Drone Training in the UK

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Here at UAViate we get quite a lot of emails asking what is the best route in to the industry, how to get a job as a drone pilot and what drone training in the UK might be suitable.


In order to fly for a commercial organisation, a pilot will need to have undertaken a CAA recognised drone training course that has assessed their theoretical and practical competence. This course will lead to the issue of a CAA recognised qualification.


All courses will have been audited by the CAA to ensure they satisfy the fundamentals however many courses will ‘add value’ by going above and beyond the standard requirements.


All courses vary in their structure in terms of when you attend the theory and practical elements. One advantage of the UAQ course delivered by UAV-Air is that it is available in a fully integrated format (similar to the manned world) whereby the theory and practical elements can be completed in 3 consecutive days. If the pilot successfully passes all the component parts they are qualified to fly under an existing operations manual by day 4.

The UAQ drone training course has been designed by manned aviators with over 20,000 hours of commercial operations and RPAS professionals with many years of safe civilian operations in some of the busiest environments the UK can offer. We were delighted to be part of the process along with Cloud12 and hope we have ensured the course contains a ‘best of both worlds’ approach.


If you would like to undertake a course to fly drones commercially and are looking for a CAA approved NQE then visit http://www.uav-air.com/book-now/


For individuals who also wish to set up an organisation and obtain a PFAW then an operations manual will be required. We’ll cover this in a future blog.

Aerial Filming Case Study: Key Yachting

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If you own a yacht business or are privately selling a yacht, nothing shows off the luxury possession quite like a professionally shot aerial video. The best way to promote a boat is to film it in action, sailing through the water blissfully. However it’s pretty hard to achieve this kind of footage and get it looking professional, without spending a fortune. Key Yachting wanted to produce a high end video to showcase their yacht from the air, without the expense of a helicopter.

Luckily UAViate were on hand to take on the project, and show the team at Key Yachting what drones are capable of. We spent three hours filming aerial footage of the yacht sailing from Hamble to Southampton, and the finished product is fantastic. Not many drone pilots have the skills and expertise to fly over water and ensure safe take-off and landing from moving sites. However, our professional drone pilots did this on the day with no problem.

Why is it so difficult to get it right when at sea? Flying drones off shore requires much more technical skill than on land. The take-off and landing sites are always moving, and there is the constant changing of wind speed and direction to consider. There is much less margin for error when flying drones over water – such as with a project like this. For Key Yachting’s film we took out a motorboat as the drone take-off site, and undertook a number of flights to ensure we captured the high quality footage for the final film.

Drones are perfect for aerial filming of boats, as they are much smaller and easier to operate than helicopters. There is a much lower downdraft from the drone compared to a helicopter, meaning it doesn’t disturb the sails when in motion. This means a drone can get much closer than a helicopter, and it’s those up close and personal shots used alongside the distant aerial shots of the boat that make an amazing promotional video clip.

The yachting client was really happy with the final edited footage – all of which was achieved from a tiny drone instead of a large, expensive helicopter. If you own a yacht or a yachting business and are thinking of fresh new ways to promote it, then drone aerial footage could be for you. Contact us for further information.

Aerial Photography Hampshire

The Benefits of Drone Filming for Estate Agents

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The Benefits of Drone Filming for… Estate Agents

High end real estate is a fascinating business, with countless techniques and tactics used to get buyers signing on the dotted line. While traditional methods such as eye-level photographs, brochures, open property viewings and expert ‘sales talk’ are all important, aerial footage captured by a drone can seriously boost the effectiveness of any campaign. Here’s how!

Allows buyers to envisage themselves using the property

Helping buyers to imagine themselves utilising or living in a property is one of the keys to acing a career as an estate agent. While ground photographs are important taking buyers into the sky and offering them a bird’s eye perspective will take your sales strategy to a whole new level!

