Drone Licence – Do You Need One?

If you are flying a drone in the UK, then you might be wondering about a drone licence and if you need one?

This blog will explain how to get a UK drone licence, when you need a licence, and how much it may cost to obtain a drone licence.

You can use the summary below to click through to a specific drone licence question you may have.

What Is A Drone Licence?

A drone licence allows drone operators to fly their drone for commercial purposes.

In the UK, a drone licence is actually known as a PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations), although under the new UK drone laws which are due to start on December 31, 2020, two new types of licences are coming in: an Operational Authorisation (take a GVC – General Visual Line of Sight Certificate – course for this), and an A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC). The term PfCO will become obsolete.

However, in the UK, it is important to remember that the correct terminology is a drone permission, not a drone licence.

Do I Need A Drone License To Fly A Drone In The UK?

Up until December 31, 2020, if you’re planning on using your drone strictly as a hobby, a drone licence is not required in the UK as long as you follow the CAA regulations.

This means that you can still have great fun with a drone without the need for a license.

As soon as your drone is being used commercially, ie you’re being paid for your work, or you’re getting some other kind of reward, you need a CAA Drone License to fly legally.

From December 31, 2020, as part of new UK drone laws, the definition of which type of operator will require a drone licence will change – with the size of your drone and where you plan to fly it becoming more important considerations than whether or not your operation is for commercial purposes.

This means that certain hobbyist drone pilots will require a drone licence; most likely an A2 CofC. You can find out more by reading our Drone Training Requirement calculator.

How Do I Get A Drone Licence?

To obtain a UK drone licence, you can conduct drone licence training with a CAA-approved provider, such as HELIGUY.com™, which is a National Qualified Entity (NQE) and Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE).

HELIGUY.com™ runs online drone training courses through its Blackbox e-learning portal. Both the GVC and A2 CofC courses can be booked now and you can start your training today.

To find out the differences between the A2 CofC and GVC, read our guide to What Kind Of Drone Training Do You Need?

The GVC course has replaced the PfCO course because from the end of December, the PfCO terminology will become obsolete, replaced by an Operational Authorisation. Pilots must complete a GVC course to obtain an Operational Authorisation.

Until December 31, 2020, GVC candidates will be taught a hybrid syllabus, comprising the current and future drone regulations for the UK.

Upon successful completion of the GVC course, candidates can apply to the CAA for Standard Permissions to operate commercially.

From December 31, 2020, holders can continue to operate under the terms of their current permissions (including those with a valid PfCO licence), but on renewal, these will convert to an Operational Authorisation.

Candidates will need to do a theory test as part of the A2 CofC and GVC. For the GVC, candidates will also need to pass a Practical Flight Test and complete an Operations Manual, while for the A2 CofC, a period of practical flight training (either with HELIGUY.com™ or under self-monitored circumstances) is needed.

Whether you obtain a drone licence from sitting an A2 CofC or GVC drone training course, remember to be a responsible drone operator and make sure you have the correct licence in place for the type of drone activity you’re conducting.

How Much Does A Drone License Cost?

The current costs to obtain a UK drone licence are:

A2 Certificate of Competency Course (A2 CofC)£209 (ex Tax)
General Visual Line of Sight Course (GVC)£624 (ex Tax)
Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO)Course no longer running

While the new drone laws don’t start until December 31, 2020, both the GVC and A2 CofC courses can be booked now and you can start your learning from today.

You can complete your drone licence training online, through HELIGUY.com™ Blackbox.

If you train with HELIGUY.com™, an interest-free finance option is available for your drone license training.

There are also no hidden costs to our drone licence courses – you will not be charged for extras at any point, unlike many other NQEs or RAEs.

Click here to book an online drone training course.

Is A Drone Licence The Same As Drone Registration?

No it is not. A drone license and drone registration are two different things.

The way in which you use your drone decides on whether you need a drone licence. If you are a commercial operator, then yes you do need a drone licence. If you are a hobbyist, then no you don’t. Remember this will change as part of the new UK drone laws and some recreational pilots will also need a drone licence to enjoy their drone as freely as the laws permit.

However, UK drone registration applies to the majority of drone users – both commercial and recreational – regardless of whether or not you have a drone license.

The CAA’s Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service (DMARES) – which became law on November 30, 2019 – applies to:

  • Anyone responsible for a drone or unmanned aircraft (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg needs to register as an operator. The cost for this is £9 renewable annually.
  • Anyone flying a drone or unmanned aircraft (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg must take and pass an online education package. This is free and renewable every three years.

What Is The Best Drone Without A License?

Whether or not you require a drone licence currently depends on whether you are using your aircraft for commercial reasons or as a hobbyist.

From the end of December, this will change and the focus will be on the type of drone you have and where you want to fly it. As part of the new UK rules, the majority of existing DJI drones will require the operator to have a drone licence (A2 CofC or Operational Authorisation) to enable operators to maximise the true potential of their aircraft. You can find out how this will impact you by reading our guide to which DJI drones will require a drone licence under the new UK drone laws?

However, one of the best drones to buy which will not necessarily require a licence is the DJI Mavic Mini.

Currently, you only need a drone licence for the Mavic Mini if you are using it for commercial purposes.

