Operating Safety Case (OSC) Consultation and Support

Introduction

The Operating Safety Case (OSC) system has been used in UK drone operations for a number of years. Global Drone Training is able to provide initial consultancy if you are deciding whether or not to apply for an Operational Authorisation based on an operating safety case, as well as ongoing support to assist with writing the OSC documentation, completing the OSC application and communications with the CAA.

Before you read on you should be aware that with the introduction of the SORA (Specific Operations Risk Assessment) system over the next 12-24 months, it is likely that the OSC system will change significantly some time in 2025.

Is an Operating Safety Case necessary?

An OSC allows you to apply to the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)  for an Operational Authorisation to operate drones outside the constraints of “standard” pre-defined risk assessments (PDRAs) that are used by the majority of UK drone operators.

An Operational Authorisation granted under UKPDRA01, the only PDRA currently available in the UK, that is used by the majority of UK drone operators includes these limits:

  • The drone must be within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the remote pilot out to a maximum of 500 metres horizontally
  • The drone must normally be within 400 feet of the earth’s surface
  • The drone must not weigh more than 25 kg in flight
  • The drone must be no closer than 50 metres to uninvolved people during operational flight (30 metres during take-off and landing)

As a result, if you want an Operational Authorisation that goes beyond these limits, you need to apply for an Operational Authorisation based on an OSC.

What are the benefits?

Most people use OSCs to obtain an Operational Authorisation that allows one or more of the following:

  • Increased visual line of sight distance for larger unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)
  • Use of a team of observers to allow flight beyond visual line of sight of the remote pilot
  • Increased operational height/altitude
  • Use of larger drones over the 25 kg allowed on a standard operational authorisation (the largest drone we have assisted with an OSC for is over 400 kg)
  • Reduced separation from uninvolved people, for example, down to 10 or 20 metres is common.

What are the costs?

As an Operational Authorisation based on an OSC is a bespoke agreement with the CAA, it is relatively expensive. As at January 2024 applying for a “standard” PDRA-based Operational Authorisation costs £290 for a new application. An OSC-based application currently has a CAA fee £2,029 and may cost more if it is complex and takes more than the 7 hours initially allocated within the fee. It can also take anywhere between 2 and 6 months to successfully obtain an OSC-based Operational Authorisation. Current CAA fees are available here.

An Operational Authorisation lasts 12 months and a renewal (assuming there are no significant changes) currently costs £580.

Our fees are separate to the CAA fee and are calculated on a time basis based on the complexity of the OSC. For example, writing the documentation for an OSC based on a single request such as an increase in operational height will be cheaper than producing an OSC with multiple or unusual requirements. We will be as transparent as possible with fees when we provide your quote.

If you want to write your own OSC rather than using our services you can use the guidance in CAP 722A. You will need to factor in the time it takes to produce an acceptable three volume OSC and to liaise with the CAA during the process.

What do the costs include?

The costs include the production of your three volume OSC in response to your operational needs and any associated required documents as well as assistance completing the online application and liaising with the CAA about any issues raised with the OSC documentation.

As the OSC is bespoke to your operations there will be a lot of communication required between us and we will need detailed information about your aircraft and what you are trying to achieve. We will then convert that into a format that is normally acceptable to the CAA. We are used to working under NDA and are happy to sign one if that is required as part of the information sharing process.

Can Global Drone Training guarantee an Operational Authorisation will be issued?

I’m afraid we can’t. We will do our best and can be reasonably confident for some scenarios, but particularly if you want to try to do something where there is no UK or EU precedent, we cannot guarantee success as the decision is based solely with the UK CAA.

We will need to invoice for our time regardless of the outcome and will normally require payment prior to the issue of any final documentation. Terms and conditions will be made available with your quote.

How do the CAA assess the risk?

Your proposed drone operation will be assessed to ensure that the risk to uninvolved people on the ground and to other air users is tolerable and as low as reasonably practicable. The CAA will expect to see mitigations based on areas such as:

  • Proposed airspace type (e.g. do you want to fly in class G, class D or airspace segregated from normal flights, such as a danger area)
  • Reduced likelihood of overflying uninvolved people (e.g. flying in a remote rural area vs an urban area)
  • Technical mitigations of your drone equipment (e.g. motor redundancy, tethering, propeller guards)
  • Operational experience
  • Emergency response plans

Each OSC is unique and we will help you to understand the best approach to take to mitigate the risks of your proposed operations.

Why choose Global Drone Training?

Global Drone Training have remote pilots who have been operating drones commercially in UK airspace for well over a decade. Our team have carried out UK firsts, including the first permanent night operations exemption and testing of the heaviest civilian cargo drone in the UK. We are constantly learning from our current and previous OSC applications and will do our very best to bring your project to a successful outcome.

Finally, we love drone technology and the many positive civilian applications that are arising from it so we want you to succeed, as your success will further innovation in the UK drone sector.

Please contact us via the contact page to arrange a no obligation initial consultation discussion with one of our OSC team. We can’t give you a buy it now option as each OSC is unique and we need to ensure that what you are trying to do is likely to be acceptable to the CAA.