Offers an overview of the area

When shopping for property potential buyers aren’t just looking at the house itself. The surrounding areas and neighbourhoods play a huge role in determining whether or not they’ll sign on the dotted line. When you use a drone to capture bird’s eye footage of a property you’ll be offering buyers-to-be a complete visual overview of the area in all is glory.

Captures scope and scale

If you’re considering hiring a drone to capture aerial footage of a property, it’s likely that you’ve got a pretty spectacular estate on your hands. Whether it’s a sprawling Victorian mansion, a new neighbourhood development or a historic castle, a drone will capture the impressive scale of the property with ease. The city of Southampton and its county of Hampshire are home to some pretty spectacular properties and without aerial footage to capture their expanse you’ll be selling yourself, your clients and the property short.

A cost effective option

While helicopters can cost over tens of thousands of pounds for just one session drones are incredibly affordable. They are capable of achieving the same HD cinema standard footage at a reasonable price that can be budgeted into the sales strategy of any high end property.

Galvanises eye-level footage

Creating captivating videos is a tried and tested technique used by many high end estate agents. Eye-level footage is an important part of showcasing a property however when combined with the drama and eminence of sweeping bird’s eye footage your shots will have a much higher impact.

Are you a real estate agent who has used drone footage to supercharge your sales strategy? What’s your favourite benefit? We want to know!

The Benefits of Drone Filming for… Yachting

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The Benefits of Drone Filming for… Yachting


The yachting industry represents the epitome of luxury leisure pursuits and is a lucrative source of profit for a plethora of companies across the globe. In the UK alone experts estimate that the 2013/14 value of the nation’s superyacht industry sits at a huge £492 million. This figure represents a 7.1% increase from 2012/13 figures. As the world emerges from the midst of a global economic recession the future is looking brighter and brighter for the sector. Particularly for the UK’s major yachting hubs of Hamble, Hampshire and Southampton!

It’s now necessary to film the vessels in a range of different scenarios, from company advertisements and music videos to training tapes and movies. So what are the benefits of drone filming in the yachting industry? Here are a few of our favourites:

Overcome the swell

One of the major challenges of filming at sea is trying to secure stable footage while floating on a dynamic body of water. Whether it’s an ocean, a river or a lake even the calmest of conditions can still result in wobbly cameras and footage that is guaranteed to induce sea sickness! By getting above the water and into the air drones allow directors to capture crystal clear HD footage.


Capture sheer scale

Remember being absolutely captivated by the sweeping shots of The Titanic in James Cameron’s epic blockbuster? While they were computer generated, what made the footage so mesmerising was the fact that it offered viewers a bird’s eye perspective of the vessel, a technique that really captures the sheer scale and impressive presence of a boat. For the yachting industry this is a hugely effective way to capture the imagination of your audience, whether they’re in the market for a luxury yacht, watching a film or viewing an advertisement.

Cost effectiveness

By far one of the major benefits of drone footage is its affordability. Hiring a helicopter comes with a sky-high price tag yet for a fraction of the cost a drone can achieve the same HD footage.


Refining professional techniques

For professional sailors wishing to refine their technique drone footage can be extremely insightful. By analysing bird’s eye recordings the team can refine positioning, manoeuvres, tactics, starts, mark roundings and more! It’s the ultimate tool for supercharging performance.


Enhanced flexibility

Unlike filming on dry land the surface area camera operators have to work with on yachts is incredibly limited. This is where drones come in useful! They can reach spaces and capture footage that simply wouldn’t be possible using a handheld camera. They also far outperform helicopters when it comes to capturing intimate and up-close footage.

What’s your favourite benefit of using drones to capture at-sea yachting footage? Hire UAViate to show your yacht in its best light and you’ll see for yourself the endless possibilities of using drone technology.

Drone Filming in London Part Two

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If you read part one of our blog on Drone Filming in London, you may be wondering what actually happened on the day….

