Drone Regulations | COPTRZ | Full guide to upcoming changes


Your guide to the drone regulation changes coming into place on 31st December 2020.

Overview of the new Drone Regulations

Important update:  The drone regulations that were meant to come in the 1st July have been pushed back until the 31st December 2020.  You can read more about the new update from the CAA here.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the upcoming drone regulation changes including:

  • Why the UK’s drone regulations are changing
  • The new classification system that come into effect with the new drone laws
  • The flight risk assessments changes that will come into effect
  • What the new drone registration process looks like and what you will need to do to comply
  • What the new drone laws mean for you if you’re already a commercial pilot?
  • How Coptrz can support you through the new drone regulation changes
  • The new courses Coptrz will be providing to ensure that you are fully compliant with the drone regulation changes

In short, there are four big changes which should make it easier to fly your drone as a Commercial or Non-Commercial Pilot anywhere in Europe.

Classification System

A new system will launch on 31st December where the drones themselves will be classified from C0 up to C4 dependent on requirements such as weight and capabilities of the drone.

Flight Risk Assessments

Secondly, the Flight Risk Assessments will change in December 2020 and be classified as Open, Specific or Certified based on the proximity of flying to people and the level of risk involved.


Registration came into play on 1st October 2019, a fairly minor change with pilots needing to register their drone, display the number and pay a small annual admin fee. Registration only takes 20-30 minutes and you only have to register once as a pilot, not for every drone you own.

NQE becomes RAE

Finally approved Drone Training providers like COPTRZ will become a RAE (Recognised Assessment Entity) as opposed to NQE’s and provide three courses. A one-day CofC for basic level pilots or a GVC which is replacing the PfCO when the Drone Regulations change December 2020 onwards.

At COPTRZ we’ve got you covered, read on to find out everything you need to know on the upcoming regulation changes.


The new drone regulations are designed to align with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and build on the new Drone and Model Aircraft Registration Scheme in the UK. The main reason to do this is so that Europe as a whole are operating under the same standard rather than having different regulations in each country.

The new regulations and classification puts the pressure back onto the manufacturer and will be based around three basic concepts; Type of operation being conducted; Level of risk involved and the Level of pilot performance required.

Once the new drone regulations come into effect, operations will fall into one of three categories:

Open Category

Open category operations present no risk or low risk to third parties. These operations are conducted in accordance with basic and pre-defined characteristics and are not subject to any further authorisation.

Specific Category

Specific category operations present a greater risk with one or more elements of the operation falling outside the boundaries of the Open category. They will require Operational Authorisation from the CAA based on a risk assessment.

Certified Category

Certified category operations present the same level of risk to manned aviation and will be subjected to the same regulatory regime (i.e. certification of the aircraft, certification of the operator, licensing of the pilot).

Pilots who fly in the Open category will be controlled by three main factors. These are:

  • The maximum take-off mass of the unmanned aircraft must be less than 25kg;
  • The unmanned aircraft must be operated within visual line of sight (VLOS);
  • The unmanned aircraft must not be flown higher than 120 metres (400 feet);

All three of these factors must apply for an Open category operation. If not, then the operation must be conducted under the requirements of the Specific category instead.

However, the 400ft height limit can be exceeded when overflying a fixed obstacle, provided that:

  • The person in charge of the ‘obstacle’ has granted permission (i.e. the reason for the flight is related to that obstacle);
  • The unmanned aircraft is not flown more than 15m above the top of the obstacle and must be kept within 50m horizontally of it.

A1 - Fly 'over' people

Drones in this category pose a very low risk of harm or injury to people due to their low weight (drone weighs less than 250g), their type of construction, or because they are a toy (‘inherently harmless’); Flights over open-air groups of people are not permitted.

A2 - Fly 'close to' people

Drones must be no heavier than 4kg; You can fly to a minimum safe horizontal distance of 30m from uninvolved people; You can fly down to 5m horizontally of uninvolved people when the drones ‘ low-speed mode’ is selected; The operator must have completed the A2 CofC.

A3 - Fly 'far from' people

This category covers the more general types of operations; The drone will only be flown in areas that are clear of uninvolved persons; Will not be flown in areas that are used for residential, commercial, industrial or recreational purposes (equivalent to ‘congested areas’).

Flying Class C0 Drones in A1 Subcategory (Under 250g)

C0 drones are small and include toy drones;

  • Under 250g maximum take-off mass;
  • Maximum speed of 19m/s (approx. 42.5mph);
  • Cannot be flown more than 120m (400ft) from the pilot

What training and certification do I need to fly a C0 Drone?

  • UK Drone Registration required if camera equipped
  • Read manufacturer user manual
  • Online training for Commercial operators
  • Online foundation test for Commercial operators

Flying Class C1 Drones in the A1 Subcategory (Under 900g)

C1 drones are heavier than C0 drones and cover more commercial UAV’s;

– Under 900g in maximum take-off mass, or are made and perform in a way that if they collide with a person, the energy transmitted will be less than 80 Joules;
– They have a maximum speed of 19m/s (approx. 42.5 mph);
– They are designed and constructed so as to minimise injury to people;
– The standards also cover other aspects such as noise limits, height limits and requirements for remote identification and geo-awareness systems.

What training and certification do I need to fly a C1 Drone?
UK Drone Registration required
Read manufacturer user manual
Online training
Online foundation test

Flying Class C2 drones in the A2 subcategory ‘close to’ (Under 4kg)

C2 class drones:

  • Are less than 4kg in weight;
  • They are designed and constructed so as to minimise injury to people;
  • They are equipped with a low-speed mode which limits the maximum speed to 3m/s (approx. 6.7 mph) when selected by the remote pilot;
  • The standards also cover other aspects such as noise limits (but different from Class C1), height limits and requirements for remote identification and geo-awareness systems, plus additional requirements if it is to be used during tethered flight.

