Permission for Commercial Operations of Drones

If you are a drone user and intend to fly one for commercial work, permission is required from the CAA, although it is worth noting that this is not a licence. To get permission you will need to demonstrate a sufficient understanding of aviation theory (airmanship, airspace, aviation law and good flying practice) and also pass a practical flight assessment.

Commercial Operation is given the following meaning within article ‘The Air Navigation Order’:

which is available to the public;  or which, when not made available to the public, in the case of a flight by a small unmanned aircraft, is performed under a contract between the SUA operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the remote pilot or in any other case, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator, in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.’

The key elements in understanding this term are ‘…any flight by a small unmanned aircraft…in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration’.

The term ‘available to the public’ should be interpreted as being a service or commodity that any member of the public can make use of, or actively choose to use, (e.g. because it has been advertised or offered to someone).

Permissions are valid for up to 12 months and will need to be renewed annually. They allow flights within the UK subject to the conditions and limitations outlined in the individual authorisation document.

A permission from the CAA is required if you wish to conduct a commercial operation with your aircraft, or if you wish to fly:

  • at a height of more than 400ft above the surface, and/or
  • within 150m of either a congested area or an organised open-air assembly of more than 1000 persons
  • within 50m of people or properties/objects that are not under your control

To be able to apply to the CAA for a PFCO you will need to attend an accredited course recognised by the CAA, the course will provide classroom training covering the following;

  • UAS AIrspace Operating Principles
  • Airmanship and Aviation Safety
  • Air Law and Responsibilities
  • Meteorology
  • Navigation Charts
  • Human Factors
  • Aircraft Knowledge
  • Operating Procedures

After completing the classroom based course you will be required to complete a flight assessment, this will involve an assessment on your knowledge of air law and your aircraft followed by the flight test. You will need your own insurance in place before taking your flight assessment and applying to the CAA.

You will also be required to write your own operations manual detailing your policies and explaining how you will conduct safe operations with your drone.

Upon completion of all aspects of the course you will then be able to submit your application to the CAA, which you can do through the CAA website. You will be required to provide your operation manual, insurance certificate, qualification and flight logs.

CVP work with DronePartners to offer a range of courses covering all the requirements of the CAA with trainers who are commercial drone pilots with a wealth of real world practical experience in filming, thermography, surveying and inspecting with drones.


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