Drone Filming in London

Moving from the pre-tactical (or planning) phase to the tactical (i.e. flying) stage really demonstrates the differences in strengths between UAViate & Cloud 12 and why we form a great partnership delivering more than the sum of our parts. Upon arrival at ‘tech base’ (a multi storey car park) we transferred the drones and all the kit on to the street that was to be the setting for the first take and got everything set up. This is where the pilot undertakes a pre-flight inspection to ensure nothing has been damaged in transit, the camera operator liaises wiSetting Up for Drone Aerial Filming in Londonth the camera department to ensure the right lenses are fixed and all settings (ISO, Colour Temperature etc) are as required for aerial video. An in-depth site assessment is then undertaken ensuring all hazards are noted, all pedestrian marshals are aware of their responsibilities and take-off, landing and emergency landing areas are identified. Due to the nature of this location we also undertook RF (radio frequency) analysis to understand how congested the airwaves were and determine whether any further mitigations needed to be considered.

Prior to ‘action’ there is a discussion with the director and director of photography to discuss the requirements for each take. It is at this point it often necessary to reiterate the legal and Drone Aerial Filming in Londontechnical limitations of the aircraft and moderate what might be requested offering alternatives, after all this is the reason they use aerial filming specialists.

We were very confident in our safety procedures, planning and the capabilities of the Cloud 12 drone and team that in order to convince the CAA to issue a landmark permission we actually invited a representative to regulate us in real-time. We agreed that should they think we were not operating safely they could shut us down at a moments notice. To facilitate this we asked ARPAS  to host the CAA on our behalf, and communicate to them the finer points of what was happening, so we could concentrate on the flights in hand. Needless to say, the CAA later commented that it was ‘the safest they could ever expect it to be’.

On the first of the London streets we filmed using the camera drone we were only permitted to close the road to the public and traffic for 2 minutes, known as dynamic traffic management. Operating under these condition certainly makes things more exciting but Cordon for Drone Aerial Filming in Londonit is imperative we never allow safety to be compromised. In those two minutes we had to close the road, clear the traffic and pedestrians, launch the drone, start the action, film the scene, ‘cut’ and then return to land before we could allow the public access again. We have found it is also necessary to safeguard the landing areas as once the action is cut we still have an aircraft to land, a point which is very often forgotten by the film crew but with safety specialists embedded within the team we are always one step ahead.

In total the aircraft was flown flawlessly from 3 areas around the Spitalfields area, each one requiring it’s own individual assessments and surveys and the results should be impressive to watch on the big screen when Criminal is released in summer 2015.

Not only did Criminal utilise Cloud 12’s camera drone for aerial filming but UAViate pilot Paul Rigby also flew the ‘hero drone’, a modified F550 in the City of London. More on that next time……

Drone Filming in London

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Drone Filming in London – Part One

Drone Filming in London

Credit: Film Office

Drone filming in London is not without its challenges yet it is where the most iconic buildings and skylines can be found and attracts many big name production companies. The airspace over the city is complex, busy and there are many restricted areas with their own specific rules. London is rarely quiet; the streets are always a hive of activity. Ensuring the public can go about their daily activities safely and with minimum disruption should always be a top priority for any drone operator undertaking aerial filming in the capital. Furthermore, there are many organisations that must be involved and negotiated with to give their approval


Credit: Millennium Films

UAViate & Cloud 12 were recently involved in a very high profile shoot on a weekday near Spitalfields in London. It took nearly six weeks of planning from undertaking an initial recce with the director Ariel Vromen and director of photography Dana Gonzales. This is where they described  what sort of shots they were trying to get and gave us their requirements. After that initial brief, with the help of the locations manager and the supervising locations manager, we proceeded to engage with the necessary parties.

Amongst the organisations that needed to give approval for the aerial filming were the CAA, NATS, Film London, Diplomatic Protection Group, the local authorities and the local police. The area we wished to fly in was within an area of airspace over the city catchily known as R158. No aircraft may fly in this area below 1400ft without permission from DPG, applications for which are handled via NATS. I don’t know the ins and outs of the screening process but I’m led to believe they check the pilot isn’t a bit dodgy, your company isn’t secretly funding the latest in vogue extremists and you’re not planning to fly near a secret CIA outpost. NATS also require that aircraft operating over 7kg get approval to fly before entering controlled airspace.