Upon commencement of the new UK drone laws, as long as your DJI Mavic Mini has a flying weight of under 250g (it’s out of the box weight is 249g), you will be able to fly it in the A1 subcategory (fly over uninvolved people, but not crowds) of the Open Category without needing to undergo drone licence training (A2 CofC).

If the flying weight does exceed 250g – if accessories like prop guards or the Snap Adapter – are attached, then you will need a drone licence (A2 CofC), to be able to fly in the A1 Transitional Subcategory (no intentional flight over uninvolved persons) – or you will be restricted to fly in the A3 subcategory (no uninvolved people present within the area of flight; and there must be no flight within 150m horizontally of residential, commercial, industrial or recreational areas) of the Open Category.

Another bonus of having the DJI Mavic Mini is that it does not currently need to be registered as part of the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Scheme, as it is under 250g. However, under the new UK drone laws, the Mavic Mini will need to be registered because it has a camera and is not deemed to be a toy.

A Drone License Wording Reminder

Remember, the CAA does not issue licences. There is no such thing as a drone license in the UK.

You’ll actually receive an A2 CofC or a Standard Permission (PfCO, to become an Operational Authorisation) after completing the necessary course.

However, as this isn’t common knowledge, we’ve created this article on drone licences to educate and inform the public.

Drone Licence FAQs

Do I need a drone licence?

If you’re planning on using your drone strictly as a hobby, a drone licence is not required as long as you follow the CAA regulations.

If you’re planning on using your drone for profit or for business purposes, you will need to get a drone licence (PfCO to be replaced by an Operational Authorisation by completing a GVC course) from a CAA-approved provider, like Heliguy.

When new drone laws start in the UK on December 31, 2020, some recreational pilots will also need a drone license – most likely an A2 CofC. This is because, under the new rules, the need to have a drone licence will be decided by drone weight and areas of operation, instead of the distinction between commercial and hobbyist.

Do I need a drone licence to own a drone?

No it is not. – not at the moment, and if you want to buy a drone, there’s nothing stopping you.

Currently, it all depends on how you intend to use your drone. As a commercial operator, you need a licence. As a hobbyist flyer, you don’t need a license.

But this will change when the new laws start in the UK, and some recreational drone pilots will need a drone license to enjoy as much freedom with their drone as the rules permit – otherwise, they could find their areas of operation restricted. Find out more here.

However, it is important to remember the CAA’s Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service became law on November 30, 2019, and the new system is relevant to the majority of UK drone users.

Read more here.

Do I need a drone license for photography?

The fact that you’re taking images or video with your drone doesn’t automatically mean you need a license. It’s where you’ll be capturing those images and the circumstances surrounding the flight that dictate whether or not you’ll need some form of training. Visit our Training Requirements by Drone calculator to understand if you’ll need training or not.

Where can I get my drone licence?

Your licence can only be given following the CAA’s review of your completion of either a PfCO, A2 CofC or GVC course. HELIGUY.com™, a CAA-approved NQE (now RAE), can offer training for your licence through our online drone training platform, Blackbox.

Can I get my drone licence online?

Yes. HELIGUY.com™ now offers fully online courses for the A2 CofC and the GVC. This gives you complete flexibility to learn as, when and how you want! Find out more here.

Do different types of drones need different licences?

Different types of licenses are required for the different drones available. Different licences are required for fixed wing or multirotor as well as different weight categories. Visit our Training Requirements by Drone calculator to find out what kind of drone license you’ll need.

I already have a Pilot’s Licence – can I fly my drone commercially?

No – separate training is required to operate drones in the UK and throughout Europe. You can conduct A2 CofC or GVC training with HELIGUY.com™. Click to see which kind of drone training you need in the UK.

Do I need a Pilot’s License to fly a drone?

No. A private pilot license in the UK is different from the CAA’s PfCO, A2 CofC or Operational Authorisation (GVC course) for drone pilots. However, you can skip part of the drone training school, as your private pilot’s license is likely to have already given you much of the theoretical knowledge required. Please contact us for more details (Email [email protected] or call 862 298 5964.

I have a drone licence. Do I need to register my drone?

A drone licence is different to drone registration in the UK. Regardless of whether or not you have a drone license, the UK’s drone registration scheme applies to drones weighing between 250g and 20kg. You can find out more here. Currently, you do not need to pass the drone registration test or register if your drone or model aircraft is less than 250g, or you’ll only fly indoors or in a securely netted area.

Will my English drone licence apply in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?

Your drone license will apply in any country in the UK.

How old do you have to be to get a drone licence?

The CAA won’t grant permission to anyone under the age of 18.

Do I need a Commercial Drone License or a Hobbyist Licence?

As of the time of writing, there is no hobbyist drone license in the UK. Whether or not you’ll need some form of qualification depends on the circumstances of your flight. Click here to find out about the different categories of flight which are being introduced as part of new UK drone laws.

Is there a Drone License Test?

Yes – there is a theory test to take when you’ve finished a drone license course. The A2 CofC course does not have a practical test, but the GVC course does.

Is there a European Drone License?

At this point there is no central authority for issuing drone licenses – they’re only approved country by country.

Are there Drone License Schools in the UK?

Yes – they’re called CAA National Qualified Entities (NQEs) – or Recognised Assessment Entities (RAEs). HELIGUY.com™ is proud to be one of the leading NQEs in the UK and one of the first to transition to RAE status!


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