you go the go the whole hog, and seek permission every time, or do you try and find public land nearby (assuming its all within the confines of your permission clearances)?

Lets assume there are two scenarios:

1. Take off point and target are both on public land.

2. take off point is on pubic land, target is on private land.

Just trying to see what the consensus of opinion is and find a practical approach.

Cheers

Lee
 
Landowners don’t own the air over their land. The FAA does. That’s why rules and regulations are established by them and not local or state governments.

You can fly in any public place as long as you’re following FAA rules and or local codes. Absolutely no issue with flying over private property unless it’s a sporting event, power plant etc... All the things under the FAA rules and regulations.

Sounds like you are from the UK. Not sure if regulations are the same there or not.
This is a UK specific thread so the rules are different to anything the FAA come up with. The UK air rules are ratified in law under the Air Navigation Order which is an act passed by Parliament.
The US has some grey boundaries and wishy washy 'rules' which have not been made law, which is probably where a lot of the ambiguity stems from.
 
Just checking and regardless of what it says on your PfCO (mine copied above), CAP722 Section 3, Chapter 3.27 clearly states...

'In any circumstances or mass category, it must be noted that flights directly overhead persons and vehicles will not be allowed at any height in a congested area, or otherwise, unless these vehicles and persons are under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft"

Is there "or otherwise" comment a catch all meaning everywhere else?
 
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Just checking and regardless of what it says on your PfCO (mine copied above), CAP722 Section 3, Chapter 3.27 clearly states...

'In any circumstances or mass category, it must be noted that flights directly overhead persons and vehicles will not be allowed at any height in a congested area, or otherwise, unless these vehicles and persons are under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft"

Is there "or otherwise" comment a catch all meaning everywhere else?
PfCO overides anything else since it is a specific (personal) permission granted to you by the CAA.
Otherwise a close proximity OSC permission would be overridden by what it says in the ANO.
 

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