Writing your Drone Operations Manual Vol 1 & 2 – Important Updates from the CAA

Writing your Drone Operations Manual Vol 1 & 2 – Important Updates from the CAA

Why It’s Crucial to Stay Up to Date with CAA Amendments

Firstly, it’s important to highlight that the CAA drone Operations Manual is a document for you, not the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). You and/or your employees are the ones who will be applying it to all your future SUA business operations. Therefore, you need to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the document, including keeping up to date with any changes or amendments from the CAA. These may come into play before you’ve even submitted your Ops Manual to the CAA for approval and is something we will explore further in this article.

For those of you already familiar with the drone Operations Manual, you’ll know it’s not a short process by any means. Whether you’re making the final tweaks, are part-way through writing the document or yet to begin, it’s important that you take note of the information available in this article. It’s not uncommon for new requirements to get drafted in by the CAA after you’ve completed your Ops Manual but are yet to submit it for approval – and that’s where you can get caught out.

But don’t panic, we’re here to help. This article will outline all the most recent updates from the CAA* and provide you with a comprehensive checklist of amendments to action prior to submitting your CAA drone Operations Manual.

Air Navigation Order 2016 – Amendment

Please be aware that UAS applications received after 30/07/18 may be rejected if they do not reflect the latest amendment to the Air Navigation Order (ANO).

Before you make an application please ensure that your Operations Manual has been updated and meets the requirements set out in latest Air Navigation Order 2018 amendment.

Please refer to CAP 1687 which provides full guidance for small aircraft users.

Key areas to consider include:

  • ANO changes for small UAS (20kg or less)
    • 400ft height limit for all
    • Distance restriction from ‘Airports’
  • The following areas are included and will become ‘effective’ at a later date
    • Registration
    • Pilot competence requirements

When updating your manual please also ensure that your amendment log and version number/date have also been updated.

All existing applications submitted up until 30/07/18 will be accepted if referencing the Air Navigation Order 2016 prior to the 2018 amendment. Any NQE recommendations which have been granted by an NQE prior to 30/07/18, will not be affected by the Air Navigation Order amendments.

The standard Permission For Commercial Operations (PFCO) will be amended as follows from 30/07/18:

  • The classes have been reduced from 4 to 2, i.e. 0-20Kg Multirotor and 0-20Kg Fixed Wing. 
  • The standard permission now also permits operations in congested areas down to 50m for all UAS 20Kg or less.
  • Flights at night will be automatically granted provided a procedure for this has been established in the OPS Manual. Procedures covering night operations must also be incorporated into your Ops Manual for renewal applications. 
  • Current permissions will be grandfathered until an application is submitted to the CAA. However in the interim current Permission holders will need to use CAP 1687 to update their procedures accordingly to meet the new requirements.

This will simplify the application process and grant additional privileges to applicants. It will also help to reduce queries to the CAA and reduce costs to industry for variations to standard permissions. The current OSC process remains unchanged. Further details can be found on the CAA website.

If you have any issues or queries with the above please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]

Air Navigation Order 2016 (see above)

The Air Navigation Order (ANO 2016) was updated to Version 5.3 on 27th March 2018 and you must amend your drone Operations Manual to reflect this, e.g.

1. In your document control (Referenced Publications section) you must list details of all publications used to source information for your OSC Volume 1, including CAP 393 ANO 2016 and The Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2018. You should amend this to reflect the newest revision number 5.3, plus any additional mention throughout Volumes 1 & 2.

ECCAIRS Reporting Process

You must ensure you have mentioned the incident reporting process (ECCAIRS), explained the importance of it and how you would create a report via the ECCAIRS website. You can include a flow chart to show the steps you would take for the reporting process. We suggest amending the following sections in Volume 1 to include the information stated or similar:

2. Add to your Safety Policy e.g.

The company will maintain a record of safety incidents and report any Air Safety matters worth reporting via the ECCAIRS portal www.aviationreporting.eu.

3. Add to Accident Prevents and Flight Safety Program e.g.

The company will maintain a record of safety incidents and report any Air Safety matters via the ECCAIRS portal if appropriate. The Airprox report system will be used if necessary and also the AAIB informed if required.

You should then include a clear table of contact details for the relevant agencies.

Contacting Air Traffic Control

To ensure you are clued up on how and when to contact Air Traffic Control (ATC), you must include if you intend on speaking with the ATC and if so, you should provide an explanation on how you would find the correct contact number and the process involved. This is particularly useful when you are onsite working a commercial job, as you can refer to your drone Operations Manual for this information.

4. Add to the Communications section in Volume 1 e.g.

In case of contacting Air Traffic Control the NSF and ENSF procedure will be used If required. The NATS AIS website will be used to obtain ATC phone numbers for the use in the case of an emergency using the link below.

ATC Contact Numbers

  • Select IAIP from the menu
  • Select Aerodrome index – Specific from the menu
  • Select Aerodrome name from list
  • Open Aerodrome Textual data

NSF/ENSF Application
The weblink http://www.nats.aero/nsf can be used to obtain more information on NSF/ENSF flight approval, including submitting an application.

5. Add to your Pre-Notification section in Volume 1 e.g.

Aerodrome/ATC contact phone numbers may be found by using the below weblink and following the 4 Steps below This information will want to be to hand on the day of operation.

ATC Contact Numbers

  • Select IAIP from the menu
  • Select Aerodrome index – Specific from the menu
  • Select Aerodrome name from list
  • Open Aerodrome Textual data

Person in Charge (PiC) – Amendment


As per Article 94G in Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2018, the meaning of meaning of ‘remote pilot’ and ‘SUA operator’ has been updated.

This Article provides the definitions of remote pilot and SUA operator, which replace the previous ‘person in charge’ term.

The separate terms are used to denote the differing levels of responsibility of each position and to also accommodate the November 2019 registration and competency requirements. In many cases, of course, it should be noted that the remote pilot and the SUA operator will be the same individual.

6. In addition to the Accountable Manager, the Remote Pilot or SUA Operator must be named in Volume 1 under Nominated Personnel.

The nominated personnel are scalable as appropriate, e.g. Accountable Manager, Operations Manager, Technical Manager, Remote Pilot, Other SUA Operators. These are not official posts in the sense of an organisation applying for an Air Operating Certificate (e.g. an Airline) and multiple functions may be filled by the same person. Each function must however be covered in brief and any internal audit/quality function must be fulfilled by a separate person, e.g. camera operator.

We suggest including a table detailing the full name and role of each nominated personnel. Note that the Accountable Manager and Remote Pilot / SUA Operator can be the same person and must be detailed as individual nominated personnel in the table.

Document Formatting

Operations Manuals must be supplied to us in PDF format, not Word for marking and for submission to the CAA.

This is so that your document is secure, legible and easy to navigate, to ensure the review process is able to be conducted efficiently.

Unfortunately, any Ops Manuals received in word format will be sent back before review commences – thank you in advance.

Further Information

If you require any additional information on how to write your CAA drone Operations Manual, you can refer to the Civil Aviation Authority website or 01293 768374. Existing UDT customers can contact our friendly team on 0330 111 8800 (option 2) or email [email protected].

*All requirements outlined in this article are current at the time of publishing. It is the Operators responsibility to ensure they are aware of all updates from the CAA and to maintain their Operations Manual within the current regulatory framework. To receive the most up-to-date information, please contact the Civil Aviation Authority.

To learn more about gaining your drone pilot’s CAA Permission for Commercial Operations, now’s the time to speak with our expert training team. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today!

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