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 needs a permission from the CAA known as a 'Permission for Commercial Operations' (PfCO).

The permission is held by the operator. The operator is generally a legal entity, such as an individual, company or charity.

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.

Discounts are available to companies who send more than one pilot operating under the same PFCO.


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

1. Source your drone

You don't need a drone for the theory element of the course, but you must be familiar and capable with your drone before attempting your operational assessment. Please see our FAQs for recommended drone suppliers.

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. Flight training is available at all our UK centres on request.

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, these are generally suitable for pilots adding a new classification to their PFCO. An "operational assessment bundle" is available at £400+VAT. This is suitable for exempt pilots who do not already have a PFCO and would like assistance with the operations manual. Please contact us for details.

4. Complete your Operations Manual

We provide assistance with this stage during the aviation theory section of our course. Our industry-leading training means we build familiarity with the operations manual during the training process so you will really understand why the operations manual is necessary and how it should be used operationally.

5. Source insurance

It is always best to get multiple quotes from insurers to compare. £2M Public liability insurance for the Operational Assessment is included in our course cost.
A list of insurers is available on our FAQs page.

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. Application and renewal fees are expected to rise in April 2018. We will assist with your application to the CAA, checking your documentation and reviewing your operations manual to ensure a smooth process with the CAA. We will be available to assist in the event of CAA enquiries.

7. Ongoing support

As part of your initial package we will provide support at your first annual renewal. This includes access to information on how to update your manual. At this point we encourage applicants to finalise their own application to the CAA so that you are able to carry it out yourself in future years if you wish.

If, however, you would still like support after the first renewal then we offer an annual subscription service to give access to the materials and support on an ongoing basis.

All Aerial Academy alumni are welcome to join our closed Facebook group, which is an excellent group of knowledgable trainees and instructors, providing a collaborative and supportive environment.

 Individual PFCO course with The Aerial Academy

Individual PFCO course with The Aerial Academy

Individual PfCO Course

Our PfCO course consists of a 2 day Ground School and an Operational Flight Assessment (normally 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.

If you are an existing PfCO holder who wishes to put extra pilots through training to operate under your permission, we offer the PfCO course for £850+VAT. Please contact us to obtain a code to use during booking. (This option does not include application assistance, operations manual templates or ongoing renewal support.)

 Corporate drone courses and consultancy

Corporate drone courses and consultancy


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 process.

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 (normally at a later date)
  • Operations Manual assistance
  • Recommendation for a Permission for Commercial Operation on successful completion
  • 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 (increasing in April 2018)