As a drone operator in the UK, staying updated with the latest regulations and requirements is crucial to ensuring the legality and safety of your operations. Recently, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has made significant changes to the requirements for applying for an initial issue or renewal of an Operational Authorisation (OA). This article will guide you through these changes and help you understand what they mean for your drone operations.
The two most common questions we’re getting asked at the moment from new and seasoned Drone Pilots alike when it comes time to apply for, or renew their CAA Drone Permissions or Operational Authorisation are:
- "Am I right in understanding that the CAA now want to see Drone Maintenance Log / Technical Logs, as well as my pilot flight logs?” and;
- “Where on earth can I find all the new Drone Specifications that the CAA are asking for in the application process? Surely I don’t need to give them ALL that information?!”
This blog post aims to answer these two main questions and help you navigate the new requirements, so you can quickly and easily get your OA Application into the CAA, get your drone license renewed, and fly, hassle-free for another 12 months! :)
UPDATED on 06 September 2023 to amend the CAA's requirements for 'Technical Specifications' to be added for each aircraft on the application/renewal. The CAA have changed this requirement from a 'mandatory' item, to an 'optional' item... For now.
A MASSIVE WIN for the industry!
Approx read time: 5 minutes
Table of Contents
The ‘new’ CAA OA Application / Renewal Requirements:
1. Detailed Technical Specifications for Drones
UPDATED on 6th September 2023 - The CAA has announced TODAY, that they are removing the mandatory requirement for GVC holders to have to upload the specifications for each drone, as per the original text in this blog post (shown below in case they decide to bring the requirement back in the future...).
They have stated to all RAEs, that they will be making this section of the form 'optional' and you won't need to provide details of these additional technical specifications for each drone, provided the required information is contained within your CAA Drone Operations Manual.
Original Text re Technical Specifications shown below:
Yep, your eyes aren’t deceiving you… The CAA now requires WAY more detailed information about the technical specifications of each drone you want to add to your OA as part of the application process. This often goes beyond what's required for inclusion in your CAA Drone Operations Manual, and a lot of the information the CAA ask for isn’t actually available for ‘off-the-shelf drones’.
As always, as a safe and responsible operator; it's essential to familiarise yourself with your drone's technical specifications and make sure you know the appropriate specifications and limitations that apply to the equipment you’re using, but, don’t worry too much if there is information in the application form that you can’t find or don’t have access to.
The CAA form now allows you to just put ‘N/A’ (Not Available) in the places where you don’t have the requested information (n.b. They didn’t allow you to do this at first until we all complained about it!)… So if you can’t find a requested piece of information/data, don’t sweat it too much… Just complete the information where you can and move on.
Exactly why this requirement for such detailed technical specs has been included in the latest iteration of the online process is a bit of a mystery to us. We can see why it might be a necessary requirement for people eventually operating in the Certified Category, but for those of us looking to operate in the Specific Category, we think it’s overkill… But, it’s the CAA’s train-set, and, for now, we have to do as they ask!
2. Flight Logs
While flight logs have always been a requirement for commercial operators, and have been pushed even harder since operators have been flying under PDRA-01, the CAA is now enforcing stricter requirements for logging flights. There are also a few nuances you need to be aware of when it comes to this requirement. This video is one that I created over on the original ‘Mr MPW YouTube Channel’ a few years ago, which walks viewers through the CAA Flight Log requirements for Drone Pilots operating their drones commercially.
Lots of people thought it was overkill at the time, but it’s now EXACTLY what the CAA are asking everyone to do. There’s even a FREE Download in the video description, with an excel spreadsheet that you can use to log (and automatically ‘add up’) your drone flights each month.
Go check it out and let us know in the comments below/in the video, if you found it useful!
You’re welcome! 🙂
3. Maintenance Logs
The inclusion of Maintenance Logs for each drone listed on the PDRA-01 / OA Application is a new requirement that seems to be catching some people off guard. Despite some industry voices over the last few years suggesting these logs were not necessary, they have always been a requirement, and keeping these logs up to date is now more important than ever. If you've been maintaining these logs, you'll have no additional work to do when applying for your OA. If not, you'll need to put in some extra work this time around, but you'll then be up to date with the current regulatory requirements from the CAA.
