Hovershotz renew professional drone Insurance with Moonrock drone insurance with £10m public liability & professional indemnity
One of the stipulations of our PFCO (permission for commercial operation ) from the CAA is for us to hold full insurance cover that covers our drone activities, to EC Regulation No. 785/2004. This year we moved to Moonrock insurance and have upped our public liability cover to £10M, this is a requirement from some of our local authority, public sector, rail sector and film making clients. In addition to public liability also provides professional indemnity, for complete peace of mind for our clients.
Our insurance covers Hovershotz drone operations for a variety of locations in the North West (Cumbria Lake District & Lancashire) & activities, including flying over water, mountainous terrain, urban areas, sports events, indoors and even at night in the dark. It will also cover us, for when we receive our OSC (operational safety case) which we have applied for from the CAA, which once revieved will allow Hovershotz to fly further, higher & closer to people and structures than standard PFCO permissions allow and also allow us to operate over events, particularly ones involving over 1,000 people.
Being based in the Lake District, we at Hovershotz we are well versed with the challenges of flying drones over water or launching and landing from boats. Over the last 5 years we have flown extensively over different bodies of water – lakes, rivers, estuaries, at sea and of the coastline, conducting all manor of aerial filming and aerial photography.
Drone imaging captured over water in Cumbria allows for rarely seen views of the Lake District. We see aquatic life, shoreline, boats and the spectacle of contrasting elements. Flying a drone from a boat and over water is especially challenging and requires a great deal of care and pre-consideration if you don’t want to say goodbye to your drone. We have considered a full waterproof drone but we are yet to find one with a camera good enough for our discerning clients, although we are hopefully testing early next year a waterproof cinema grade prototype from Swellpro.
We have been flying over water and from boats since our DJI Pantom 2, in 2013, and in the early days we endured several scares and close calls. We learned from our mistakes and have a few pointers which we hope will help others so that they also learn from our mishaps. Here, at Hovershotz Aerial Photography, we have compiled a list of pointers that will help you mitigate your risks while flying from a boat or over water. Not all of these tips will apply to every flight or every type of boat. It is best to at least read these and grasp the reasons behind each tip, in case you find yourself in a wet situation where your drone begins to act oddly.
Let’s go through the tips point-by-point:
Stop the boat before booting up your gear. This allows the electronic sensors in the inertial measurement unit (IMU) to settle down.
We have found the Inspire 2 drone with its robust lading gear the ideal model to fly from boats, for the reason that you may have to hand-launch and hand-catch the drone one handed. The large legs of the Inspire 2 air-frame make this possible, though not recommended until you have mastered it with plenty of practice.
Calibrate compass and (IMU) sensors on shore before you board the boat and at each opportunity, you are able to set foot on dry land.
Sit down when you fly from a boat.
Turn off the visual positioning system (VPS) over water. The motion of the water may cause the drone to act in erratic fashion because the optical and sonic sensors have a difficult time “seeing” or locking in on something fluid.
Pre-check airspace in all areas in which the boat will be located. Don’t get out there on the water and unexpectedly find yourself in a no-fly zone.
Launching from a yacht is possibly the trickiest maneuver, for you have little control over the speed of the boat. Guy-wires create obstacles in several directions.
Upon landing on the boat, or in the hands of the “catcher,” the drone’s motors will take several seconds longer to shut down than they do on land because the boat is in constant motion and the drone will not “recognise”
that it is “on the ground.”
Set your home point to Dynamic so that your remote controller is always the return-to-home point rather than the take-off point. The boat will have moved from the take-off point after you have flown a few minutes. (this isn’t available obsolete drones such as the Inspire 1.)
Toggle Distance Limit to off.
Select a custom channel after you check the DJI Go 4 app to determine which frequencies are empty and available.
In the DJI Go 4 app, under Main Controller Settings > Advanced Settings > Remote Controller Signal Lost, you have three options from which to predetermine in the event that you completely lose remote control signal with your drone. These are a) Return-to-Home, b) Landing, and c) Hover. Hover is likely the best option, but this depends on many variables. Think this through in advance depending on your situation. Landing is most likely a bad choice here.
