Everything you need to know about obtaining a drone licence in the UK.
What is a Drone Licence and who needs one?
A formal permission from the CAA, more commonly referred to as a drone ‘licence’, essentially allows you to fly a drone in the UK under specific regulations. It is a requirement set by the CAA to ensure drones are operated safely and within their regulations.
The most common license is the Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO), although this is set to change as part of the new EU regulations that come into effect on December 31st, 2020. When the new regulations come into effect, there will essentially be two types of “licenses” available to drone operators; an Operational Authorisation (obtained by undertaking a GVC drone training course) and an A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC).
What dictates whether I need a licence?
As part of the new drone laws, the requirement for a license has changed, and is now more focussed on the size of your drone and where you intend to fly, as opposed to whether you are operating commercially or not. The implications are that even hobbyist drone pilots will require a certificate, which in most cases will be an A2 CofC.
Typically, you will require an A2 CofC if you intend to fly your drone in the Open Category (A2 subcategory) and your drone has a maximum take-off mass less than 4kg. For hobbyists, the A2 CofC will serve most purposes.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to operate professionally, which often involves more complex flying scenarios and heavier drones, then you will need a more substantial authorisation from the regulator to suit. This is where the Operation Authorisation comes in, and this can be applied for on completion of a GVC Drone Training Course.
Drone License Terminology
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) do not issue drone licenses, so in strict terms there is actually no such thing as a ‘drone license’ in the UK. The equivalent of a drone licence in the UK is either the A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC) or the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC), both of which can be obtained by taking one of our drone training courses.
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How do I get a drone licence?
An Operational Authorisation is typically obtained by successfully completing a General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) drone training course and submitting an adequate risk assessment, or applying in accordance with a Pre Defined Risk Assessment (PDRA). Once you’ve passed the course you can apply for an Operational Authorisation with the CAA and begin or continue operating commercially.
To pass the course you’ll need to complete an Operations Manual, and successfully pass both practical flight and theory assessments.
A training course is also required to obtain an A2 CofC which involves passing an online theory examination only.
HALO Drones are a CAA approved training provider with courses available to partake in online or at various locations across the UK.
The cost of a Drone Licence
The cost of the HALO Advanced GVC online drone training course is £840 (inc VAT), or if you’d prefer to take the course at one of our training venues in London, Manchester or Bristol the cost is £960 (inc VAT). Another option is a self-directed GVC course which is £540 (inc VAT).
The HALO A2 Certificate of Competence course (A2 CofC) costs £50 (inc VAT).
IntermediateCourseA2 CofC - Certificate of Competency£50
- Grants the successful candidate with an A2 Certificate of Competence
- Enables operations in the new EU A2 Category of Operations
- Includes Digital Handbook
- Online theory test only
- Requires 5 hours of reading only
AdvancedCourseGVC - General Visual Line Of Sight CertificateStarting from £252 inc VAT
- Grants the successful candidate with a General Visual Line of Sight Certificate
- Enables operations in the new EU Specific Category of Operations
- Remote and Self-Directed learning options
- Online theory test option
- Practical flight assessment
- Operations Manual Template & support
- 2.5 days of learning
- Comprehensive set of training materials
What is the difference between a Drone Registration and a Drone Licence?
Depending on how and where you use your drone dictates which certification you require, if at all. But regardless of whether or not you need a drone “licence”, most drone users will need to be registered to fly.
If your drone weighs between 250g and 20kg then you need to register for an Operator-ID, which costs £9 per year. This is also true from any sub 250g drone which includes a camera. Your Operator-ID must be displayed on every drone you own in accordance with the requirements.
If your drone weighs between 250g and 2kg then you will also need to register for a Flyer-ID and complete a 40 question multiple choice exam every 3 years.
This is now law and referred to as the DAMARES portal (Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service) which was introduced in November 2019.
Drone License FAQs
What is the minimum age to hold a drone licence?
The minimum age for a remote pilot in the A2 Category of operations is 13 years.
You must be at least 14 years old to operate as a Remote Pilot under someone else’s Operational Authorisation.
You must be 18 yers or older to apply for your own Operational Authorisation.
Where is my drone licence valid?
Your licence will be valid in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island.
Are there online drone licence training courses?
Yes, HALO Drone provide online drone training courses as well as classroom-based courses.
Is a test required to get a drone licence?
You’ll need to take a theory test to pass both the GVC and A2 CofC drone training courses.
As part of the GVC course, you’ll also need to pass a Practical Flight Test.
I’ve just bought a drone – do I need to get a drone licence?
You’ll need an A2 CofC drone licence if you (a) will use your drone for commercial purposes, or (b) will use you drone for recreational purposes within 150m of people or built up areas.
If you will use your drone for commercial purposes, then we would recommend that you apply for an Operational Authorisation (by taking the GVC drone training course) in addition to the A2 CofC licence.
Do I need to register my drone if I have a drone licence?
Regardless of whether you have a drone licence or not, most drone users will need to be registered to fly their drone.
You need to register your drone if it weighs between 250g and 20kg. Drone registration costs £9 per year.
You will also need to register for a Flyer-ID and complete a 40 question multiple choice exam every 3 years, if your drone weighs between 250g and 2kg.
I fly my drone as a hobby – do I need a licence?
To be able to fly your drone (of up to 2kg) within 150m of people and built-up areas then you will need at least an A2 CofC (Certificate of Competency) licence, even if you only fly your drone as a hobby.
Are there different types of drone licences?
There are two types of drone licences – an A2 CofC (Certificate of Competency) and Operational Authorisation.
The A2 CofC licence is needed by all commercial drone pilots and most recreational pilots (dependent on the type of drone you own and how you plan to fly it).
An Operational Authorisation is recommended for all commercial drone users.
How long does a drone licence last?
Your licence will last for 1-5 years, depending which one you get, after which time you can choose to renew.
Where do I get a drone licence?
You will need to complete a training course by a CAA approved provider, like HALO Drones.
We provide drone training courses either online, in a classroom or as self-directed.
Please visit this page to learn more about our course options available to you…