Congratulations! You have decided to join one of the most exciting new tech industries evolving in the UK and across the world, and the website of the largest provider of independent drone operators in the UK.

You may have flown as a recreational flyer, seen a commercial operator in action, marvelled at low-altitude aerial photograhs and videos on TV and wondered how they were taken, or simply Googled drones. 

Most newcomers to the world of commercial drones, in fact, come from a related industry or business such as commercial and marketing photography and videography, ground and construction site surveying, building and asset inspections or from an agricultural, farming or environmental background. 

Whatever your pathway into this industry, the same rule applies. To operate a drone commercially in UK airspace,meaning charging for a service or the use of the images and/or videos taken for the purpose of receiving work or money or promotion, you require the Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). There is no such thing as a drone licence.  

The CAA demands the highest level of safety whether in flight or on the ground to minimise and prevent collisions with other aerial users and injury or damage to people and property on the ground. Before any operation is agreed with the client, a comprehensive risk assessment and pre-flight survey is undertaken to identify any possible obstacles and limitations to the flight and dangers to people and property, and to ensure the flight operation can be carried out in accordance with CAA regulations.

The CAA Permission for Commercial Operations is gained following successful completion of a ground school, written examination, practical flight test and Operations Manual approval. Only organisations known as National Qualified Entities approved by the CAA can provide the training required. There are about 40 RAE’s across the UK, offering face-to-face courses, self-study and online courses in preparation for the written examination and practical flight test. 

All of the NQEs are required to meet the same standards of training as laid down by the CAA, follow a strict syllabus and are subject to regular audits.Your decision as to which one you choose will probably come down to price and location. 

Drone Safe Register has compiled an interactive map of the UK showing where the RAE’s are based, saving you the time, money and energy of trying to work out which one is closest to you. You can view our MAP HERE

The PfCO requires a drone pilot to have an in-depth understanding of the following procedures:-

UAV Airspace Operating Principles

Airmanship and Aviation Safety

Air Law and Responsibilities


Air Navigation Charts

Crew Resource Management

Aircraft Knowledge

Operating Procedures

The RAE does not issue the PfCO. Once you have passed the theory and practical test and completed your Operations Manual, the NQE will provide you with a certificate of recommendation which you then submit to the CAA, along with the application fee. 

It can take up to six weeks for the CAA to process your application, after which they will email you a certificate and that is the document that grants you Permission for Commercial Operations and you can fly for financial gain.

Up to this point, you have probably spent around £3,000 in setting yourself up as a legal commercial drone pilot.

Your thoughts will now turn to how to make money from your substantial investment. This will require a constant flow of quality leads and fee-paying jobs. This is where Drone Safe Register comes in.

Drone Safe Register is the UK’s largest network of commercial drone pilots for hire, with more than 500 operators on its books and a constant stream of clients looking for professional, well-trained drone operators across multiple industries, including photography and videography, surveys, mapping and inspections, agriculture, farming and environment. 

However, Drone Safe Register is not just a matching agency for drone pilots and clients. We also offer advice and services to help you develop your business and prosper as a drone pilot. Professional Members are welcome to join our closed networking group HERE

The CAA requires all commercial drone pilots to have commercial insurance with public liability. The insurance must comply with the requirements defined by regulation EC785/2004. Drone Safe Register has linked up with several specialist drone insurance companies to offer you the best deals, whether it be public liability insurance or drone and equipment insurance. 

We also manage a stock library of photographs and videos taken by our drone pilots suitable for marketing, tourism and promotional uses. Make sure you upload any suitable stills and footage and earn some additional money.

Gaining your PfCO should not be the end of your training. As part of any professional drone pilot’s plans should be their Continuous Professional Development. Undertake training courses, attend industry seminars and conferences and monitor forums to gain a greater appreciation of the drone industry, potential and best practice. 

Visit the Drone Safe Register website on a regular basis for the latest drone news, technical updates, information on new drones and equipment, data processing services and software,and, of course, job opportunities.

The commercial drone industry is rapidly changing and this attention to detail ensures Drone Safe Register pilots and clients receive the most up-to-date advice and service. 

Drone Safe Register also acts as a professional trade association in the UK and represents our drone pilots at UK and EU level and with the CAA and Department for Transport to influence regulation and promote safe operational best practice.

So, once you have received your CAA PfCO, sign up with Drone Safe Register and start recouping your investment. Running any business is not easy, running one in a new industry is much harder, but Drone Safe Register is here to assist you before and after every flight.

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About the Author: DSR Journalist

Harrison Green

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