Always launch by hand or from your hard drone case or non-metallic table, boats are often constructed with a lot of metal and this causes compass errors. The way to get rid of the compass error is to lift the drone off the metal or move it away from metal surfaces.
Be prepared to hand catch with a glove. Keep a tight-fitting leather glove in your drone case. Catching a drone by hand is very dangerous and is the last option for landing. But in boat situations, this may be the only option. Gloves are still not guaranteed to protect your hand from the propellers, but they will help.
Be conscious of the direction and the speed of the water current. Many decisions upon take-off and landing will depend on the drift of your boat. Wind is also a factor in the boat’s drift.
When hand catching on a small craft, position the boat to drift in a perpendicular fashion to the incoming drone. It is a lot easier to land or catch the drone as it comes in from the side, lessening the risk of collision with the boat or another person.
Risk mitigation is important before boat-droning. Think everything out in advance.
Remember this, if nothing else: If you launch any GPS-enabled drone while the boat is moving (even slightly), the drone marks the home position instantly upon takeoff. The drone will stay in its GPS home position while the boat continues to drift. This may cause the properly-operating drone to appear as if it is drifting out of control as the boat moves under it. The drone may accidentally hit a guy-wire, antenna, or worse yet, a person.
Once booted up, throttle up fast and elevate the drone above people and above masts, antennas, etc. The boat is likely drifting and the drone is locked into 3-D space accurately by GPS coordinates. Accidents occur when the moving boat runs into the positioned drone.
Be conscious of waves and swells. As you launch and land on a large body of water, the boat will lift and lower itself in the swells, which may not even be visible with the human eye. This effect may make it appear mistakenly as if the drone is drifting up and down in altitude when it is actually stable and it is the boat itself that is rising and falling.
Do store your drone away from the motor or engine room. Electromagnetic energy is emitted near the motor or engine room. This energy may be so severe that you have no choice but to go back to shore to re-calibrate the compass or IMU sensors.
Plan to swap out SD cards every time you swap out batteries. Your card filled with images and video is possibly the most valuable part of your drone (some of Hovershotz boat footage has sold for more than the price of the drone that shot it).
Stay within line of sight. There is nothing more scary than not knowing where your drone is when you are on a boat that is moving. Believe me on this, at the very least, keep the buzzing sound within ear-range.
Depending on the boat size, you may want to turn off obstacle avoidance. Do you have a large landing zone, or not? On a small boat, the obstacle avoidance may inhibit your landing techniques or even prohibit you from hand-catching the drone.
We hope that these tips will help when flying your drone over water or from a boat.
Here at Hovershotz we have been following the development of the DJI Mavic 2 with interest, as we are in the market for a compact fold-able drone but having tested the now discontinued original Mavic Air and Pro we held off due to the image quality in these consumer drones.
Today DJI announced two new Mavic drones – the Mavic Pro 2 and the Mavic 2 Zoom. The Mavic Pro 2 is the most interest to Hovershotz, as it contains a Hasselblad camera with a full 1″ CCD sensor. This camera allows for 20 megapixels still images, which is now the bare minimum resolution our clients are now requesting for aerial photography. Many filmakers would not accept footage from the original Mavic Pro due due difficulties in colour grading the final footage but the new Mavic 2 Pro’s addresses this weakness with the ability to shoot 10-bit HDR videos using Dlog-M color profile. Whilst the camera of the Mavic air is only suitable for hobby use.
Interestingly DJI describe the Mavic 2 as a prosumer drone (falls between professional and consumer use), whereas they describe the Mavic 1 as a consumer drone (aimed at hobby flyers).
It seems that the Mavic 2 Pro has made the Inspire 1 obsolete. Shortly after the launch, many Inspire 1 owners who cannot afford to upgrade to the Inspire 2 have been dumping their Inspire 1’s in favour of the Mavic Pro 2.
DJI MAVIC 2 Pro & Zoom
Thankfully we held back from jumping in prematurely and buying a Mavic Pro and we are looking to test a Mavic 2 Pro next week in a back to back test with the original Mavic and if it ticks all our boxes, we hope to be the first professional drone operator to operate the latest DJI Mavic 2 Pro in Cumbria.
Once we have tested the DJI Mavic 2, we will list all the advantages over the old Mavic.
