Author Archives: Simon

DJI Mavic 2 Pro – Simon says…

Whenever DJI launch a new product we can be sure that we will be told that this is the pinnacle of technology and it is such an improvement on what already exists that we must absolutely buy one!

As I get older, I know that it’s hard to believe(!) but I become more and more cynical… I’ve already got a Mavic Pro for portability and convenience and a Phantom 4 Pro for the best camera that you could expect to find on a “Prosumer” drone… So why on earth would I consider that I need to spend my money on this, simply to combine the best features of the two aforementioned drones?

Indeed, I resisted the temptation for several months while DJI struggled to satisfy the initial demand… I have to admit that I was even feeling a little smug that I didn’t need to join the queue of clamouring customers!

But then I was giving lessons to new Mavic 2 Pro owners and I started to see what all the fuss was about… Barely any larger and heavier than my trusty Mavic Pro but with a camera that wasn’t just as good as the P4Pro’s… It was significantly better! I believe that the relevant terms are “Colour Saturation” and “Dynamic Range”…

                     

Phantom 4 Pro                                                                                                               Mavic 2 Pro

In layman’s terms it, suddenly became possible to get really good results straight from the camera without the need to resort to LightRoom or PhotoShop in order to compensate for a wide range of exposure values… Dark foreground with fluffy white clouds in the distance and everything correctly exposed and pin-sharp… Absolutely awesome! And although DJI haven’t seen fit to publicise the function, one can even pan the camera without the need to rotate the drone…

Oh, and it’s nice to fly too! This must be the quietest drone that I have ever flown, and the landing leg configuration gives peace of mind to anybody who has been used to dealing with the Phantom’s need to avoid wind gusts when touching-down! Being able to select “Tripod” mode directly from the slide switch on the side of the controller is a nice touch too.

Lest this post be seen as an unduly biased positive review, there are a few things that have disappointed me with the Mavic 2 Pro:

  • I am not a fan of the shoulder bag that comes with the Fly More Kit… It’s awkward to get the drone in and out of and doesn’t afford as much protection as a hard case
  • The gimbal lock is a bit of a faff to fit
  • I am not 100% comfortable with the new “Waypoint” mode where waypoints are plotted on the map rather than by actually flying to them
  • I mourn the loss of the Phantom’s “Course Lock” intelligent flight mode

Other than these relatively minor gripes, am I happy with my purchase? The answer has to be a resounding “Yes”, but now I just have to come to terms with the fact that I should really advertise my original Mavic Pro for sale… Any offers? (Just one very careful owner!)

Drone Flying in France

Drone Flying in France for “Leisure Users”

The rules have now changed in France.

  1. The drone must be registered with “DGAC”, the French equivalent of the CAA
  2. The drone pilot must have appropriate Public Liability Insurance in place

For anything over 800g (any DJI drone heavier than a Mavic Pro Platinum!):

  1. The drone pilot must successfully complete an online course and test

The drone must be labelled so that its registration number can be read with the naked eye from 30cm.

Evidence of items “a” & “c” must be carried at all times when flying a drone

(This can be in hard copy or in an electronic format and must be produced if requested by “the authorities”)

In order to comply with these requirements proceed as follows:

Go to https://alphatango.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/login.jsp

Click the Union Jack to change the language to “English”

Click “CREATE YOUR ACCOUNT”

Select “individual / sole trader”, fill-in all the required details and follow all prompts

You will receive an email containing a link to click in order to validate your account

Once you have done this you will be able to register your drone(s):

You will receive an email confirmation for each drone registered, with a Certificate of Registration attached.

Affix a suitable (“Dymo” or similar) label to your drone showing its registration number.

Having registered your aircraft, in order to fly a drone >800g, you must now proceed as follows:Click “ACCESS TO DGAC TRAINING”

 

Complete the “I’m learning” module

Practice in the “I’m training” module

Complete the “I take my online test” module

(You are required to score 100% in order to pass, so be ready for a few retakes and be aware that the questions remain the same but the multi-choice answers move around!)

Once you achieve 100% you can download your certificate by clicking on “télécharger”

Finally, be sure that you have appropriate PL Insurance in place.

