frequently asked questions
1. Do I need a CAA permission for commercial drone operations (PfCO)?
(After 31st December 2020 the CAA will issue Operational Authorisations rather than PfCOs) The answer to that will depend heavily on what you are doing with your drone. If you are receiving any kind of financial gain for your flying or images then it is likely that you do need a permission for commercial operations. Equally, if you are a business that offers commercial imagery, even as part of a package that isn’t directly paid for, then you also probably need a PfCO. There are some potential exemptions, for example university research and if imagery is going to be used purely internally within an organisation. However, not holding a permission could limit where you can fly and your ability to obtain insurance. Operating drones commercially without a PfCO (before 31st December 2020) is in breach of the Air Navigation Order and is a criminal offence.
The other advantage to holding a PfCO is that it removes a key limitation for flying drones in urban areas. Without a permission from the CAA it is illegal to fly over or within 150m of a congested area. A standard PfCO removes that limitation. You still have to adhere to other distance regulations, but it gives much more freedom to consider flying legally in built up areas.
2. Can I do my BNUC-S with you?
Short answer… no. The BNUC-S was a qualification that was specific to another full NQE that is no longer trading. Each NQE has its own name for their pilot competency certification/qualification. The CAA recognises each approved NQE equally, so applying with a competency certificate from any NQE will be treated equally from their perspective.
3. Can I do my GVC with you?
Yes! The General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) is a new certification that is being introduced during 2020 in the UK. The GVC will be required for new applications for an operational authorisation under the new EASA regulations that will be mirrored in the UK later in 2020. Please keep an eye on our EASA regulation blog for more details on changes. The CAA are authorising Recognised Assessment Entities (RAEs) to deliver the GVC. We became an RAE on 3rd June 2020 so are now able to offer both the GVC and A2 CofC. We can now offer the GVC, both to new entrants to the drone industry and those who already hold existing certifications.
4. Can I do my A2 CofC with you?
Yes you can! The A2 CofC is included in all GVC courses and is also available on its own as a one day course. The A2 Certificate of Competence (A2 CofC) is a new certification that will be required to operate in Open Category A2 under the new EASA system. In the UK, it will also be required to operate under the A1 Transitional category. For more details on the categories, please see the EASA blog in FAQ 3. We can now offer the A2 CofC, both to new pilots and as a conversion course for those who already hold existing certifications.
5. I have a current PfCO, how do I convert over to the new Operational Authorisation?
It’s actually really easy and there is no need to rush into anything. If you just want to keep operating as you have been under your PfCO, you just need to renew as normal. The first time you renew after 31st December 2020, your PfCO will renew as an Operational Authorisation (OA) in the Specific category of the new regulations. As standard, your Operational Authorisation will be under UKPDRA01, which will have identical separation distances to the old PfCO. After 1st January 2024, all remote pilots operating under an OA will need to hold a GVC. If you have a legacy certification and evidence of recent commercial operations you can do our GVC Conversion Course, which will save you money and update you to both GVC and A2CofC. To operate under Open category A2, you will need an A2CofC.
6. What is the difference between the different NQEs and RAEs?
From the CAA’s perspective, nothing. All current full NQEs and RAEs have been approved by the CAA to assess pilot competence in line with their requirements. Effectively, this means we can supply you with with three certificates; these cover theoretical competence, practical competence and our recommendation that you are issued a PfCO. The NQEs may have different length courses and carry out assessments in different ways; as a result it is important that you choose the provider that meets your learning needs. The method of delivery tends to depend on the prior experience of the RAE instructors, some of the RAEs’ instructors come largely from the manned aviation sector and have very little experience of practical drone operations, others come from military backgrounds. These sectors can provide some useful insight into the drone industry. At Global Drone Training, we believe that we have achieved a great mix. All our instructors either are, or have been, commercial drone operators. They come from across the drone sector. We also have manned pilots on the team to give insight into the interaction between the manned and unmanned sectors. Most importantly, all our instructors love teaching the course and seeing new pilots progress to the point where they can begin to operate commercially.