One consideration for flying of drones in the Lake District or on the Cumbria coast is the natural wildlife – specifically nesting birds. All wild birds are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is a criminal offence to harm or disturb them during the nesting period. Nesting birds view drones as a threat, as they believe these to be predatory birds of prey.
The ‘Bird Nesting Season’ is officially from February until August (according to Natural England). However, in reality the nesting period may start before this and extend beyond it, in some cases. The busiest time for nesting birds is from 1st March until 31st July and of course varies according to species, etc. Drone operators are advised to seek specialist advice.
The penalties for disturbing wild birds with drones are quite severe, fines of up to £5,000 and up to six months in prison. In July 2018, a Keswick man was fined £2,000 for disturbing the nesting Ospreys near Bassenthwaite Lake by running illegal tourist coach trips to view the Osprey’s. While this was not drone related, the principle remains the same and with the current media reporting of illegal drone use, any disturbance of birds by drone in the Lake District will no doubt be met with frenzied media reporting. No doubt the authorities will also seek to send out a message that disturbing birds and wild life in the Lake District by drone is unacceptable and impose very stiff penalties on cowboy drone operators.
Before Hovershotz conduct any aerial photography or drone filming in the Lake District or North West coast, we conduct very strict and thorough pre flight surveys and checks, which involve making sure any of our activities do not fall foul (we could used a bad joke and have said fowl) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This is in addition to tour usual checks which involve making sure all flights can be made safely and legally, such as checking withe the RAF or Ministry of Defence for any military aircraft activity in the Lake District.
UK drone photography laws are designed to protect the safety and privacy of the general public. Newly introduced European general data protection regulation laws known as ‘GDPR’ have increased privacy protection for aerial photography in Cumbria and the UK as a whole. As drone technology is still relatively new, legislation is having to play catch up and adapt to their use. Anyone using drones for aerial photography has a responsibility to understand existing laws and keep up with changes so as not to fall foul of the ever changing laws.
The first important thing to understand is the difference in laws applying to drone hobby flyers and commercial drone operators. Anyone offering services like drone roof surveys, aerial filming and drone photography for payment must have approval to operate from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Approval comes in the form of a permission for commercial operation from the CAA called a PFCO, not a UK drone licence as many people believe.
Obtaining CAA Permission For Commercial Operations involves studying and passing an exam on drone laws in the UK, health and safety considerations, how to ensure a drone is airworthy and other important subjects. The operator needs to produce a very detailed operations manual listing all processes and procedures for commercial drone operations. A pilot also has to pass a practical test demonstrating that they are sufficiently proficient in flying a drone.
Hobby drone flyers don’t need to pass exams and tests currently, but changes are coming. Some may resist this, but drones can be dangerous in the wrong hands so it’s reasonable that all users should have an understanding of the risks and how to mitigate them. Public perception of drones is quite negative, so steps to improve safety can also help the drone industry to be viewed more positively.
The next important drone photography UK laws relate to privacy and data protection. It’s legal to take a person’s photograph in a public place in the UK, but the use of the images does need to be considered. If you plan to sell or profit from pictures of identifiable people they need to give their consent. Naturally you need to be sensitive to photographing children without parental consent, and bear in mind that some may be under protection and can’t have their images published online. Drone filming comes under the same legislation as CCTV filming and comes under the jurisdiction of the information commissioners office.
Drone photography UK laws must be taken seriously. Greater regulation of the use of unmanned aircraft is likely over coming years, and there will be more resources for enforcement.
The popularity of drones has soared in recent years, and thousands of people are taking flying as a new hobby. There are also a growing number of people becoming CAA pfco approved drone pilots ready to join the rapidly expanding new drone industry. Prices have fallen as drones have advanced and become more widely available, but the costs are still out of the reach of many people. Buying second hand drones can be the answer.
You can pick up cheap drones to get a taste of flying for under a hundred pounds, but these have limited use. Battery life is often only a few minutes, and cheap drones struggle to fly outdoors in anything other than a light breeze. If aerial photography appeals to you, drones for under a hundred pounds can’t produce anything other than basic snapshots. Buying second hand drones gives you greater options, and you can pick up aircraft like the DJI Mavic or DJI Phantom 4 Pro at bargain prices if you shop around in Cumbria, such as drone junkyard or Facebook Marketplace.