Membership of the British Model Flying Association (bmfa.org) @ £38 per annum gives you £25M worldwide PL cover, although you may already be covered by your existing insurance… You must check, as this is your legal responsibility.

2019 ANO Amendments – The new restrictions around airports explained

 

Image result for gatwick airport

On 20/02/19, the UK Government announced new amendments to The Air Navigation Order 2016. Here we explain the important changes that you need to know about.

2019 ANO Amendments:

1. It remains illegal to fly a drone of any mass within an aerodrome flight restriction zone without permission.

  • Aerodromes can take the form of airports, military airfields, or smaller aviation airfields. You can find a list of the UK’s aerodromes here.
  • Aerodromes have a ‘flight restriction zone’ around them to ensure the safety of aircraft. They are active at all times, and apply to drones of any mass.

2. With effect from 13/03/19, the flight restriction zone around airports and airfields will change.

The previous 1 km restriction from an airfield boundary will be replaced by the airfield’s existing Aerodrome Traffic Zone, and Runway Protection Zone. Together, these two zones make up the new flight restriction zone. You must not fly your drone within this zone unless you have permission.

a) Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ): This is the red circle in the image below. Its epicentre is the midpoint of the longest runway, and has a radius of either 2 or 2.5 nautical miles depending on the length of the runway.

b) Runway Protection Zone: This zone starts from the end of each of the airfield’s runways, extending five kilometres by one kilometre zones*. It’s marked as the red rectangle in the image below.

Both zones extend upwards to a height of 2,000 feet above the airfield. To view a map which illustrates the flight restriction zones of individual airfield’s in the UK, visit the Drone Safe website.

An illustration of the new flight restriction zone around aerodromes, which will come into force on 13/03/19.

*At Heathrow airport, each runway protection zone is 1.5 km wide.

3. If you want to fly your drone within a flight restriction zone, you must have permission from either air traffic control, or the airport itself.

  • It’s up to air traffic control, or the airport itself, to give you permission to fly within an aerodrome flight restriction zone. You can find the contact details of air traffic control units in the UK here.
  • If you want to fly above 400 ft in a flight restriction zone, you need to get permission from the relevant air traffic control, as opposed to the CAA.

To find contact details for the different ATCs you can follow the links in the CAA’s official write-up of 2019 ANO amendments here

I got them all flying circuits!

Having just delivered Phantom Flight School’s first bespoke on-site PfCO course I have to say that I’m really pleased with how it went and more importantly the high calibre of the Remote Pilots at the end of the course.

In this instance we had a corporate client who had invested in a DJI Phantom 4 Professional Obsidian and wished to have 3 members of staff covered on the same PfCO in order to carry out photographic and video inspections along with the generation of Point Clouds through photogrammetry.

It therefore made sense to deliver the classroom elements in a meeting room at the client’s premises and to conduct the hands-on flying training and Practical Flight Assessments at a Flying Site within a short drive from their location.

The Course kicked off with a revision session covering the eight modules that comprise Ground School, that had already been studied by the Course participants online.  It was clear all three had invested sufficient time in advance of the Course to really absorb the information available to them. This meant we were able to devote time to drilling down into areas of the syllabus of particular interest to them, which is what it is all about. All three went on to score very well in the Theory Test.  Indeed, one of them got 99%!

We then went out for our first Flying Session, where I was able to assess everybody’s standard, and formulate a plan for just what training and practice was required over the remainder of the Course. Happily, I observed no major issues here but it was very cold, with some snow on the ground, so we finished our day by making a start on jointly authoring the Company’s Operations Manual.

The next day, while we waited for the temperature to rise above freezing, we looked at a Pre-Deployment Site Survey and a Risk Assessment before venturing outside.

At this point I decided to replicate my early PPL experience and I got them all flying circuits.  Not quite the Cessna “touch and go’s” that I had had to repeat ad nauseam, but rather, a “standard take-off” followed by one of the required “squares” and then a “standard landing”.

Flying in opposite directions we were able to fly two P4Pro’s at the same time, rotating pilots and really drilling best practice into all three. After 10 batteries everybody was significantly more confident and competent with their flying, so it was time to get back into the warm, put the batteries on charge, and spend some more time on the Operations Manual as well as looking at Mission Planning using some real-life scenarios.