What training and certification do I need to fly a C2 Drone?

  • UK Drone Registration required
  • Read manufacturer user manual
  • Online training
  • Online foundation test
  • Self-practical training
  • Certificate of Competence theoretical test (CofC Test)

Flying Class C3 drones in the A3 subcategory far from people (Under 25kg)

Drones that have automatic control modes (such as found in typical multi-rotar drones) which:

  • -Weigh less than 25kg in take-off mass;
  • The standards also cover other aspects covering height limits and requirements for remote identification and geo-awareness systems;
  • There are also additional requirements if it is to be used during tethered flight, but there is no specified noise limit;

What training and certification do I need to fly a C3 Drone?

  • UK Drone Registration required
  • Read manufacturer user manual
  • Online training
  • Online foundation test

Flying class C4 drones in the A3 subcategory far from people (Under 25kg):

  • C4 class drones don’t possess any automation, other than for basic flight stabilisation (and so are more representative of a ‘traditional’ model aircraft);
  • C4 drones are less than 25kg maximum take-off mass.

What training and certification do I need to fly a C4 Drone?

  • UK Drone Registration required
  • Read manufacturer user manual
  • Online training
  • Online foundation test


The new legislation for flight categories and classes begin 31st December 2020, but it has been recognised that manufacturers will need time to create products that are compliant with the new standards set out in each of the classes.

During the transitional period, 2022 drone products that are compliant with the Class C0 to C4 standards can be introduced for sale/used in the Open category. These will be known as ‘legacy’ aircraft.

Day PfCO Permission for Commercial Operations

The current CAA Commercial Drone qualification until 31st December 2020

The PfCO qualification which is the current CAA certification to fly commercially in the UK is still the qualification you need while you wait for the new regulations to come into effect December 2020. Anyone with a PfCO will be automatically able to transition their PfCO to a GVC once the new course arrives in December. Anyone enrolling on a PfCO with COPTRZ between 1st September 2019 and December 2020 will be offered the 1-day CofC training course free of charge.

What should I do with my PfCO once it expires?

When you renew after the new legislation begins 31st December 2020, the PfCO will become known as an Operational Authorisation. This means you will be granted the same Standard Permissions as before.

This means it is still worth pursuing a PfCO course before December 2020. You can sit a PfCO with COPTRZ.

Day A2 CofC Certificate of Competency Drone Training

The 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. If you hold an A2 CofC you will be able to fly in the A2 subcategory. The A2 subcategory allows you to fly a C2 aircraft down to a maximum distance of 30m horizontally from uninvolved people or up to 5m in ‘low-speed mode’.

COPTRZ who are currently an approved NQE will transition to be a RAE provider (Recognised Assessment Entity). This means we’ll be able to train pilots wanting to access the A2 CofC qualification on a one-day course at one of our 11 training locations around the UK or online through Coptrz Academy.

The A2 CofC course will cover theory such as the basic principles of flight, operating in congested areas, how to avoid collision, battery safety, and environmental factors. At the end of the day you will complete a short multiple-choice test with 30 questions.

After your A2 CofC Training course you will have to complete some practical flight training (either with a RAE such as COPTRZ or under self-monitored circumstances). The main difference between the PfCO and the new CofC is there is no flight assessment and no need to write an Operations Manual.

The CofC qualification lasts for five years before you need to renew it.

As a drone hobbyist or commercial pilot you’ll need to register your drone as well as getting the CofC. Register here: https://register-drones.caa.co.uk/individual/register-and-take-test-to-fly

What can I fly in A2 Subcategory?

You can fly C2 drones in the A2 subcategory such as the DJI Mavic Series, DJI Mavic Mini or Parrot drones.  C2 aircraft have a maximum take-off mass less than 4kg and a low-speed mode or no more than 2m/s or 6.7mph. The other stipulation for the C2 class of aircraft is to minimise injury, have geo-awareness system and operate quietly with low noise levels.

However as these C2 drones have yet to be developed by manufactures there will be a transitional period from 1st July 2020 until 20th July 2022 when pilots who fly a ‘legacy’ drone will be able to fly aircraft in the A2 subcategory if they weigh less than 2kg.

After the transitional period if you are still operating these ‘legacy’ aircraft then you will be able to fly in the A3 subcategory (fly far from people). which means no uninvolved people can be present and you cannot fly within 150m horizontally of residential, commercial, industrial, or recreational areas.

What to do if I haven’t got an A2 CofC?

While you wait for the A2 CofC to come into place in December 2020 you can pursue a PfCO Course.

PfCO holders beyond December 2020 can operate as normal under the terms of the permission, until their 12 month renewal date. This means ‘legacy’ aircraft, such as the DJI Mavic 2 or Inspire 2, can be operated under your standard permissions.

Day GVC General Visual Line of Sight Certificate

If you operate a drone weighing more than 2kg during the transitional period (Nov 2020 – June 2022) you will need a GVC. The GVC is the replacement for the PfCO and includes drone operations in the middle tier ‘specific’ category. The GVC will comprising of the same elements as a PfCO including Ground School Theory, a flight test in front of a qualified examiner and an Operations Manual which includes the applicable pre-defined risk assessments. Following completion of the course candidates will receive a recommendation to apply for a GVC which is valid for 5 years.

Current PfCO holders can renew their permissions into the GVC and there is no rush to do this, just wait until your current permissions expire. If you’re a pilot wanting to get your approval to operate commercially then there is no need to wait until the GVC course arrives. Get your PfCO with COPTRZ and you’ll get a CofC assessment free of charge and be able to transition your PfCO into a GVC once it expires so you nothing to gain by delaying.

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