New Drone Regulations To Start In The UK In Summer 2020

  • New European drone regulations are to start in the UK in July 2020. They will impact anyone who flies a drone;
  • The new rules have the potential to unlock more flying opportunities for more people;
  • The PfCO is being replaced by a new system;
  • Three new categories of operations are being introduced, relating to the level of risk involved in your flight;
  • New drone classes will be introduced based on weight and other specifications.

New drone regulations are to be introduced in the UK next year, which will remove the PfCO (Permission for Commerical Operations) but have the potential to unlock more flying opportunities for more people.

The changes will come into play from Wednesday, July 1, 2020, and are designed to align with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and build on the recently-introduced Drone and Model Aircraft Registration Scheme in the UK.

The new rules will do away with the limitations and ambiguity around commercial and non-commercial drone operations, and will instead be based around the type of drone you have and where you fly it.

In some cases, this will mean that you will be able to fly over people, or even get as close to five metres to people – opening up huge possibilities for certain missions.

The PfCO will be replaced by an Operational Authorisation. It is important to note that if you have a valid PfCO, you can continue to renew with the same provisions currently afforded by the permissions for the foreseeable future.

Under the new changes, three categories of operations will be introduced. These are Open, Specific and Certified, and relate to the level of risk involved. In summary:

  • Open Category: Low-risk operations will not require any authorisation, but will be subject to strict operational limitations.
  • Specific Category: For medium-risk operations, operators will have to require an authorisation from the national aviation authority on the basis of a standardised risk assessment or a specific scenario.
  • Certified Category: In case of high-risk operations, classical aviation rules will apply.

On the face of it, it may seem daunting, and there is bound to be some confusion initially, but these new regulations have the potential to open up a huge amount of operations to people who are flying drones.

It means that people will be able to fly commercially but without too many restrictions. The changes reflect enhancements in technology and training will be based on a tiered system, depending on your operations.

Here is our in-depth guide to help you understand the changes. Heliguy will be publishing a series of future blogs on the new rules.

Background To The Changes

Last week, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) released Version 2 of Civil Aviation Publication (CAP) 722B. The release of the document marks the beginning of the transition of National Legislation to align and harmonise with that of other member states within the European Union (EU).

The document follows the release of CAP 1789 earlier in the year which outlined EU regulation package. The implementing regulation will officially come into force on July 1, 2020; although you will notice NQEs – such as Heliguy – preparing for the transition in anticipation of that date.

Will Brexit Have An Impact?

Of course, as soon as you mention anything in relation to the EU, the big Brexit question will inevitably follow.

Well, the CAA clarified during a consultation with NQEs that as things currently stand, the plan is to implement the new regulations on July 1, 2020.

If the subsequent decision on Brexit results in a change of plan by the Government, we will be informed of the revised plan as soon as things are clarified. It is worth noting that this is a Government decision and not the CAA’s.

What Do The New Regulations Mean?

In November 2019, the CAA launched the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration Scheme (DMARES); the first step to align with the EU regulations. Within the first month of the scheme’s launch, in-excess of 67,000 registrations were made; either as Operators or Flyers of Unmanned Aircraft.

The CAA DMARES not only facilitates national registration but also introduced a basic competency for any Remote Pilot of Small Unmanned Aircraft weighing 250g or greater.

The system seeks to ensure any individual flying a drone understands the basic safety principles in relation to their aircraft, airspace and themselves as a remote pilot.

With DMARES now in full-swing, any drone of 250g or greater must be marked with the operator’s identification number issued by the CAA once the DMARES 20-question multiple-choice examination has been successfully completed.

On July 1, 2020, any operator of a drone which weighs less than 250g but has a camera (other than a toy), such as the new DJI Mavic Mini, must also be registered.

Removing The Distinction Between Commercial And Non-commercial Operations

To start with, one the biggest changes with the new regulations will be the removal of the distinction between commercial and non-commercial drone operations.

To put it simply, up until July 1, 2020, in order to operate a drone in a commercial capacity, an individual or organisation will need to attain a PfCO from the CAA, for which the necessary competencies are delivered as part of Heliguy’s Commercial Drone Operators Training (CDOT) Course.

However, once the new regulations come into effect, a variety of new risk-based and operation centric categories will distinguish the requirements, as opposed to the commercial aspect.

If you are a PfCO holder, then that information may come of great concern to you and your business, however, when we dissect the requirements of each category, you will quickly see that you still possess a much-desired advantage as a qualified remote pilot.

A Guide To The Categories

Open Category

The Open Category contains three distinct subcategories, differentiated by aircraft, competency requirement and operating distance of the drone in relation to uninvolved persons.

It is the most exciting category as it has the potential to open up more operations for more people.

A breakdown of the CAA's new Drone Operating Areas.
A breakdown of the new Drone Operating Areas.

*Please note that Article 22 relates to Article 22 of EU 2019/947.

Specific Category

The Specific Category will appear fairly similar to the current requirements of the PfCO; however, what will soon become legacy terminology will be replaced by an Operational Authorisation.

The Operational Authorisation will be based upon a risk assessment that is completed by the UAS operator, or through a series of Pre-Defined Risk Assessments (PDRA) and/or Standard Scenarios (STS).

This means that individuals or organisations that wish to operate a drone within the specific category must either provide a risk assessment to the CAA (by following the OSC – Operating Safety Case – process), or adhere to the requirements of the PDRA and/ or STS.

