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  • Chris Jones

Flying Drones in Restricted Airspace

Can you fly a drone here?

A question often asked of us by potential clients is “Can you fly here?”. Having been an operational drone company since 2015, we must firstly say that we welcome these questions. It shows that companies are now sighted on the regulations and are conducting their own due diligence- a very encouraging stance.

Most of the time, the answer is “yes”…with the correct level of know how and understanding of the regulations- drone flights can be conducted almost anywhere with the correct level of safety and legal standing. However, every now and then the location is that little bit more challenging.

It’s in these circumstances that we normally have our second favourite question: “Another drone company said that no-one can fly drones there, how are you able to”.

The answer is simple. We have been flying drones since early 2015 making us one of the longest operating companies in the marketplace. Our Permission for Commercial Operation (PFCO) is UAS922, placing us in the 1st 1000 drone companies. To date there are currently over 5526 drone companies/ operators listed..with PFCO numbers up into the 11,000.

Our 5 year+ experience grants us an enviable degree of knowledge and know-how in organising and planning complicated drone operations, often in areas other operators would shy away from. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate this is with a small case study:

CASE STUDY: Gloucestershire Airport

On 13 March 2019 the drone flight restriction zone around airports and airfields changed. The government introduced a new rule stating that the 1km restriction from the airfield boundary is replaced by a restriction using the airfield’s existing aerodrome traffic zone, which has a radius of either two or two and a half nautical miles and then five kilometres by one kilometre zones starting from the point known as the ‘threshold’ at the end of each of the airfield’s runways. Both zones extend upwards to a height of 2,000 feet above the airfield. It is illegal to fly any drone at any time within these restricted zones unless you have permission from air traffic control at the airport or, if air traffic control is not operational, from the airport itself.

Global Drone Surveys was contacted by one of our regular clients to request our drone services to a new project in Gloucestershire.

The West Cheltenham Transport Improvement Scheme (WCTIS) is a £22m project and we were asked to quote to provide drone imagery for a public consultation video on behalf of Gloucester Council to educate members of the public on the scheme benefits and how the project would be implemented. The focus for our task was the Arle Court roundabout. This location on paper certainly looked challenging as it sits within the RPZ of Gloucester Airport and is 200m away from GCHQ!

To make things a little more complicated, the roundabout was located right in the approach flight path of the runway.

Confident in our ability, we advised our client that we would do our utmost to gain permission to conduct flights at the location.

The main controlling factor here was to gain approval from Gloucestershire Airport. Having dealt with several Air Traffic Controls in the past, we knew that this would go one of two ways…and we’re very pleased to report that the staff at Gloucestershire Airport were some of the easiest and most accommodating to date.

After an exchange of emails and a few phone conversations it was suggested that we submit documentation detailing our flight plan and mitigation strategies and go from there. After only 24hrs we had full approval to conduct the flights and we were even complimented on the high-level detail and professional approach to our documentation. Always nice to hear!

The next obstacle was GCHQ- unfortunately due to the sensitive nature of this site we can not divulge the procedures for this aspect, but we are pleased to report that we were able to conduct the flights.

With full approval from Gloucestershire ATC we were able to plan the remainder of the operation with comparative ease. We were given permission from Gloucester Council to utilise an area of a nearby Park & Ride for our take off/ landing point and we approved a date with all required parties to attend and conduct the flights.

Needless to say, the operation was a complete successful. Our drone operators conducted a number of flights around the area gathering some excellent footage for us to provide our client with a visually stunning and engaging public information video.

We are pleased to showcase this video below:

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