Annual meeting with the CAA 2015

Like a regulatory hedgehog day, once again the AGM was over and it was time for Dave Johnson, Tony Hooper and me to head off to London to see the CAA.

As usual the BMFA, SAA & BARCS were also in attendance, but nobody from FPVUK again this year.

To keep you informed of what’s happening in the world of model regulation, here are some brief notes from the meeting.

Air Proximity Incidents

During 2014 there were 10 airproxes reported between models & fullsize aircraft, but in 2015, there have already been 60 airproxes. 56 of those were reported as ‘drones’ (‘drones’ having taken over from ‘UFO’s!) by the fullsize aircraft involved.

Two of the remaining airproxes were mid-air collisions between models and light aircraft, but nobody was injured in either case. The CAA were happy that nobody had been doing anything wrong, but asked that we continue to push the message that everyone flying models needs to keep an eye open for fullsize aircraft, and have a ‘spotter’ assigned for each flying session if needed.

Model Flying Sites

The CAA are getting closer to having model flying sites marked on air charts if they’re being regularly used for flying over 400ft. If you’d be interested in getting your site registered, please let us know.

Over 20Kg Scheme

The CAA were once again very happy with how the Over 20Kg scheme was being run by the LMA, and will be organising a paperwork audit before the end of the year.

For models being flown in Europe, the CAA are happy to continue to update exemptions to add Maximum Take Off Mass (MTOM) if needed, so please let Tony Hooper know in plenty of time if you need this. The MTOM can also be added at initial exemption, but the model will also need to be weighed while full of fuel.

The CAA are still going through a period of restructuring and staffing cuts, so in order to leave them free to do their jobs, we again agreed with the CAA that all communications with them from the LMA will be continue done through Tony Hooper only. That applies to everybody, so please do not contact the CAA directly regarding any over 20Kg matters, refer them to Tony.

And as for raising the weight limit to 25Kg wet, I’ll get on to that in a minute!

EASA & ‘Drones’

As a starter for 10 in providing common Europe-wide rules for unmanned aircraft,  EASA recently published for comment a draft set of rules for ‘drones’, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems  (RPAS) that would also cover all model aircraft flown in Europe.

Their proposal is to define the rules based on the risk of operating the RPAS rather than the weight, so they have three categories – ‘Open category’ (low‑risk), ‘Specific category’ (medium‑risk) and ‘Certified category’ (high‑risk).

Recreational model flying is seen as being predominantly in the Open Category, and the EASA response to the comments for the Open Category is due to be published before the end of 2015, and this will form the basis of their rulemaking over the next few years.

It is probable that the model aircraft parts of the ANO will be replaced by the EASA rules on drones, but this won’t be until 2017-2018, and the LMA will be involved with the CAA in the new rules.

The CAA are happy with the way that recreational model flying works in the UK, and have no desire to increase regulation or introduce an FAA-style registration scheme, and have put their case to EASA.

As the 20Kg weight limit is in the ANO, any changes to that limit (potentially to 25Kg wet) are awaiting the EASA position on RPAS’s and what impact that may have on the ANO. That won’t be until 2017 at the earliest, so it is not likely that there will be any change to the weight limit until then.

The CAA did ask that any video footage on YouTube or similar of naughty things being done with any form of drone or model aircraft be sent to them for investigation, so if you see anything like that, please let us know.

Air Navigation Order

Because of the EASA input on RPAS, the 2016 amendment to the ANO that could have had the 20Kg dry limit changed to 25Kg wet had all references to small UAV’s removed, so the weight limit won’t be changing in the short term, as discussed above.

CAP 658

The CAA are also still updating CAP658, their guidance document on model flying, now aimed to be published in 2016.

Again, we will be working with the CAA, BMFA & SAA to make sure the changes are appropriate for LMA members.

High Risk Activities

The CAA requested the Associations to provide a view on higher risk modelling activities in the frame of the EASA RPAS proposals, and we’ll be working with the SAA & the BMFA to make sure these are proportional to the actual risks involved.

FPV

An amendment to the FPV exemption wording will be proposed by the BMFA to cover the newly popular ‘Drone Racing’, for inclusion in the 2016 FPV exemption.

Model Shows

The CAA attended two shows in 2015, and found no issues. They will be attending three in 2016.

Rob Buckley

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