What is a drone licence and do I need one?

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 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.

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 licence (or PfCO)?

A PfCO can be acquired by attending the COPTRZ CAA PfCO drone training course, 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 licence 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 flight test?

We would recommend any one of the DJI drones are ideal 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 licence in my own time and take my tests with you?

We have a firm belief that face to face training is the way to get the best out of people. You can, however, undertake the 2 days of theory and the exam and then the flight test on a separate date if that is required.

  • Is there a European drone licence?

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.

OFQUAL Level 4 Accredited CAA Training Course

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

Read more here.


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