Drone pilot certification

The CAA approve recognised assessment organisations called National Qualified Entities (NQEs) to help you meet the requirements to fly a drone commercially in the UK. As a full NQE, The Aerial Academy offers a full certification course for candidates seeking to obtain their CAA Permission for Commercial Operations.


Anyone who wants to fly a drone for commercial operations (previously referred to as 'aerial work') needs a permission from the CAA known as a 'Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO)'.

Until August 2016 this was known as a 'Permission for Aerial Work (PFAW)'. PFAWs will continue to be around until August 2017 as existing PFAWs will be converted to PfCOs on renewal.

This Permission lasts for 12 months. To gain this Permission from the CAA, you will need to:

  • be at least 18 years of age
  • demonstrate a sufficient understanding of aviation theory (airmanship, airspace, aviation law and good flying practice)*
  • develop procedures for conducting flights, set out in an Operations Manual
  • pass a practical Operational Flight Assessment (flight test)

*Concessions against the theory part of the course are possible. See Section 2, Chapter 4 of CAP 722 for full details.


Steps to gain a UK CAA Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO)

1. Source your drone

We are a Tier 2 supplier for DJI. Please contact us for more details

2. Book drone flight training

This is an optional step and not required by the CAA. Flight Training can be taken up at any stage before your Flight Assessment. Flight training is available at £400+VAT per day.

3. Book your certification course

We run a full course (see below) for candidates who don't have an exemption to the theory requirement. Successful completion of our full PFCO course allows us to make a recommendation to the CAA for those looking to get a Permission for Commercial Operations. The course consists of a 2 day Ground School and an Operational Flight Assessment at a later date.

For those with manned aviation licenses or exemptions to the theory requirement (see CAP 722, page 47), you can arrange for an Operational Flight Assessment, instead of completing the full course. Standalone Flight Assessments cost £300 +VAT and are arranged on an ad hoc basis. An assisted package is available at £400+VAT. Please contact us for details.

4. Complete your Operations Manual

We provide assistance with this stage during the aviation theory section of our course.

5. Source insurance

It is always best to get multiple quotes from insurers to compare. £2M Public liability insurance for the Flight Assessment is included in our course cost.

6. Apply for your CAA Permission

The cost is £173 for initial application. Registration lasts 12 months. There is a yearly PfCO renewal fee which is £130.


Individual PfCO Course

Our PfCO course consists of a 2 day Ground School and an Operational Flight Assessment at a later date.
Cost: £950 +VAT

If you already hold a current manned pilot qualification such as a PPL or ATPL you may be exempt from the theory aspect of the course. Please contact us for more information.



For smaller organisations looking to qualify 1-3 staff members for UK drone operations it will be most cost-effective to go through the individual procedure.

If you want to put 4 or more staff, who will all be operating under the same Permission, through training and assessment, we can build a bespoke package to take place at your location or one of ours. We can plan to your timescale and coordinate drone training and assessments to fit in with work schedules.


Our PfCO course includes:

  • 2 days of Aviation Theory Training and Examination
  • Operational Flight Assessment (at a later date)
  • Operations Manual assistance
  • Recommendation for a Permission for Commercial Operation
  • Assistance with PfCO Application to the CAA
  • Candidate course materials
  • Sandwich lunch on the theory days and tea/coffee, etc
  • Flight assessment day public liability insurance (may cost extra with other companies)
  • Ongoing support for the first few months to ensure everything is going smoothly
  • Support with first annual renewal including advice on legislation changes and operations manual updates
  • 10% off Airdata UAV Drone logbook service


    Not included:

    • Additional Flight Training. 
    • The CAA fee for the category of aircraft applied for:
      Normally £173



    Drone Training Bases

    Choose from one of our Drone Training Bases across the UK. We offer drone theory training at Bath, Swansea, Norwich, Cobham (Surrey), Liverpool, Alnwick and Cupar (St Andrews). We are broadening our network of bases, so please contact us if one of these is not suitable and we'll see what we can do.

    For organisations looking to put more than 4 people through training we may be able to arrange to come to your location. Contact us for more information.