Day three we were out flying again first thing.  Then it was time to finalise their Operations Manual, revisit Pre-Deployment Surveys, Risk Assessments (Initial & Dynamic) and have another look at useful apps & websites such SkyDemon, Google Earth/Maps, NATS, UAV Forecast, Dark Sky, MetOffice, etc

Lunch was followed by the Practical Flight Assessments, which all went very well, and then a final classroom session going over how to complete their SRG1320 application for their PfCO. All of which meant that at the end of three days, all three were in a position to submit their PfCO applications to the CAA.

Comparing that with the months it can take people to get to the same place with other training organisations, Clive (one of the candidates) said “We have been so impressed with the way PFS delivered this Course. It has been interesting, thought-provoking, rewarding, and incredibly well organised. I can’t recommend PhantomFlightSchool and their Radically Better PfCO Course highly enough”.

PhantomFlightSchool hits the road…

Building on the phenomenal success of our drone flying lessons delivered at established flying sites around the UK we are now starting to venture out on the road. Any client who would prefer us to come to them can now get in touch and we will assess the viability and cost of a visit to them.

Provided we can have access to a suitable indoor area in which to deliver the theory elements of the lesson and there is a suitable area outside from which to fly, then we will travel to anywhere in the UK.

This service is attractive to “time-poor” clients who don’t want to spend their time driving to and from our established sites and also to clients who would like to see their familiar surroundings from a totally new perspective.

We are also getting lots of interest from corporate clients who are looking for a demonstration of just how drones can benefit them in their existing sphere of activity. Construction, Facilities Management, Events Organisers, Architects, Surveyors, Estate Agents, Photographers, Football Clubs and even a Prison! The list just keeps on growing!

If this is of interest then please get in touch for more details on 01244 893872 or [email protected]

 

P4Pro Obsidian – Another reason we love DJI!

When the P4Pro was launched I very quickly saw that I needed to upgrade from my P4 and haven’t regretted doing so for a moment… until now.

I’ve seen all of the photos and videos of the Obsidian and thought to myself “It’s just a fancy paint job… What’s the point? Who needs it?”

The trouble is that today I have seen one in the flesh and handled it… And now I have a problem!

OK so it’s just cosmetics with no material improvement in terms of performance, but that’s not the point.

The Obsidian is overwhelmingly, gut-wrenchingly, irresistibly GORGEOUS! And yes, I want one!

Look at it and it’s beautiful, but touch it and it just gets better. Its beauty might be only skin-deep, but what a skin!

The matte finish exudes quality to the eye and to the touch so it’s just as well there is an anti-fingerprint coating, because I defy anybody to resist touching the polished magnesium gimbal and camera. I admit it… I actually stroked it!

For anybody about to purchase their first P4Pro I’d say don’t look at the Obsidian unless you’re prepared to fall under its spell… You will struggle to resist.

 

PfAW becomes PfCO

With effect from 25th August 2016, the CAA Permission for Aerial Work (PfAW) has been replaced by the Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO).
This change appears in the newly published Air Navigation Order 2016. CAA Information Notice IN-2016/073 (link below) explains the change. Existing PfAWs will remain valid but will change on renewal to PfCOs.
Any new Permissions issued from now on will be for Commercial Operations.

In the new ANO 2016:
– Article 166 and 167 have been renumbered to 94 and 95 respectively
– The term Aerial Work has been replaced with Commercial Operations; the term Aerial Work no longer appears in the ANO
– A new definition of Commercial Operations has replaced the definition of Aerial Work

The following is an extract from the CAA Information Notice IN-2016/073 relating to the definition of Commercial Operations:

‘Commercial operation’ is given the following meaning:
“…any operation of an aircraft other than for public transport— (a) which is available to the public; or (b) which, when not made available to the public, 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.”
The intent of this meaning is exactly the same as the previous intent of ‘aerial work’. The key elements in understanding this term are ‘…any operation of an aircraft…in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration’.
The term ‘available to the public’ should be interpreted as being a service or commodity that any member of the public can make use of, or actively choose to use, (e.g. because it has been advertised or offered to someone).

Advice ref Ops Man:
Any references to PfAW must be changed to PfCO.
Also any references to the ANO need to be updated to the ANO 2016, and references to Articles 166 and 167 must be changed to 94 and 95.

