The new changes to drone operations manuals and PfCO

As of the 30th of July, the CAA have enforced new amendments and legislation of the ANO (Air Navigation Order) for small unmanned vehicles or in other words drones. It is important for us at Blue Whale Media as commercial drone operators that we are following the CAA new legislation and TO OTHER Commercial drone operators around the UK. This new legislation and regulations have an effect on our operations manual and PfCOs (Permissions for Commercial Operations). In this blog, I will take you through some of the changes that will come into effect.

Legislation effective from 30th of July

With these new rules and regulations, the CAA has forbidden any small unmanned aircraft to go above the height of 400ft which is roughly 120 meters. This is new to near collisions of other manned aircraft vehicles such as Helicopters and microlights. This new height restriction should minimise the risk considerably. Speaking about distance there has also been another change of distance that small unmanned vehicles weighing less than 7kg can fly near specific aerodromes. The new rules mean drone pilots have to keep 1km from the aerodrome boundary and any flight with the airspace of the aerodrome needs to be granted permission regardless of weight. Changes in terminology will also come into effect as the terms ‘remote pilot’ and SUA operator comes into place as opposed to ‘person in charge’ a previously used term. With all this, there has also been a minor correction to the Air navigation order 2016 to provide clarity and correct errors from before. All these new changes apply to all small unmanned aircraft regardless of weight or licences.

Legalisations effective from 30th November 2019

Most legislation was put in place in for July however some other will come into effect in November. A requirement for SUA operators to register and a requirement for remote pilots to complete a competency test. This is for all aircraft that are above 250g of weight.

Changes to my operations manual?

A massive part for which you have to update your operations manual is articles 94 and 95. These articles cover almost everything in the ANO and the new changes can be taken from the CAA. Also, any reference to PiC will need to be changed to remote pilot or SUA operator. The SUA operator and Remote Pilot clearly need to be designated into your operations manual. It is also worth remembering that CAP 722 is currently being looked over and some of these changes could affect your operations manual. When changing and updating your Ops manual it is important to change your amendment log.

Changes to the PfCO?

Before there used to be 4 classes of small unmanned aircraft whereas now it’s 2. The classes are now 0-20kg Multirotor and 0-20kg Fixed wing. The permission now allows all UAS with a weight of 20kg or less 50m separation from congested areas which was previously 150m. Current PfCO holders will be grandfathered until another application is resubmitted where the new permissions will come into play.


Your go-to document is the CAP 1687 for all changes to your operations manual. Current PfCO holders can abide by the current permissions until they have to renew their ops manual which then replaces all old permission with the new ones set.

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