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Do I need drone training to operate unmanned aircraft?

Updated: Feb 17



If you have an interest in operating drones, whether as a hobby or as part of your occupation, you may wonder if it’s necessary to undergo drone training. In commercial settings, it’s important you obtain a drone pilot license, as this is ultimately what allows for operating one legally. However, if you’re only intending on using one as a hobby, you don’t need a license.



What certification is needed in the UK?


In the past, there has been one known course which is needed to obtain a license to operate. This pilot certificate has been known as a PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations). However, some new courses have been introduced this year for achieving the knowledge and skills to comply with the new UK drone laws.



What are the new UK Drone Laws?


The new UK drone laws, which are set to come into force on December 31st 2020 in a transitional period until December 2022, mean:

  • The PfCO certification is being replaced with a new system.

  • There are three new categories which involve the operating of a drone, and have been created to better suit the risks involved with flight, namely:

  • Open category – For low risk

  • Specific category – For medium risk

  • Certified category – For high risk


  • The new laws mean the new courses will involve classes that surround other types of weight and specifications of drones.

  • The new laws align with the EU regulations, with the new system aiming to ensure all pilots understand the basic safety of being a remote pilot.



Which drone courses are available now?


To hold a drone pilot license now, if you don’t already have a PfCO certification, you’ll need to either complete a GVC (General Visual Line of Sight Certificate) or an A2 CofC (A2 Certificate of Competency). As well as the completion of the courses, it’s essential you get a CAA Drone Permission, as this is ultimately what allows you to fly a drone legally – the courses alone do not provide you with your license, though they help towards it.

Depending on the reason for operating a drone, if it’s within a workplace and you’re getting paid for it, you’re likely going to need to do a drone training course.

Firstly, do you need to complete a course?

  • Will you be flying closer than 150m horizontally from built up areas?

  • Will you be flying closer than 50m horizontally from uninvolved people?

  • Does your drone weigh more than 4kg maximum Take-Off mass?

A2 CofC training is suitable for you if:

  • You will be flying near uninvolved persons not under your control.

  • You will be flying your drone within built up areas to capture photos or videos of buildings.

  • Your drone weighs more than 250g up 4kg.

  • You’re wanting to operate under the Open Category.

GVC training is suitable for you if:

  • You plan to operate within built up areas.

  • You want to operate commercially before January 1st 2021.

  • You plan on flying near uninvolved persons not under your control.

  • Your drone weighs more than 4kg.

  • You want to operate under the Specific Category.



What’s involved in these courses?


The aim of both courses is to ultimately take on drone pilot training to qualify to operate an unmanned aircraft. There are varying components of both courses, both which include a knowledge test as a theory side and with the GVC course only, there’s a flight assessment for aircraft systems as a practical.



Do I need a drone license if I fly as a hobby?


The simple answer is no. As previously mentioned, you don’t need a specific license to operate a drone outside of commercial circumstances. However, you do need to be registered as a drone user and pass an online education package. This comes under the CAA’s Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service, and this applies to anyone who:

  • Is responsible for unmanned aircraft (drones) weighing in the region of 250g to 20kg.

  • Is flying an unmanned aircraft (drones) weighing in the region of 250g to 20kg.




Final Thoughts


If you require any additional information on any of the above, please get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to assist you.


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