Once again, myself Tony Hooper and Dave Johnson ventured to London for the annual meeting with the CAA on 26 November.
As per previous years, the BMFA, SAA and BARCS were represented, and for the first time the FPV association FPVUK were in attendance.
Although the agenda was only received shortly before the meeting, it was fuller than the last couple of years.
Over 20Kg Scheme
The CAA have audited the LMA’s over 20Kg scheme, and declared themselves more than satisfied with the way the scheme is being run by the LMA. They are happy to continue with 3 year renewals currently in place.
The CAA are aware of the number of ARTF models now available that are hovering around the 20Kg limit, and the LMA will continue to publicise the existence and operation of the scheme.
Permanent Sites – CAA Charts
Several BMFA clubs now have NOTAM’s in place to allow models over 7Kg to be flown up to 1500ft, and provided the facility is used regularly they will be formalised on to the official air maps in 2014.
Failsafe settings for rotorcraft / failsafe technology
The types of Failsafes fitted to some helicopters & multirotors were raised by the BMFA & FPVUK for potential adoption into CAP658.
The control and stabilisation systems fitted to many multirotors and helicopters allow the system to take over control in the case of a loss of radio signal. Instead of just cutting the throttle in failsafe, these systems are capable of levelling and holding a set position, slowly descending or returning to their launch position and landing in the case of loss of control.
The CAA were receptive to the use of technology in these cases, and the BMFA / FPVUK will provide joint proposals for the change to the failsafe rules for both helicopters and multirotors. Fixed-wing aircraft can be fitted with similar systems, but there is currently not sufficient interest to include them in this review.
FPV – General Exemption
The CAA’s exemption to allow the flying of FPV models will be renewed for 2014, with the maximum height being increased to 1000ft and the maximum weight to 3.5Kg for all models.
Programmable Waypoint Flying
With the increasing popularity of ‘programmable waypoint flying’ where the model will fly itself between pre-defined waypoints, a view of the acceptability of this area was requested of the CAA by the BMFA.
The CAA are basically happy with the practice, provided the pilot remains in control at all times and can still control the model to take avoiding action if necessary during the flight. The CAA also raised concerns over the ‘human factors’ implications, where a pilot not actually hand flying the model will not be paying as much attention to the flight, with potential issues of orientation, the ability to avoid full-size aircraft, concentration and actual flying currency. This will need to be monitored.
High Speed Aircraft
The CAA and BMFA raised the issue of high-speed models. The issue that they see is that turbine models capable of very high speeds (and as such having a lot of energy) are within the reach both financially and operationally of modelers who don’t necessarily have the experience or skills to be able to safely handle a model doing those speeds. There have been a couple of turbine model crashes recently, were although the model crashed in a safe place, the crash was at high speed and a fire ensued.
The BMFA will discuss with the JMA to ensure that the current controls in place are sufficient. The separation distances at public shows are already increased for models doing high speeds . The CAA will investigate the rules in place in other countries to police such models. They are not proposing any form of regulation at the moment, and just wish to monitor the situation. Responsibility needs to be taken by club committees to ensure that people flying potentially high speed models at their sites are competent.
The CAA visited 3 shows in 2013, (none of them LMA events!) and reported that scrutineering standards were ‘variable’. It was explained how the LMA scrutineering regime was changed in 2013, and the LMA’s rationale will be shared with the CAA and BMFA.
The CAA confirmed that they have no plans to charge for public show exemptions for 2014/2015.
The BMFA asked for clarification from the CAA of what exactly defines ‘aerial work’, as they have many enquiries from people who while not flying as strict ‘aerial work’ are not flying for ‘sport or recreation’ either.
The situation is not clear-cut in the case of test flying & ‘practice’ aerial work flights. CAP 722 gives definitions flying UAV’s for ‘research and development’, and the BMFA will review these with their insurers
Some FPV systems are now being sold that are controlled on 5.8GHz. Although these systems are CE marked, 5.8GHz is not a frequency approved for model control use. The BMFA will raise the issue with OFCOM.
The CAA stated that despite the other changes that are happening with the regulation of aviation, they are happy with the way model aircraft are operated and controlled, and have no desire to change the way they deal with models in the foreseeable future.