Myth Busting - OSCs
It appears that in some circles an OSC, or an Operating Safety Case as it is officially called, is believed to make someone a better pilot. I can assure you, that is not true. Holding an OSC does however have some fantastic benefits, if utilised correctly it can open many doors to new business and improve efficiencys whilst you are operating commercially.
What does an OSC actually do? As you already know, to operate drones commercially in the UK, you must hold a PfCO and follow a number of safety rules. These rules include maintaining a certain distance from others (50m from people & property, 150m from congested areas), maximum altitudes (must stay below 400ft) and maintaining visual line of sight of your aircraft. An OSC is an exemption or relaxing of these rules, tailored specifically to you and your individual business. By providing additional risk assessments and safety procedures (aswell as paying a hefty fee), you are proving you are competent enough to have the standard rules reduced.
What is the layout of an OSC? An OSC is made up of three volumes. Volume 1 is similar to your current operations manual and includes items such as health and safety, maintenance and basic operating and flight planning procedures. Volume 2 contains information on the aircraft you intend to use alongside fail safes and additional ways to ensure safety. Volume 3 contains your risk assessments and further mitigation; these need to be in-depth and include multiple scenarios based around the operations you intend to complete.
Can I just copy someone else's OSC? The CAA reserve the right to enforce charges of up to £253 per hour for creating additional workload for their team. This is often where they feel sufficient effort or understanding has not been invested. The CAA require all applications to be original work and therefore if you submit an copy of someone else's OSC your application will most definitely be declined. We have seen this in the past when applicants have requested our support after being caught out.
How much does an OSC cost? Once your application is ready to submit, you will be required to pay the CAA a fee of £1771 (I told you it was hefty). An allocation of 7 hours assessment time is given by the CAA to ensure you have provided appropriate mitigation across all three volumes of the OSC document. You will likely be asked to make a number of amendments during the screening process or provide further evidence of your understanding.
How long does the application process take? I like to think of the application process as more of a time of negotiation. You may have requested to operate within 5 metres of uncontrolled persons and the CAA may come back offering 10 metres. It is important to be realistic from the beginning and have a worse case scenario in mind to avoid disappointment, anything better will then be a bonus. OSC's are typically approved within 12 weeks of submission to the CAA but this is variable depending on their workload.
How long will my OSC last? An OSC lasts a year, and can be renewed for £190 just like a PfCO. However, If you wish to make major changes to your OSC, such as reducing distances even further, then a variation can be submitted at renewal for the fee of £729.
Do I actually need a OSC?
It is important before making such a financial commitment, to assess whether or not holding an OSC would benefit you and your business. A successful OSC application may allow you permission to operate at reduced distances, increased heights or extend your line of sight. If the majority of your work is in rural areas completing agricultural inspection work, then typically an OSC will not have much benefit and I would advise investing your money elsewhere. However, if you operate regularly in a built up areas; near property or people not under your control then an OSC could be an ideal option for you.
How can Ops Manuals UK help me obtain an OSC?
Our tried and tested template is now available for purchase to give you a kick start in your application; you must then reword the whole document and include your own mitigation and procedures before submitting to the CAA for review. Ops Manuals UK cannot be held responsible if an individual does not follow our advice, the CAA will charge penalties if they feel insufficient effort has been invested into the application.
Alongside our template, we can offer 1:1 consultancy to support and review your work before submission. This consultancy is priced at £300 per 4 hour session. Due to high demand, we currently have a waiting list of new clients who wish to use our complete OSC writing service. As you can imagine, each OSC varies by complexity and it is important we have sufficient information about your business to quote accurately, prices for this service start from £1000. Feel free to get in touch incase an opening is due soon or you need further advice about how you can move froward with an application yourself. I hope by reading this information, you feel confident about the OSC process and can make an informed decision as to whether one would benefit you and your business. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch. Luke