Pilot James Boyers prepares for take off

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has started offering courses in drone photography after being cleared for takeoff by the aviation authorities.

In the first development of its kind in the UK, the university has partnered with specialist company The Great Circle to offer the training for people interested in setting up businesses with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) such as aerial photography/videography, surveying, 3D modelling.

As we featured here in May, UCLan was developing the course with students who require permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to earn their pilot’s licence.

Yesterday, Harrogate-based company The Great Circle was granted official NQE (National Qualified Entity) status.

Professor Paul Egglestone, director of the Civic Drone Centre explained: “The Civic Drone Centre at UCLan was established to develop and test new drone technology. We started two years ago connecting engineers and software developers to operators and end users.

“Since then we’ve developed new technology, been nominated for Design of the Year 2014, inputted into international policy on use of drones for humanitarian operations and in conflict zones, set up the ‘’ network – the Centre just keeps growing.

“The launch of this new series of operator training courses was always part of our plan. We want to see businesses using this technology – for journalism, film making, surveying, datacapture – you name it – and we want operators to be able to fly safely and legally.

“We loved the fact that folks at The Great Circle are commercial pilots themselves. It challenges the notion that pilots and drone operators don’t always see eye to eye. It’s a big sky and we need to share it. Education and training ensures we can do it safely and legally.”

On successful completion of the course, candidates will be awarded the UACE qualification and a recommendation made to the Civil Aviation Authority for grant of a Commercial Aerial Work Permit.