If you’ve not been keeping logs for your individual drones so far… Now’s the time to start. Think back through any maintenance you may have done (new props, new batteries, new vibration dampers etc), and start your logs from now, stating that you’ve had the drone(s) since ‘x’ date, have conducted ‘y’ maintenance on it/them so far and will start comprehensive logs from ‘z’ date.
The changes to the CAA's OA requirements may seem daunting, but they are designed to ensure the safety and legality of drone operations in the UK, especially under the new PDRA framework.
By understanding these changes and ensuring compliance, you can continue your drone operations with confidence.
Remember, staying updated with the latest drone laws and regulations is not just a regulatory requirement - it's an investment in your future as a drone operator. By enhancing your knowledge and skills, you can continue to operate safely and efficiently in the evolving drone landscape.
Stay tuned for our upcoming blog posts on the flight log requirements and the CAA’s newly required Drone Technical Specifications…
And, as always, don't hesitate to reach out to the UAVHub Team if you have any questions about the new OA Application / Renewal requirements.
At UAVHub, we're here to help you navigate the world of drone operations in the UK.
Fly safe & blue skies,
Q: What are the additional CAA requirements for applying for an Operational Authorisation (OA)?
A: The new CAA requirements for applying for an OA include providing more detailed technical specifications for each drone you want to add to your OA, maintaining and submitting flight logs, and keeping up-to-date maintenance logs for each drone listed on your PDRA-01 / OA Application.
Q: Do I need to submit flight logs when applying for an OA?
A: Yes, flight logs have always been a requirement for the award of a PDRA-01 permission, but the CAA is now enforcing stricter requirements for logging flights. It's important to keep detailed flight logs and be prepared to submit them when applying for or renewing your OA.
Q: Do the CAA Accept the 'DJI Fly' or 'DJI Go' Flight logs?
A: No - they never have and are unlikely to, as the DJI Flight Logs don't accommodate the requirements for logging flights as per UK legislation. In addition, it's also worth noting that we've seen people in the past relying on the DJI Flight Logs and then moving all their data across to their 'log books' once a year at renewal.
We STRONGLY recommend against this, as we've also spoken to many fraught operators over the years who, on the day of their renewal, come to complete their logbooks and find that all their data has gone or been duplicated or has huge sections missing.
Don't be lazy and leave everything until the last minute. Don't expect that a 'free' service, which holds your data in 'their cloud', is one that your business and permissions can depend on... Make logging each flight part of your routine and your systems. Pop a new line in your logbook each time your change batteries, and you'll never have to worry about keeping track of your hours or setting time aside to 'do your logbooks' again! :)
Q: How many hours flying do I need to have in my logbook, to be able to renew my CAA Permissions / OA?
A: You need to have a minimum of 2 hours flying logged in the rolling three months leading up to your renewal application, for the CAA to be able to renew your permissions / Operational Authorisation with them.
Q: Are maintenance logs required for OA applications and renewals?
A: Yes, the CAA now requires the inclusion of maintenance logs for each drone listed on your PDRA-01 / OA Application. If you've been maintaining these logs, you'll have no additional work to do when applying for your OA. If not, you'll need to put in some extra work to get these logs created and/or up to date.
Q: What information do I need to provide about my drone when applying for an OA?
A: The CAA now requires more detailed technical specifications for each drone you want to add to your OA. This often goes beyond what's required for inclusion in your CAA Drone Operations Manual. It's essential to familiarise yourself with your drone's technical specifications and ensure you can provide this information when applying for or renewing your OA. If you genuinely can’t find the requested information, then you can fill the relevant box with ‘N/A’ (Not Available), but at the minimum, you should be copying across the information that’s contained within your Drone Operations Manual.
Q: What happens if I don't meet the new CAA requirements for OA applications?
A: If you don't meet the new CAA requirements when applying for or renewing your OA, your application will be placed ‘on hold’ and may be rejected. The CAA now have the option of applying a £124 ‘rejection fee’ to your application if they believe that you haven’t done any ‘work’ towards updating/maintaining your paperwork (although we’ve not heard of them implementing this yet, and we’ve not seen anything in the legislation that outlines when they would implement this).
Remember: It's important to understand and comply with these requirements to ensure the legality and safety of your drone operations.