The Air Navigation Order 2016, usually referred to as ‘The ANO’, sets out all the regulations governing aviation in UK airspace. These regulations include ‘Rules of the Air’ which are the aviation equivalent of the Highway Code. The primary purpose of the ANO is to enable aviation to be conducted safely.
Until the new EU regulations coming into force on 31st December 2020, the Articles set out below will need to be understood, complied with and will be the basis of any Permission granted by the CAA for commercial UAS operations. These Articles will be superseded by the new EU regulations. Later in this lesson, we will cover the ANO Articles which will still be applicable after the EU regulations come into force.
The Air Navigation Order 2016 also contains articles which relate specifically to the operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) and Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft (SUSA). These are Articles 94, 94A, 94B, 94G (for SUA) and Article 95 (for SUSA).
A SUA becomes a SUSA when it carries equipment for the purposes of aerial data acquisition. This is normally a camera, but if any data is acquired during a flight the aircraft will be classified as a SUSA and the provisions of Article 95 will apply.
The remote pilot of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.
This is what is usually referred to as ‘Visual Line of Sight’ or VLOS. The important bit here is that you have to have your aircraft close enough to you to be able to make the assessment of relative position and flight path to be able to avoid any collisions. With a small aircraft like a Phantom this will probably not be much further than about 200m.
The SUA operator must not cause or permit a small unmanned aircraft to be flown for the purposes of commercial operations, and the remote pilot of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly it for the purposes of commercial operations, except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.
For the purposes of this Order, “commercial operation” means any flight by a small unmanned aircraft except a flight for public transport, or any operation of any other aircraft except an operation for public transport—
(a) which is available to the public; or
(b) which, when not made available to the public—
(i) in the case of a flight by a small unmanned aircraft, is performed under a contract between the SUA operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the remote pilot; or
(ii) in any other case, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator, in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration
This paragraph is why you are investing your time and money to do this course. It is illegal to fly for any sort of commercial gain without Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) from the CAA. Commercial gain does not have to involve direct payment for the flight, it can simply be adding value to a business. The easy way to think of this is that if the flight is not genuinely recreational then it is probably commercial, so a PfCO is required.
Permission from the CAA is required for a flight, or a part of a flight, by a small unmanned aircraft at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface
This height limitation is intended to contribute to the safety of manned aircraft from the risk of collision with a small unmanned aircraft. With the obvious exception of take-off and landing, the majority of manned aircraft are required by the rules of the air to fly at heights greater than 500 ft from the surface. While there are some other exceptions where manned aircraft are permitted to fly at ‘low level’ (such as Police, Air Ambulance and Search and Rescue helicopters, as well as military aircraft), flying a small unmanned aircraft below 400 ft significantly reduces the likelihood of an encounter with a manned aircraft. The height limitation is also identical to the one that is being introduced within the forth
In aviation terms, ‘height’ means the vertical distance of an object (in this case the small unmanned aircraft) from a specified point of datum (in this case above the surface of the earth). To cater for the few occasions where a small unmanned aircraft is being flown over hilly/undulating terrain or close to a cliff edge, the 400 ft height above the surface requirement may be interpreted as being a requirement to remain within a 400 ft distance from the surface, as shown in the diagram above. For the purposes of Article 94A, this is considered to be an acceptable means of compliance with the legal requirement.
Remember that the limitation applies to ‘heights above/distances from’ the surface of the earth. It does not automatically apply to heights/distances from tall buildings or other structures: in such cases, additional permission from the CAA will be required, which will invariably also require permission to operate within a congested area.
This Article applies to anyone flying a SUA (including model aircraft) which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition. This of course usually a SUA carrying a camera.
(1) The SUA operator must not cause or permit a small unmanned surveillance aircraft to
be flown in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2), and the remote pilot of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly it in any of those circumstances, except in accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.
(2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are:
(a) Over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
This means not overhead or within 150 metres of a Congested Area which, rather is defined rather vaguely:
“A ‘Congested Area’ means any area in relation to a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, business or recreational purposes”.
You have to use your judgement as to what constitutes whether the place you intend to fly is ‘substantially used’. This might be different at varying times of the day. For example, is an industrial estate at 5 a.m. ‘substantially used’ when everyone is at home sleeping. That is your judgement, but remember you may be called to account and have to justify why made that judgement. You always need to think about whether you could be viewed as being in breach of Article 241, causing or allowing an aircraft to endanger people or property on the ground.
(b) Over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
You simply must keep your SUA at least 150m laterally from any large group of people. The 1,000 people is a very specific number of course, but use your common sense please. It is really about the density of people. So sporting events, entertainment events, festivals etc. have to be given that 150m safety margin. Flout this rule at your peril.
(c) Within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of SUA operator or the remote pilot of the aircraft; or
d) Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.
(3) Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.
Your SUA has to maintain at least 50m separation from people, vehicles, vessels (ships etc.) or structures which are not under your control (more of this further down). This distance reduces to 30m from people on take off and landing. That 30m reduction ONLY applies to people, so everything else should still be 50m separation. However, you will see later on in the Air Law module that your PfCO modifies this to allow your separation of 30m on take off and landing to apply to vehicles, vessels and structures.
The CAA recently clarified the interpretation of this rule saying that the 50m should be regarded as working like a bubble. So provided that you are further away than 50m it does not matter whether this is measured laterally, vertically or anything in between. However – be warned – in this statement the CAA emphasised the need to comply with Article 241, saying specifically that flying directly overhead might well constitute reckless endangerment.
(4) Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the remote pilot of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the remote pilot of the aircraft.
‘Under the control of’ – This is the key to you being able to operate in many situations. If you can work out a way to get people etc., under your control then you can fly as close to them as you judge (and risk assess) to be safe.