Drone Aerial Filming in London

Credit: Film Office

These are all relatively straight forward processes so far; the biggest hurdle is convincing the CAA to issue an exemption to the standard permissions. Pilots undertaking aerial video with aircraft over 7kg have a set of standard permissions they must adhere to as part of their Permission for Aerial Work (PFAW). The main rules being they must remain 150m away from a ‘congested area’ and 50m away from people, buildings or vessels. Neither of these are really possible within most areas of London.

In order to be granted an exemption, you need to demonstrate to the CAA that appropriate measures will be put in place to protect the public and that there will be no increased risk.  A 40 page safety case later, 3 road closures, numerous SIA-approved pedestrian marshals, dynamic traffic management, all residents and businesses letter dropped along with on-site RF analysis, a Cloud 12 pilot with more skills than Maverick and a Skyjib 8 aircraft, affectionally known as ‘Olivia’, with a better service history than Lewis Hamilton’s F1 car and we pretty much had everything in place. Drone filming in London is go…..

Check back for part 2 for what happened on the day. In the meantime, read more about what the Film Office had to say here http://bit.ly/1sWoQ5Q

Drone Aerial Video

UAViate’s Best Drone Aerial Videos of 2014

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Top Aerial Films of 2014

Just because a drone video goes viral doesn’t necessarily make it a ‘good’ video and there’s plenty of household name sites putting up lists of top drone videos which are shockingly bad, jerky, dangerous or illegal . There’s more to drone filming than flying recklessly over a crowd, illegally near an airport or crashing into a tree.

Here’s our top selection of drone aerial video from 2014. These aerial cinematographers have brought together all the aspects needed to make a drone video worthy of going viral. A great subject, smooth camera work, good lighting and a soundtrack to match the mood conveyed in the video; all illustrated in this top five. Often a video that looks easy to make is far from it and requires a lot of technical skill.  Each of the first four  videos below all have one thing in common, if you don’t guess straight away we’ll let you know by clip five.

I hope you will agree that these videos are worthy of being in our ‘best of 2014.’

Title: Koh Yao Noi

Pilot: Phillip Bloom

This video is testament to the fact that an expensive camera and aircraft are not needed to make an amazing video. It might help that Philip Bloom is a director and film maker himself but this is a great example of what can be done with entry level kit.

Title:  Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl

Pilot: Danny Cooke

Another example of a great aerial video produced with entry level kit. The soundtrack matches the slow moving shots of the phantom, together with the desolate environment they convey a true sense of emptiness.

Title: Pipeline Winter 2013

Pilot: Eric Sterman

Making action sports look cinematic isn’t that easy but I think Eric Sterman has done a fantastic job here with his drone. Some cool editing, unusual music and gnarly waves are the perfect ingredients for this aerial film. Technically from end of 2013 but not really seen by the masses until 2014.

Title:  Thailand from Above

Pilot: Robert Serrini

Thailand obviously makes a good subject for filming as it’s here again. This time we’re in Koh Phi Phi with Robert Serrini.

Title: Danny Macaskill: The Ridge

Pilot: Lec Park

This film is more than just drone footage but that in itself is a great point to make. Drone video should compliment ground based footage and can really elevate the look of the film. Drone footage makes productions look expensive. This is the only video in our selection that isn’t filmed on a GoPro/Phantom combo (did you guess that already?)

Flying Drones and Aerial Filming in the UK

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Drone Flying and Aerial Filming

Rules Regarding Drone Flying in the UK

The rules in the UK could be considered common sense, stay away from people and busy areas and don’t fly near buildings or airports. Some people don’t have common sense though and are oblivious to everything around them. My girlfriend is one of those people, bags of intelligence but no common sense to go with it, luckily she doesn’t fly drones!

