What is a drone licence and do I need one? - COPTRZ

What is a drone licence and do I need one?


1:00 pm GMT •

December 08, 2020

Confused about the new regulations?

Are you confused about the new drone regulations coming into place after December? Unsure of the differences between the new A2 CofC or the GVC? Don’t worry…Coptrz has got you covered.

We have put together an eBook covering all of the information you need to know about the drone regulation changes. You can download your copy here.

With the fast speed at which drone technology is progressing and gaining attention in the UK, there comes a stream of questions from users who do not have a large amount of drone experience. One of those ‘FAQs’ is: “What is a drone licence, and do I need one?” In this blog, we will address the issue.

Firstly, it’s important to recognise that there is no such thing as a formal ‘drone licence’ in the UK. Those using a drone for recreational purposes do not need any sort of qualification – they are simply required to ensure that they are operating the drone safely and within Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations. For commercial drone use, formal permission is required, and this currently comes in the form of a CAA Permission for Commercial Operations, or PfCO for short.

A PfCO is the closest thing there is to a ‘drone licence’. It is granted by the CAA and allows a drone operator to use a small unmanned aircraft (SUA) under a weight of 20kg for commercial projects.

Please note that the drone regulations are changing in December 2020 – you can get yourself up to speed with them here. 

The most important part of this change is that A2 CofC will replace the PfCO qualification in December 2020 as part of the changing European regulations. Anyone who wants to fly a drone whether commercially or as a hobbyist will need an A2 CofC. This doesn’t mean that your PfCO will be invalid, in fact, it will be valid until it’s up for renewal.  And with the date for the new regulations coming into effect being constantly pushed back, it’s actually more beneficial for most individuals and organisations to crack on and get their PfCO.

Did you know that Coptrz has the UK’s leading Drone Training Academy?  If you’re interested in drone training for you or your organisation then find out more here.

Commercial Drone Consultancy

Who needs a drone licence?

If you are piloting a drone on behalf of a company which is using drone technology as a business solution, or if you are a drone operator who plans to undertake any kind of commercial work involving flying drones, you will need to obtain a PfCO. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t directly undertaking drone projects as a commercial activity – i.e. you might be a surveyor who uses drone images as part of a larger body of work which is presented to a client – you will still need to have a PfCO.

Do you need a drone licence for personal videography and photography?

If you plan on using your drone for personal/hobbyist use then quite simply, you do not need a drone licence. If you don’t plan on selling the imagery or using it for commercial gain then a licence is not necessary. However, as you can imagine, if you want to sell the images, that’s when you need to be looking at obtaining a drone licence.

It’s important however that you check the drone laws in the places that you are filming, because you may get caught out and land yourself in trouble. Certain beaches and popular tourist locations do have bans on drones, so stay on the safe side and do your research.

Why should I take the steps needed to obtain a drone licence?

– Drone technology is becoming increasingly beneficial in providing a range of business solutions to customers. Undertaking the necessary training needed to qualify for a PfCO can offer a significant advantage; both to companies with access to drone technology, and individual operators who wish to provide services on a freelance basis.

– Seeking professional guidance from experts as a part of training for a PfCO can allow drone operators to use the technology more safely and effectively.

– Operating a drone for commercial reasons without a ‘drone licence’ (PfCO) means you are breaking the law and potentially exposing your customers or company to a financial liability.

How do I obtain a drone licence in the UK (or PfCO)?

A PfCO can be acquired by attending the COPTRZ CAA PfCO drone training course in the UK, which equips participants with the skills, knowledge and experience necessary for commercial drone use.

Click here to find out more about CAA PfCO drone training

Frequently Asked Drone Licence Questions

  • Who can obtain a drone licence?

Anyone over the age of 18 that owns a drone can get a drone licence. If you are wanting to fly your drone for commercial gain then you will need a drone licence.

  • If I get my drone license in England, can I use it across the UK?

The simple answer is yes, wherever you obtain your licence in the UK, you can use it in any one of England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

  • What test do I have to undertake to get my drone licence?

There are two tests to take as part of your PfCO training, a theory test and a flight test. Once these have been passed you will be recommended to the CAA to receive your PfCO drone licence.

  • What drone can I use for my drone training flight test?

We would recommend a DJI or Parrot drone for flight tests. One question we frequently get asked is about the suitability of the Mavic Air for flight tests, this drone is perfectly fine and is one we would recommend and easy to fly in a flight test situation.

  • Can I study for my drone license in my own time and take my tests with you?

We offer face to face training and online courses with interactive live classroom sessions.  We’ve done it this way because we believe everyone has their own learning styles.  You can find out more about the courses we run in Coptrz Academy here.

  • Is there a European drone license?

To the present day, there is no such thing as a European drone licence. It works on a country by country basis, so if you are wanting to fly a drone for commercial gain in a specific country, you would have to go through their flight authorities.

  • How long does drone licence last?

Your drone licence, otherwise known as a permission for commercial operations, will last for one year until it needs to be renewed via the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). There is no additional training required to for your drone licence renewal, it is simply a case of paying the annual renewal fee.

  • How much does a drone license cost in the UK?

Drone training courses with Coptrz designed to help you get your drone licence in the UK start at £599 (ex VAT) and take place over a 3-day course or can be done online. This includes a pre-course study guide, ground school lessons, a theory test, flights test and an operations manual review and much more.

  • Is there a drone training centre near me?

COPTRZ drone training centres are positioned to have the best coverage of the UK, ensuring that you don’t have to travel far to get your drone licence.  To find out more about our Drone Training and our locations across the UK click here.

OFQUAL Level 4 Accredited CAA Training Course

COPTRZ are an approved NQE (National Qualification Examination) provider of a PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) course.

We’re also the only Drone Training Academy to be able to separately provide you with an academically registered qualification under OFQUAL (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) as a Level 4 award. That means if you choose COPTRZ for your PfCO, you’ll have the option to receive a vocational Level 4 award recognised across the board by employers in many sectors.

Get your Drone Training from the UK’s Leading Drone Academy

The drone industry is starting to come of age, and with that comes closer alignment with other industries that would benefit from making their operations safer, faster and more cost-effective.  We take drone training seriously, we know you do to otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article right now.  To find out how Coptrz Academy will help you stand out from the crowd and get you operational with confidence – Read more here.


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