7. How long will it take to get my Operational Authorisation from the CAA?
That is really up to you. Our main aim is to get people through, at the latest, within three months of their theory course. An experienced drone pilot who sorts out most of their paperwork before the theory course could do the flight assessment very soon after the theory. For corporate courses of 3 or more individuals, it is possible to put together a “zero to hero” course that aims to get the majority of the course done in 5 days, but that will depend on the experience of the drone pilots. The CAA have brought in a new online system to process initial applications, this has speeded up the application process considerably. The service level agreement of the CAA is 28 working days from receipt of application to issue of PFCO but recently we have seen them coming back in under 10 working days (correct at June 2020).
8. How much paperwork do I have to complete?
You may have heard that there is a lot of paperwork to complete before you are issued your PfCO. That is true to a degree. The system we have agreed with the CAA is that we will teach to a core Operations Manual. This means that by the time you have completed the theory course, you have a very clear idea of why we need the operations manual and are well prepared to complete your own with the assistance of your instructor. The only other paperwork is the online form that allows you to apply for the PfCO. We provide guidance for this as well and can assist you fully if you purchase Application Assistance with your course.
Once you have completed your paperwork, it will then be checked by one of our expert team to ensure that it is complete and likely to be accepted by the CAA.
9. How long does the PfCO application take?
The CAA service level agreement for issuing a PfCO is 28 WORKING days. This equates to about 5-6 weeks. As a result, this is often a limiting factor in terms of time, and must be factored in if you are in a rush to complete your PfCO. We will do our best to assist you but, once the CAA application is made, we have no control over the length of time the process takes.
10. Do I need drone insurance to get my PfCO?
Yes. The CAA now requires that insurance is in place when you apply. The insurance must be compliant to EC regulation EC 785/2004. In real terms this means that the absolute minimum requirement is about £1,000,000 public liability. To operate in some environments you might require up to £10,000,000. As a result, it is important that you understand the sector you will be working in and obtain appropriate insurance. You can also insure your drone for damage, which will increase your premiums significantly. Some companies are now providing cover by the day, which could be cost-effective if you are only likely to do 1 or 2 jobs a month.
In terms of your flight assessment, we provide public liability insurance for that, so you don’t need to worry about commercial insurance until you make your application. If you are carrying out non-commercial training flights at a safe location, you may wish to consider recreational drone cover. This is generally fairly cheap. Here are some drone insurance providers to help you get your quotes together.
Commercial drone insurance providers:
Recreational drone insurance providers:
11. Do I need my own drone for training?
When you attend the theory course you don’t need to bring a drone at all. Some people attending theory don’t even have drones yet. Our instructors are generally happy, time-permitting, to discuss the different equipment that is available.
If attending flight training, our instructors will normally provide one or more drones. If you have your own drone it is useful to bring it with you for flight training to improve familiarity with your own equipment.
For operational flight assessment it is preferable to have your own drone. In exceptional circumstances it may be possible for you to use one of our drones. Dependent on the drone used, we reserve the right to charge an additional fee to cover equipment hire and/or insurance.
12. Can you supply drones?
We now supply DJI, Autel and Parrot drones directly, and are able to recommend drones for different purposes. We offer a discount on drones when brought along with or after our training. We provide direct aftersales support with our distributor and the manufacturers to keep you flying. This is important as the nature of drone operations means damage is a real possibility. As a result, having good insurance, combined with a reliable provider is important. Two of our instructors also have specialist niches for equipment supply:
Jack Wrangham of Drone AG supplies customised drones for agricultural surveying including for NDVI mapping, visual crop analysis and crop spraying.
Jacques Eloff of Vertech Imaging is a fixed-wing specialist who has years of experience in building custom fixed-wing and hybrid drone solutions. Having flown a number of the fixed-wing mapping drones out there, I can honestly say that the Vertech Imaging drones fly superbly, and you will get excellent support from Jacques if you are looking for a custom fixed-wing drone.
