Green light for new industrial drone training


Drone pilots working on industrial sites can earn their wings by undertaking a programme of structured training and technical testing, which has been given the green light by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB).

The new Industrial Drone Operations Training Standard, developed by the ECITB, along with employers and experts, will assess drone operators against industry-approved requirements. This new standard is designed to build upon the current Civil Aviation Authority  (CAA) scheme, delivering the specialist skills and knowledge to ensure operators can undertake drone activities safely in and around industrial process sites that have specific operational hazards and constraints.

The initial off-the-job training commences with a theory phase, followed by practical flight training on rotary and fixed wing drones of up to 20 kg. Following successful completion of the training, and after a period of work-based consolidation, candidates will undertake a vigorous technical assessment, which involves testing pre-flight preparations based on complex industrial scenarios, performing flight manoeuvres within set parameters and responding to emergency scenarios.

Chris Claydon, Chief Executive of the ECITB, said: “Drones are becoming increasingly common across engineering construction sites, from monitoring and surveying sites to checking wear and tear on installations, such as offshore platforms and wind turbines. They reduce the need for people to carry out hazardous inspections and make these essential processes quicker and cheaper.

“There is no doubt we are on the cusp of a major shift in work practices with clear practical and financial benefits, which means the use of drones will become the norm across the engineering construction industry. This is a trend the ECITB has identified and it is why we have delivered this rigorous new technical training standard that is recognised and valued by employers.”

Thousands of drones could soon be flying above the UK’s engineering construction sites and critical infrastructure, just one of a host of fourth industrial revolution technologies set to transform how the engineering construction industry works. A recent report by PwC, ‘Skies without limits’, puts the value of drone technology to the UK’s wider construction and manufacturing sector at up to
£3.5 billion and forecasts that by 2030 there will be more than 76,000 operator-controlled drones in regular use.

The Industrial Drone Operations Training Standard is suitable for anyone who has passed the CAA Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) training and can meet the course pre-requisites. Successful candidates completing the technical test will be awarded an ECITB technical test certificate, which is valid for three years.