Jason Westfield takes us through his experience of Cambridge UAV Academy’s CAP-C Certificate Course from beginning to end.
I was enthusiastic about drones and knew their use would benefit my company. After doing some research I knew that in order to use my drone commercially I had to take a course from a CAA-approved organisation.
I spoke to The Cambridge UAV Academy (CUAVA) team at The Commercial UAV Show. They explained that their CAP-C Certificate UAV pilot training course would meet my requirements. After a straightforward process, I was booked onto the course which started with a two-day intensive ground school.
The word intensive seemed quite daunting and the syllabus looked like a lot to cover in such a short amount of time. But, once I had received my Theoretical Knowledge Training Manual with just over a week before I was due to attend the course, I was reassured.
Air law and responsibilities
UAS airspace operating principles
Airmanship and aviation safety
Navigation and aviation charts
After having a good read through the training manual I felt prepared for the intensive two-day course.
When arriving to the training facility in the morning of day one I was warmly greeted by Lili with a cup of tea or coffee and plenty of biscuits. I also had the chance to meet the other candidates and Alan, Cambridge UAV Academy’s chief instructor and assessor.
The first day mainly consisted of learning the topics from the syllabus. These are hugely important as they are aspects required to operate a UAV under UK air law – this is where the term intense seeps in. However, Alan was there to answer all of the questions that I had and went through certain points that I didn’t quite understand at first.
After soaking in all of the information from day one, it was refreshing to go through them again at the beginning of day two. There was plenty of time given for this with a question and answer session which was reassuring for me and the other candidates. With time to spare we were shown the CAA’s Operations Manual template and it was talked through in detail, preparing us for our next step in the CAP-C course.
After a nice and calming lunch break we sat the multiple choice examination which was all based on what we had learnt over the past two days. Our papers were marked and there was time at the end of the day to go through any questions arising from the exam.
I had now passed the theory element of the CAP-C course, receiving my CAA Certificate of Competence in Remote Pilot Theoretical Knowledge/General Airmanship. Next stop, Operations Manual.
The second element of the CAP-C qualification course was to produce an operations manual and submit it to Cambridge UAV Academy. Thanks to the information given from the two-day theory course, I felt confident in writing this document.
I realised the operations manual is a procedural manual to provide all of the information and instructions necessary to enable the UAV team to perform their duties safely and effectively.
CUAVA assessed my operations manual for suitability and conformance to current CAA standards. There was no deadline for this and as I had other work commitments I was able to take my time with no stress in submitting it by a certain date.
CUAVA made sure that once handing in my operations manual to the CAA, it won’t get rejected. This meant that if there were any alterations that needed to be made, they sent it back to me to amend – saving time in the long run. They were there to help and guide me through the whole operations manual process, no matter how long it took.
After having my operations manual sent back twice with changes to be made, it was approved by the Academy. During the two-day theory course I was told that I needed 2 hours of flight time logged and to produce a proof of insurance. CUAVA recommended an insurance company with an under training clause which was extremely helpful. Once I had all of this, I was invited to carry out my practical flight assessment.
Practical Flight Assessment
The Academy has two airfields:
Their own private airfield in Littleport, Cambridgeshire;
Their test venue in Surrey.
With it being a practical flight test and knowing it was structured almost like a driving test, it was safe to say that nerves were definitely kicking in. Being tested on your operational skills and capabilities of your aircraft based upon your submitted operations manual was quite worrying but Cambridge UAV Academy’s instructors and assessors made me feel at ease as they calmly went through what I had to do.
After worrying over nothing, I had passed my practical flight assessment and was given another two certificates: CAA Certificate of Practical Flight Assessment and CAA Certificate of Recommendation for issue of a CAA Standard Permission.
The three certificates I had received from CUAVA, along with my approved operations manual and valid insurance was everything I needed to apply for my Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) from the CAA which is what allows me to operate my UAV commercially.
If you would like more information about Cambridge UAV Academy’s courses or to book onto a future course, please contact the Academy here.