13. Can you recommend drone flight logging software?
The CAA require you to keep logs of all flights carried out under your PfCO. As a company, we use Airdata UAV. You can of course use the standard DJI logging in the DJI Go and Go 4 apps. However, Airdata UAV allows you to delve much more deeply into the flight data. You can produce 3D maps of your flights in Google Earth, assess battery status, log drone maintenance, produce logs for the CAA (requires gold package or higher). Our candidates get a discount code for 10% off any Airdata package.
14. Do I need to get a CAA permission every time I fly my drone?
When you are issued a Permission for Commercial Operations (PFCO) it is valid for a year from the date of issue. You would only need to get additional permissions from the CAA or NATS if you wanted to do something that is not permitted under your standard permission. This is fairly rare unless, for example, you are flying regularly in central London or in restricted areas.
Since March 13th 2019 most UK aerodromes have been surrounded by a flight restriction zone. If flying any drone of any size for any purpose within these zones you will require permission from the local Air Traffic Control unit or the aerodrome operator. There is an interactive map of the new Flight Restriction Zones (FRZ) here.
15. Do I need to write an operations manual every time I fly?
No. The operations manual is a document that is submitted to the CAA on initial application. It gives the CAA the details of your business and the drones you fly, as well as the operating procedures you will employ to fly the drones safely. Ops Manuals are generally reviewed once or twice a year, particularly at renewal time. You ARE required to carry out a site survey and risk assessment before every flight. We will teach you how to do this during the theory course.
16. Who are Global Drone Training?
Well, in 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit… Oh wait, no, sorry, that’s the A Team! Well, our Team is not much different to be honest. We like building stuff, we have a thing for aircraft (obviously BA may wish to differ on that one) and we love it when a plan comes together. Every member of the team has been invited to join as we feel they have something different to add to the mix. So in no particular order we have people who have experience in or who can help you to develop skills in the following areas:
Basic drone flying to get you started
Advanced drone flying to keep you up-to-date and developing your skills
Night flight (a standard permission is daylight hours only)
Transition from military to civilian life (a couple of our pilots are ex-Armed Service personnel)
Photogrammetry (creating 3D models from a series of still images)
Creative drone filming (our pilots have worked on high profile TV and film productions)
FPV drone operations such as cinewhoops
…and much, much more. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have specific areas you would like to look into and we’ll put you in touch with the right person. Our growing team is probably the most experienced set of drone pilots in the UK. Other companies may try to wow you with their flight hours, but do check how many of them are actually on drones and not just manned aircraft.
17. I have a manned pilot licence, do I need to do a full PfCO course?
You can if you like; we have had a number of manned pilots who have found the full course helpful in order to develop a deeper understanding of how aviation legislation applies to the drone industry. UAS operators are exempt from most of the Air Navigation Order but there are some key articles that do apply.
As a manned pilot with a current CAA or EASA PPL, LAPL or ATPL you are exempt from the theory aspect of the course but will still have to complete a flight assessment. As a result, we have put together a package that still includes the high level of support available on the full course. If you feel you are theory exempt, then please call us or email and we will confirm your exemption and book you onto the Operational Assessment Bundle course.
A full list of exemptions is available in CAP 722. If you feel you should be exempt, but your qualification is not on the list please contact us and we will do our best to help.
As there are no manned pilot exemptions after the transition to EASA drone regulations in December 2020, we are ending exemption courses on 30th September 2020.
18. Do I need a drone licence?
There is currently no such thing as a drone licence or drone license in the UK. The CAA operates a system of permissions, authorisations and exemptions to allow you to operate drones commercially in UK airspace. See FAQ 1.
19. Do you carry out commercial drone training?
Under the new EASA drone regulations there is no distinction between commercial and recreational drone use. The level of training required will be based purely on the ytpe of drone you fly and where you are flying it. As a result, moving forwards, our GVC and A2 CofC courses will be suitable for both recreational and commercial drone pilots and if you contact us we can discuss what you need. Under the new system, not all pilots will require remote pilot competency certification. The easiest thing to do if you are unsure what level of drone training you require is to give us a call or drop an email explaining how you want to use drones and we can advise you what level of training you need.
20. Any more questions!?
If you have any more questions that don’t feature here, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to help and love talking drones.