Other Airspace Users

There are lots of other airspace users we need to share the sky with; air ambulances, police, gliders, parachutists, hang gliders and military low level aircraft. The easiest way to avoid these airspace users is to stay below 400ft (unless following FPV-UK guidelines) and away from areas specifically used for such activities. You can find these areas marked on aeronautical charts such as skydemonlight or websites such as noflydrones. Have a quick look before you fly somewhere new.

New Drone Pilots

Those of you who have just got a new drone for christmas will save a lot of money if you read the manual thoroughly. Ensure you understand the difference between GPS mode, atti and manual. How to get a satellite lock before you take off and how to do the compass dance. You don’t want £500+ worth of kit flying away or crashing into the ground! Have a look on facebook for some great groups full of knowledgeable pilots and learn cheaply from the mistakes that others have already made.

Aerial Filming

Aerial video and using your drone for photography is a great way to get the most out of your new aircraft.  Share your images on facebook groups and learn how to tweak colours, remove fisheye and stitch multiple images together. Remember though unless you have a Permission for Aerial Work (PFAW) you can’t sell these images or receive any valuable consideration. Look up Resource Group or EuroUSC if you want to become a commercial drone pilot.

Have fun, be safe and fly smart!


UAViate Flying Drones for Aerial Video

Drones Bring A New Angle to Aerial Filming in Movies

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Aerial Filming in Blockbuster Films…..

…. used to be the sole preserve of helicopters but drones are now delivering movie grade footage at a fraction of the price. Not only are they cheaper but they are capturing shots never seen before on the big screen as they fly through windows and doors and perform the job of a 400ft jib. Helicopters will always have their place on the movie set for aerial footage as their endurance and payload capacity cannot currently be matched by drones. However, for low level chase scenes around metropolitan areas, city centre rivers and built up areas drones are proving their worth.

Flying Drones in Congested Areas…..

…. is not without challenges, as there are many authorities to liaise with. On a recent job with Cloud 12 in London we had to seek permission from the Diplomatic Protection Group, Film London, the local boroughs, the local police, National Air Traffic Services and the Civil Aviation Authority. Closing streets, dynamic traffic management and pedestrian marshals ensured the public were never at risk.

Here’s three films that have used drone footage for some unique perspectives…..

Seal Team Eight: Behind Enemy Lines

Aerial filming by the ‘Drone Crew’ from South Africa.

Wolf of Wall Street

Drone pilots ‘Freefly Cinema’ from the USA provided the aerial cinematography for this shoot.


The aerial footage for the motorbike chase scene in Istanbul was filmed by Flying Cam inc.

Read more about what Film London had to say about drone flying in congested areas here: http://bit.ly/1sWoQ5Q

Operations Manual for UAS Operators: Part Three

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Who should write an operations manual?

Writing an operations manual is a great place to dig down into the detail of your operation, the start of your business and really understand what you do but written aviation language often takes a specific style and not everyone will find it easy to adapt to. It is quite often quite prescriptive and authoritative and while the learning experience may be great for the person who writes the document, it may not lend itself to being easy to read and use for other employees. Some organisations will also be entering the UAS world merely to use the aerial platforms as a tool to extend their existing business such as the police mentioned earlier and engineers, photographers and film makers.

Airlines, air navigation service providers and airports all have specialist teams of writers who produce these documents so that they are clear, concise and fulfil their legal obligations. It is unlikely, though not impossible, that an individual from a non-aviation or non-technical industry will excel in writing such formalised documents nor will they be able to produce the document as quickly as someone well versed in the activity. The same could be said for a pilot or controller although often they will spend time in those specialist teams. Also, is it a good use of a policeman, pilot, photographer or film makers time to spend so much time away from their core business? A good document writing team will use a pilot, controller or engineer to review their documents, update them and take on board improvements leaving the PIC to undertake their primary role. If you choose to outsource the writing and publication of your operations manual you may well save yourself over a weeks worth of resource, not to mention NI, tax and pension payments if applicable. It should be noted that every pilot within an organisation should be familiar with the manual and this saved time can be better spent understanding how to apply and use the manual in operational circumstances.

