Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace : Changes to CAP 722

There have been some noteworthy changes to the Civil Aviation Authority regulations for small unmanned aircraft systems. I’ve documented relevant parts here in an easy to understand way to help UK RPAS pilots.

Adding aircraft platform enclosures

Previously, if you had obtained a new airframe the CAA required you to submit an amendment to your operation manual by means of adding a new enclosure detailing the specifications of the new airframe. In order to do this, you would have to contact your NQE and arrange a new flight test to prove competency using a new platform.

Thankfully, the CAA has changed this requirement, so you can freely add a new platform to your fleet without any hassle, providing it’s in the same class as your PFAW, i.e, under 7kg, DJI Inspire and Phantom series’, etc. This saves a huge amount to time and associated cost when a RPAS pilot wishes to simply upgrade to a new aircraft.

It should be noted that you still new to add a new enclosure to your operation manual so when you renew your PFAW with the CAA, you are keeping all relevant operation details up-to-date.

3.21 – Within each class, the applicant will be free to vary or add SUA as they wish without the requirement to undertake a practical flight assessment for each individual machine or when adding or changing to a new type (model). Both categories of NQE (see below) should make their recommendations to the CAA in one or more of the above classes. Existing Permissions, although currently listing individual aircraft, will automatically have the same privileges.

Requirements for PFAW renewal

There are some welcome changes to the PFAW renewal requirements. Previously, applying for renewal was based on continuing NQE recommendations, usually entailing another flight test along with providing proof of currency.

The CAA now allow RPAS pilots to self-certify, through logbook entries, upon renewal. It should be noted that new RPAS pilots with no qualification or experience are still required to complete a full category NQE course. Once again, these changes will save pilot’s time and expense and make the renewal process much simpler.

4.11 – Following this recent review of operational policy, the CAA will now accept alternative methods of satisfying the critical elements in addition to completing a full NQE course. This will necessitate changes to the NQE approval system so that although a practical flight assessment will still need to be undertaken, completion of a full course will only be generally applicable to students with no existing aviation qualifications or experience. The changes to the NQE system are set out at Section 2 Chapter 3. Acceptable alternatives to fulfil the critical elements (evidence of pilot competency) are shown at Table 5.


Grant of an SUA Permission – Critical Elements

Nb. The following (Table 5) has been simplified for brevity pertaining to relevancy of this post. The full table can be found on p.47 of CAP 722 Sixth Edition – March 2015

Aviation Qualification
Theoretical Knowledge / General Airmanship1 Practical Flight
None Yes3 Yes3 N/A
operator qualification
N/A N/A 2 hrs total flight experience logged within last 3 months4


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