PDRA are still currently under development and will be published in a revised version of CAP722 which is planned to be released in May 2020. Current holders of a PfCO will be pleased to hear that the current provisions of a ‘standard’ permission will be converted into a PDRA.

The key point to note is that operations which are currently conducted under a permission or exemption issued by the CAA will not suddenly become illegal or unsafe on July 1, 2020. These operations will be able to continue until the expiry date, and can then be renewed (as an operational authorisation).

This means that if you currently hold a PfCO, you can continue to renew with the same provisions currently afforded by the PfCO for the foreseeable future. The change in regulation must, however, be reflected within the Operations Manual accordingly.

For those who had a PfCO which has since expired, there are two available options. You can either reapply for a PfCO before July 1, 2020, or conduct an A2 Certificate of Competency (CoC) or General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) training delivered by a Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE) such as Heliguy. The CoC and GVC will be explained in more detail later in the blog. The benefits to the former are evident given the additional cost associated with additional training.

Certified Category

The Certified Category is reserved for operations of the highest complexity and bespoke applications, which will fall outside the remit of the masses.

Such applications include cargo-carrying and passenger unmanned aircraft, yet due to the complexity of the like, there is considerable work required to integrate such applications into the UK airspace.

Types Of Drones

Now that we’ve covered the categories, you’re probably wondering about types of drones?

The new regulations replace the current weight classifications of drones from that of a Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) weighing between 0-20kg and UAS weighing in-excess of 20kg.

New drones that are to be sold on the open market and intended for use in the Open Category will be marked by the manufactures as complying with one of five classes as shown in the table below.

The revised drone classifications now incorporate the Maximum Take-Off Mass (MTOM), maximum speed, sound power level and potential impact energy transference for any drone which is operated within the Open Category.

C0Are less than 250g maximum take-off mass;
Have a maximum speed of 19m/s (approx 42.5mph);
Are unable to be flown more than 120m (400ft) from the controlling device.
C1Either less than 900g maximum take-off mass or are made and perform in a way that if they collide with a human head, the energy transmitted will be less than 80 Joules.

Have a maximum speed of 19m/s (approx 42.5mph);
Designed and constructed so as to minimise injury to people.

The standards also cover other aspects such as noise limits, height limits, and requirements for remote identification and geo-awareness systems.
C2Are less than 4kg maximum take-off mass;
Designed and constructed so as to minimise injury to people;
Are equipped with a ‘low-speed mode’ which limits the maximum speed to 3m/s (approx 6.7mph) when selected by the remote pilot.

The standards also cover other aspects such as noise limits (but different from C1), height limits and requirements for remote identification and geoawareness systems, plus additional requirements if it is to be used during tethered flight.
C3Are less than 25kg maximum take-off mass
C4Unmanned aircraft that do not possess any automation, other than for basic flight stabilisation (and so are more representative of a ‘traditional’ model aircraft) which are less than 25kg maximum take-off mass.

A Transitional Period will run from July 1, 2020, to the start of July 2022. To find out how you can use your current DJI drone during the Transitional Period, click here.

Training Requirements

In preparation for the implementation, Heliguy is excited to be transitioning from a CAA-approved NQE to an RAE, to deliver courses for recommending individuals and organisations for both the A2 Certificate of Competency (CofC) and the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC).

Further information will be made available in early 2020 in preparation for our transition.

Operating a drone in each category has a varied requirement depending on the level of competence. As a very basic requirement, every remote pilot should have read the comprehensive user manual provided with the drone.

This is essential in understanding how to correctly prepare and configure the drone for flight, as well as best practice maintenance; ensuring your drone is airworthy. The CAA’s DMARES training and examination must also be undertaken by each operator and flyer.

A2 Certificate of Competency (CoC)

The A2 CoC course will be available in Quarter 2 of 2020 and consists of a prescribed theoretical syllabus, delivered by Heliguy’s expert training instructors, followed by completion of a multiple-choice examination.

On successful completion of the course and examination, candidates must either complete self-guided practical flight training or practical flight training with an RAE such as Heliguy.

Following which, the candidate will be issued with a certificate of remote pilot competency for the A2 subcategory.

General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC)

Operators will need to have a GVC if they are operating a drone weighing more than 4kg.

The GVC course will be available in Quarter 2 of 2020 and consists of a prescribed theoretical syllabus delivered by Heliguy’s expert training instructors, followed by completion of a multiple-choice examination.

Following completion of the course, candidates are required to produce an Operations Manual embracing the applicable PDRA and/or STS and will undergo a practical flight assessment with a flight examiner. Following successful completion, candidates will receive a recommendation for the issue of the GVC.

What if you already operate under an existing PfCO?

Permissions and exemptions valid beyond July 1, 2020, will still remain valid until their expiration date.

Individuals and organisations must consider whether they wish to then re-apply to operate in the Specific Category under an Operational Authorisation, or undertake the A2 CoC training with an RAE.

Heliguy is pleased to offer renewal consultation to assist individuals and organisations implementation of the regulations.


In summary, while these changes may appear daunting at first, they seek to introduce some quite unique opportunities to operate drone safety and open up more flight options for more people.

For more information and to clarify anything, give us a call and speak to our helpful training instructors who will be on standby to advise and assist on suitable options.

New Drone Regulations To Start In The UK In Summer 2020
Article Name
New Drone Regulations To Start In The UK In Summer 2020
New drone regulations are to be introduced in the UK next year - ending the PfCO but unlocking more flying opportunities for more people. Read our in-depth guide.
Publisher Name
Publisher Logo

Comments are closed here.