Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

Date: 07.04.2016     Last updated: 01.05.2018 at 10.15
The hire, together with a pilot or operator of small remote controlled fixed wing aircraft / helicopters (UAV / UAS / drone) which are typically used for aerial filming.

These vehicles are also referred to as UAS (unmanned aerial systems); UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle); SUSA (small unmanned surveillance aircraft); ROV (remotely operated vehicle); RPA (remotely piloted aircraft); Drones; Helicams; Multirotors (tricopter, quadcopter, hexacopter, octocopter).

What Can Go Wrong?

  • Crash due to a mechanical/electronic failure, a loss of contact between the pilot’s ground control transmitter and receiver on the aircraft. It could also crash due to unsuitable weather conditions or pilot error.
  • The aircraft could `fly away' if control is lost between the pilot’s ground control transmitter and receiver.
  • Crash into other aircraft or into into people or structures (pylons, buildings) and natural features (cliffs and trees).
  • The use of the UAV is illegal, if the operator does not comply with the strict operating conditions and limitations specified by the CAA.

Legal/BBC Requirements

  • Ensure you engage a suitably competent and licensed Operator for your filming. In the UK, they must hold a Permission to fly a UAS for aerial work, issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on an annual basis. Similar legal requirements may apply in other countries.
  • The Operator's CAA Permission lists the type of UAS they are licensed to operate - check this is the one being offered to you.
  • The Operator’s liability insurance must specifically cover the flying of UAS for the purpose of aerial filming work, and name the BBC as additionaly insured.
  • If you are new to UAS filming, you may wish to use the BBC's preferred list of experienced and licensed UAS Operators (see Recommended Links (Gateway)).
  • You must consult BBC Safety if you intend to purchase a UAS or intend to operate a hired UAS yourself.

Control Measures

General Controls

  • Discuss with the Operator what it is you plan to achieve before you hire them. There will be specific limitations on what the UAS can achieve with regards to flight times, weight of camera carried, stability and accuracy of framing of shots, etc.
  • Their CAA Permission will also impose limitations on flights, including a max altitude of 400 feet (120 metres); maintaining visual line of sight to UAS (no flying around structures); no flights beyond 500m from Pilot; suitable weather conditions (wind no greater than about 15knots, 5km visibility, no rain, not at night, etc.); no flying in certain classified or 'congested' airspace (unless special permissions sought and paid for), etc.
  • You must have permission from the landowner for take-off and landing positions and for any land overflown.
  • UASs cannot be flown within 50 metres of structures, vehicles or people that are not under the 'control' of the person in charge of the aircraft. It cannot be flown within 150 metres of a congested area or a large crowd of people. In most public spaces, where people not in your control are present, you're unlikely to be able to use a UAV.
  • The pilot must be in a position where they cannot be pushed or jostled.
  • As a general rule the UAS’s pilot should wholly concentrate on flying and a second operator or assistant should monitor / operate any onboard camera. If it is a single operator doing both tasks, this should be discussed beforehand and advice obtained from BBC Safety. 
  • Ensure that a location specific risk assessment/survey is completed by the pilot before starting any flying operations and reconfirm with the Pilot that they are fully compliant with all relevant CAA requirements. 
  • Any accidents, collisions or crash of a UAS, should be reported on the BBC accident system. 
  • Where a Division or Department operate their own UAS, it is imperative that it is specifically operated exactly in line with the Operation Manual approved by the CAA.

Division Specific Issues

  • There are no division specific issues.

FAQs/Did You Know?

  • The average battery life on these aircraft is between 5 & 20 minutes depending on the camera weight so ensure plenty of spares are carried and you have the means to recharge them.
  • The footage will generally require to be run through stabilisation software after being filmed.
  • BBC Procurement (Buy /Book /Order) has a list of preferred suppliers and other information about the use of UAS.
  • Feb 2015: FAA Propose New Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems that will facilitate integration of small UAS into the U.S. aviation system.
  • UAS / drones might be subject to hijacking: It was reported in Dec 2013 that a security researcher created a device he claims can hijack control of other flying drones. There have also been reports of a drone that fell onto an athlete after it was hijacked in flight at a sports meeting in Australia. See recommended links for the stories.
  • A fully UK qualified BBC News UAV operator was fined by Swiss Police, after admitting to using a UAV in the grounds of a BBC base hotel on the outskirts of Davos in Switzerland during the World Economic Forum 2015. There were apparently local restrictions on “drone” flying in place however they had been publicised in an “Air space closure for paragliders and hang gliders” and was not obvious or apparent. The operator has appealed against the fine.

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