Our next article will address the style of language that is often used in aviation documentation.

Operations Manual for UAS Operators: Part Two

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Responsibility and Accountability

Are you responsible or accountable? That depends where you sit in the company and what role you carry out. In a nutshell, if you’re accountable you answer for it. If you are responsible, you do it. If you think of this from a safety viewpoint in the Unmanned Aerial Systems world then it is the PIC who is responsible for safety but it is the company directors who are accountable and the operations manual is a great place to detail this. Initially though, many start up UAS organisations are 1 or 2 person operations so you may find that you are both accountable and responsible at the same time. The important point is to specify this in the operations manual. A great way to future proof the development of your operations manual is to refer to and define which roles (i.e. job titles) are accountable and responsible for which tasks and then later in an appendix you can name who currently undertakes each role, which for most start ups will be the same person. Organisations such as the police will have a clear delineation here and taking the operational trial of UAS at Gatwick as an example, the Chief Constable is accountable and it is a Police Constable operating as the PIC and hence responsible for safety.

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Operations Manual for UAS Operators: Part One

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The aviation world revolves around safety, it is at the forefront of everything we do, design and operate. To ensure that we have everybody metaphorically singing from the same hymn sheet, we formalise the hymn sheets into documents. Depending where and which company you work for these documents take on different names; work orders, checklists, company procedures. They all have one thing in common; they are Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s). They exist because there is a need to control Safety, Quality, Cost & Delivery. It ensures that Bob who’s nearing retirement, on an early morning job in Scotland carries out a procedure the exact same way as Sarah, a new joiner to the company on a job in Southern England at the weekend. A process that is not controlled will inevitably produce variations in the end result that will be a contributing factor in quality problems, equipment failures and safety concerns. Standard Operating Procedures ensure that consistency is maintained and can also be developed as time goes by to incorporate improvements based on experience, accidents, near misses or innovations from other manufacturers or operators to suit the needs of a particular organisation.

For those pilots undertaking BNUC or RPQ certification and aspiring to get a permission to fly for aerial work (PFAW) there is a requirement to submit SOP’s in the form of an Operations Manual. The operations manual shouldn’t be thought of as just a tick box exercise or a hoop to jump through so you can get out there and start undertaking some paying sorties. It should be your go to guide especially when you are busy, under pressure and are required to deliver a service to your customer. It is easy to miss crucial steps and these can be as easily forgotten when you are relaxed as when you are feeling the pressure. Without a procedure to follow, the results of a missed step such as failing to check a battery charge before loading on the aircraft could have safety implications or it could be that you forget to press record on the GoPro which would have financial implications if you don’t get paid for the job. The operations manual will also serve as an instruction manual and guide should you employ more than one pilot, ensuring all pilots operate in the same, safe and efficient manner.

In the manned world, a study showed that 72% of incidents involved omission of a step or procedure as a causal factor in an incident and for those familiar with the Swiss Cheese Model it is clear that following a checklist would probably have prevented these incidents. The operations manual is a bit more than just a set of checklists though; it documents the company structure, the company ethos towards safety and the technical specifications of your aircraft. It also demonstrates you understand the responsibilities and accountabilities of the company and the Pilot-in-Command (PIC), the rules with which you must comply and the processes you will carry out in order to fulfil those goals.

Part 2: Responsibility and Accountability

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Lockheed Martin adds new sUAS

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Lockheed Martin has added a new waterproof fixed wing aircraft to their product range.

“We are proud to deliver Vector Hawk, a waterproof system that provides leading edge multi-mission capabilities in all environments,” said Kevin Westfall, director of Unmanned Solutions at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business. “The Vector Hawk can be field reconfigured to multiple missions including fixed-wing, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and tilt-rotor enabling VTOL with transition to fixed wing flight. Our fixed wing variants may be hand or tube launched, and VTOL and tilt-rotor variants may be launched from land or water surfaces.”