There are some pitfalls to look out for when buying second hand drones, and the following tips will help you to avoid them.
Check the general condition. It a drone has scratches and damage to the paintwork, it’s an indication it’s seen heavy use. It may also mean it’s been in some collisions and rough landings.
Check the propellers. Look for small cracks and dents, and make sure the props turn smoothly when you turn them by hand. If their loose or don’t turn evenly it’s a warning sign.
Check the battery. Ideally you want to see the battery charge fully when buying second hand drones. Look for physical damage (particularly swelling) or tarnishing around the contacts where the battery connects to the drone.
Ask to see the drone fly. This is the ultimate test when buying second hand drones. The motors should run smoothly and rev when the thrust is applied. If a seller resists demonstrating the drone in flight then walk away
Check that the camera and gimbal both work correctly
Ask how the drone has been used. If the owner is a CAA approved drone pilot it may have been used on a daily basis commercially. A commercial drone pilot will have maintained and looked after the aircraft, but it could be near the end of its life.
Buying second hand drones can save you hundreds of pounds, but you must check the aircraft and be prepared to walk away if there are signs of damage or heavy use.
Can you shoot down a drone hovering or flying over your property or land in the UK? The short answer is no, for several reasons.
Can you shoot down a drone is a question asked by those who fear drone technology and want to protect their privacy. Many people believe drones are used for ‘snooping’ and to peep through bedroom or bathroom windows. These ideas are of course ridiculous! Concerns over privacy must be taken seriously, but the abundance of CCTV cameras, dashcams and other monitoring and recording devices are far more of a threat than drones. There is however a drone code and if drone operators follow that code then homeowners and landowners have nothing to fear fear from drones. That said, there are idiots out there who fly their drones irresponsibly and without regard for the general public, so could you shoot the drone down if it is flying over your land?
Firstly, in the UK the authorities take a very dim view of people discharging firearms in built up areas and it is also illegal to shoot down any aircraft (that includes drones) in the UK (unless you are the UK military that is). So if you were to shoot down a drone over your land you would be breaking the law. If after shooting down a drone it subsequently crashed and injured someone or damaged property then you could be potentially liable. Also, if the drone was not been flown dangerously and you shot it down then you could also be prosecuted for criminal damage.
The rules in the UK that govern drone flights are administered by the Civil aviation authority (CAA) and in regard to flying drones over property then it is totally legal as long as the following conditions are met:
The drone operator has the permission of the landowner of the take off and landing location (regardless of if it then flies over private property).
The drone is at least 50 metres away from private property or people (unless over congested areas or a gathering of more than 1,000 people, in which case the drone needs to be 150 metres away.
The drone does not exceed an altitude of 120 metres .
The drone is not being flown dangerously or recklessly.
It may be possible to take legal action for trespass if the drone is flying low over your property but this fall under civil law and has never been tested in court in the UK. All you can really do is phone 101 and report the activity to the Police or if it is your neighbour conducting the drone flights then speak to them and ask them to stop.
Here is a spoof video of a landowner shooting down a drone (if it was real then he could have faced prosecution for breaking the law).
Can I shoot down a drone is something TV celebrity Richard Madeley asked himself a couple of years ago, but fortunately he dealt with matters in a different way. A drone flew over his garden in Cornwall, leading to a confrontation with the drone pilot. The police were later involved and this is the best course of action if you do feel a drone is being used to spy on you or causing a nuisance.
On a similar subject, certain landowners in the Lake District National Park (such as the National Trust) have banned all drone flights over their land and near their properties – is this legal and enforceable? No not really, UK air laws fall under the jurisdiction of the CAA and as long as the UK drone code is being followed then the landowner cannot prevent flights over their land or within 50 metres of their property. There are a couple of exceptions though in the case of the National Trust; they have some bye laws in place since the 1960’s which prevent commercial photography of their property or disturbing certain wildlife on their land, which could be applied to drone activity, but the fines are ridiculously low (about an old shilling), so it’s not really worth enforcing
Angry members of the public have reported reckless and low flying drones to Cumbria police
Cumbria Police are dealing with a 150 per cent surge in complaints about drones – with reckless handling and low flying of the hand-controlled devices prompting angry calls from residents.