50m Clarification by CAA

The CAA has issued a statement through ARPAS-UK which details their interpretation of the rather ambiguous regulation of not flying within 50m of ‘people, vehicles, vessels or structures’ which are not under the control of the pilot-in-command of a UAV. The statement, without alteration or addition, is as follows;

 

50m CLARIFICATION STATEMENT FROM THE CAA

‘’The absolute legal distance requirements are set out in article 167 of the Air Navigation Order, and they state that you must not fly ‘within 50m of a person, vehicle, vessel or structure that is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft’ – This is how it is written in law. It doesn’t mention anything about horizontal distance I’m afraid, so in absolute legal terms, you would need to think of it as a bubble.

Note also however, that this article only applies to ‘small unmanned surveillance aircraft’, so for a drone that does not have a camera fitted to it, or for R/C model aircraft (fixed wing or helicopters), there are no specific ‘avoidance distances’ set down.

So, the 50m ‘rule’ only applies to surveillance (by this we basically mean ‘camera’) equipped ‘drones’, and it can only legally be taken as being a ‘bubble’ – perhaps with hindsight, this regulation should have been written slightly differently, but it was thought to be acceptable at the time it was written – we know that articles 166 and 167 need a revision, partly to make the wording more understandable for the general public, but also to make the requirements more easily enforceable for the Police (how do you really ‘measure’ what 50m is?), and this is what we are starting to do at present

However, that is not necessarily the complete story – it doesn’t mean that someone flying a non -camera fitted drone can do what he/she likes without any fear of arrest/prosecution.

– ANO article 138 (Endangerment – “A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property”) is the overriding article that can be used at any time if it is considered that a person is operating a drone (which is still defined as an aircraft) inappropriately.

– You can also refer to ANO article 166(2) “The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made” as well in that he/she is responsible and must

take reasonable steps to ensure the flight is conducted safely.

So, in the case of someone hovering a drone ‘51m’ directly above/almost above someone, yes – it is ok with regard to art 167, but this could easily fall under endangerment, especially if the person flying it has not taken any reasonable steps to satisfy him/herself that the flight can be conducted safely.

At the end of the day, we must consider what the ‘intent’ of the regulations is – in simple terms, the intent of the regulations is to protect third parties (ie. people and properties that are not involved in the operation), and so this is the primary consideration that should be made when making an assessment of whether or not an offence has been committed, or when considering a prosecution.

These regulations apply to all small unmanned aircraft (20kg or less) – there are no differences for above 7kg or 7kg or less. With regard to Permission holders, the bottom line is that it depends on what is written on their permission. We normally issue permissions to the 50m ‘limitation’ (so no difference) but if an operator has been able to demonstrate to us that his/her operation can be flown safely to within a lesser distance (and we are satisfied with this), then the text in the permission will reflect the shorter distance.”

SkyTech 2016

27th & 28th January 2016, Business Design Centre London

 

SkyTech 2016, organised in collaboration with ARPAS-UK, RUSTA & Flightpath Consulting, is a two-day trade-show dedicated to advancing the global commercial UAV industry. Now in its second edition SkyTech is more than doubling in size and will feature 70 exhibitors, 50 speakers and over 3000 attendees. SkyTech 2016 will provide information, connections and marketing solutions through an exhibition, 3 conferences, workshops, product launches, live demonstrations and networking events. SkyTech is also a media platform and press day for the UAV industry across the UK, Europe and worldwide.

SkyTech will be attended by experts from across the UAV industry, bringing together manufacturers, suppliers, service providers, government, academia, investors, trade associations and regulatory bodies. SkyTech will also bring together buyers from a range of targeted industries including agriculture, environment, oil & gas, infrastructure, utilities, construction & property, policing, fire service, search & rescue, media, broadcasting and mining.

SkyTech’s exhibition is completely free to attend and will feature the latest in cutting edge technology and services from across the global unmanned aviation industry. Alongside its exhibition SkyTech will also feature a number of conferences and break-out workshop sessions providing information tailored to all aspects of the commercial UAV industry.

To secure your free exhibition tickets or purchase your conference tickets visit https://skytech2016.eventbrite.co.uk

For more information visit the event website www.skytechevent.com