Newly released information shows that the Cumbrian force was notified of an individual flying a drone over HMP Haverigg, near Millom, in both 2016 and 2017, while officers were also alerted to someone flying a drone over gas works at Rampside, near Barrow.
A total of five householders contacted police after spotting a drone flying over their home with five more irritated by a drone hovering over their garden.
Two further complaints were received about drones being flown erratically over traffic, while officers were contacted on three occasions when they were spotted flying near to a school and children’s playground.
Now, Cumbria police are urging people to be aware of the law surrounding the use of drones in a public place to make sure they do not end up committing a criminal offence.
On Saturday 4th August, as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gave a speech in Caracas before a large military gathering, two DJI Matrice M600 drones carrying explosives approached,and exploded close to the President. While President Maduro was not injured, the Venezuelan information minister Jorge Rodriguez said that the attack injured seven soldiers. It’s a method of assault that only a few years ago was unthinkable, but has quickly become inevitable and will probably become more common.
What isn’t clear though, was who was operating the drone and for what purpose. One theory is that the Venezuelan government or military were operating their own M600 drone and when they lost control they had to destroy it. Another possible theory is the drone malfunctioned and exploded (the M600 carries 6 x 130 wh lithium polymer batteries who could explode). The Venezuelan goverment claim it was an assassination attempt and two DJI Matrice M600 drones were each laden with 1 kilogram of C-4 explosive, capable of creating a blast radius of 50 meters. One exploded mid air and the other crashed into a block of flats, which firefighter initiall said was a gas tank explosion.
The DJI M600 is generally considered a professional-grade drone, primarily for filmmakers and photographers, but has a strong build, and is capable of lifting a 6 kilo payload.
DJI Matrice M600 drone, as per the drone used that exploded in Venezuela
In the UK the Civil Aviation Authority has issued guidance that all model aircraft/drone operators should read. As of August 2018, 400 feet is a hard ceiling for UAV/RPA/Drone operations and CAP1687: Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2018 – Guidance for small unmanned aircraft users. This is particularly important across Cumbria in the Lake District, due to RAF & Ministry of Defence low flying training and the need to maintain seperation between drones and aircraft.
Image depicting the CAA UK Drone Height Limit 2018. UAV maximum height.
On 30 May 2018, the United Kingdom Government published an amendment to the UK Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) which contains its changes to the legislation regarding the operation of small unmanned aircraft.
The amendment is published as Statutory Instrument (SI) 2018 No. 623, entitled ‘The Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2018’. This can be found at: www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/623/made. Some articles (parts) of the amendment come into force on 30 July 2018, but others take a further 16 months, coming into force on 30 November 2019.
Effective from 30 July 2018
A 400 ft operating height limitation for all small unmanned aircraft
A new limitation on the closest distance that small unmanned aircraft weighing 7 kg or less may be flown near specific types of aerodrome
Changes to terminology with the introduction of the terms ‘remote pilot’ and ‘SUA operator’ in place of the previously-used term ‘person in charge’
Minor corrections to the ANO 2016 to provide clarification or to correct previous errors
Effective from 30 November 2019
A requirement for the registration of SUA & drone operators
A requirement for the competency of remote pilots to be tested
This is the bit traditional model fliers will be interested in:-
Meaning of “remote pilot” and “SUA operator” 94G In this Order –
(a) the “remote pilot”, in relation to a small unmanned aircraft, is an individual who –
(i) operates the flight controls of the small unmanned drone aircraft by manual use of remote controls, or
(ii) when the small unmanned drone aircraft is flying automatically, monitors its course and is able to intervene and change its course by operating its flight controls,
(b) the “SUA drone operator”, in relation to a small unmanned aircraft, is the person who has the management of the small unmanned aircraft.
Small unmanned surveillance aircraft
95 (1) The SUA drone operator must not cause or permit a small unmanned surveillance aircraft to be flown in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2), and the remote pilot of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly it in any of those circumstances, except in
accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.
(2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are –
(a) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
(b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
(c) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the SUA operator or the remote pilot of the aircraft; or
(d) subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.
(3) Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.
(4) Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the remote pilot of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the remote pilot of the aircraft.
(5) In this article, “a small unmanned surveillance aircraft” means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.