How To Get Fully CAA Certified!

When becoming a commercial drone operator, there are hundreds of rules and regulations to be aware of before you can start legally earning remuneration for your aerial work. Whilst it can be daunting, Drone Safe Register is here to support you on your journey. 

Although you don't necessarily need any qualifications to buy or fly a drone, depending on the type and weight, you may be restricted in where you can fly it and which models you can lawfully operate. Over the last few years, the laws around drone ownership have changed dramatically. 

When it comes to commercial operations, operating rules have also changed significantly. There are two primary forms of remote pilot competency qualifications available, as opposed to a standard all-encompassing "drone licence." Remember, there is no such thing as a “drone licence”

There are currently 2 ID’s you must have to fly commercially, but there are different options depending on the type of permission required, depending on the operation you are intending to perform. 

The ID’s are: 

Flyer ID 

Operator ID  

The Permissions are:

A2 Certificate of Competency

GVC + Operational Authorisation

For clarification, this guide is aimed at those wanting to operate commercially, so any information presented in this blog should be looked upon in this context.

What Qualifications Do I Need To Become A Commercial Drone Operator?

Flyer ID:

The CAA Flyer ID serves as proof of competency as a remote pilot and takes the form of an online, open-book test done via the CAA website. You do not need to register if the drones or model aircraft you’ll fly are certain toys, or a certain weight or class but the Flyer ID is required for almost all commercial flights and for pilots flying a drone above 250g. 

The test consists of forty multiple-choice questions, with a pass mark of 35. The questions challenge you on a variety of scenarios in regards to the law, safety and drone classes. Flyers can use the new Drone and Model Aircraft Code to prepare for the test. After passing the test, operators will receive a flyer ID from the CAA.

The Flyer ID is a great starting point for gaining a good understanding of drone laws and usage and is the foundation for you to build off. Your registration will be active for three years and is completely free of charge. Although there is no minimum age restriction, children under the age of 13 must have permission from a parent or guardian.

For all intents and purposes, you must have a Flyer ID. Whilst there are some exceptions, there is no reason not to complete the Flyer ID. You will gain an understanding of drone laws, rules and regulations and be covered.

Operator ID:

An operator ID is separate from a flyer ID in the sense that anybody who is responsible for a drone or model aircraft, with a camera or above 250g must register as an operator. As they are responsible for the aircraft, they are responsible for anyone who is flying the aircraft.

After you've registered, you'll receive an operator ID along with your registration certificate. Your operator ID must be shown on your drones and model aircraft. You should use the same operator ID for all of your model planes and drones, but it is suggested that you purchase stickers for each of your drones and keep a record of your models. 

You must be 18 years old or older to work as an operator, and your registration is only valid for one year - there is an annual fee of £9. 

To prove ownership and control of a drone, you must have an Operational ID listed on your drone. Every drone used for a commercial flight will require an Operator ID.

What Qualifications Do I Need To Become A Commercial Drone Operator?

Do I Need To Take A Drone Training Course?

If you plan to fly in any of these situations, you'll need to take a drone training course in the UK:

  • Closer than 150 metres horizontally from any type of built-up area, including commercial, residential, and recreational.

  • Flying above or around persons over whom you have no control

  • Flying closer than 50m horizontally from people - even when using low speed

The only exception is if you're flying any drone under 250g - the DJI Mini 2 for example. Any drone with a take-off weight of less than 250g can be flown without any training if the risk to people and property is low. Mini 2 pilots can fly commercially without having an A2 CofC, but an A2 is needed for A1 Transitional flights if weight exceeds 250g, regardless of whether the operation is for recreational or commercial purposes. We would however not recommend flying commercially without the A2 qualification in place, even though it would be legal, it carries the burden of confusion and could cause more hassle than good. 

When intending to fly commercially, it is almost certain that you will be flying within the situations, therefore you have to be a trained pilot.

These laws came into force in the UK and throughout Europe on December 31, 2020.

(A2CofC) A2 Certificate of Competency:

With the completion of the A2CofC, you can operate a drone commercially for the first time without needing to spend hundreds of pounds on advanced training and permissions. The A2 gives you the ability to fly commercially and to start a drone business but limits you in the drones you are able to fly for commercial purposes. 

With the A2 you can fly the following commercially: 

  • Open Category – Subcategory A2

  • Open Category – Subcategory A1 – Until 31/12/22 using sub 500g aircraft.

  • Potential Aircraft

    • Mavic Series

    • Phantom Series

This course is aimed at drone users who want to fly their C2 classed sub 4kg drone close to people. The A2 is not specifically a commercial permission; it is a competency that permits flights in the A2 subcategory, regardless of recreational or commercial flying.

It is the responsibility of every commercial operator to ensure they have appropriate insurance coverage. At Drone Safe Register, we work with Coverdrone to ensure that all of our operators receive best in class insurance options. 

With the A2, operators must revise for and complete a timed theory based exam either online or in a classroom. There are a number of training providers on the market but you must ensure the provider is CAA approved. 

The exam, sat in formal conditions, consists of 40 multiple-choice questions, specifically covering meteorology; UAS flight performance; and technical and operational mitigations for ground risk. The exam is a closed-book format and the minimum pass mark is 75%. The examination will last for 75 minutes however any candidate with a recognised disability or additional needs (e.g. dyslexia or dyspraxia) will be given an additional 15 minutes.

99% of the time you will need, as a minimum, an A2 CofC to operate commercially. With the A2 CofC you can operate commercially, but it primarily acts as an acknowledgement of your skills and abilities as a pilot. 

What Qualifications Do I Need To Become A Commercial Drone Operator?

GVC + Operational Authority:

The GVC is a remote pilot competency certificate that has been introduced as a simple, ‘one stop’ qualification that satisfies the remote pilot competency requirements for VLOS operations within the Specific category. 

The GVC qualification is awarded by an approved training provider, known as Recognised Assessment Entities (RAEs) after completion of the course. The GVC is comprised of a theoretical examination and a practical flight test, which are both conducted at an RAE facility.

The GVC is not permission enough on its own to fly commercially - you must ensure you have applied and received your OA from the CAA after completion of your GVC.

The GVC is used for the application for the Operational Authority only - it has little worth outside of this.

After completing your GVC, you then have to apply separately for an Operational Authorisation with the CAA. The OA is issued by the CAA and will therefore require approval from the CAA.

Included In Your Application:

  • Operations manual

  • Risk assessment

  • Details of the competency levels of each remote pilot involved in the operation

The CAA Operational Authority requires a yearly renewal and an up to date operations manual. The application can be completed online but the process contains rejection rules for incorrect application submissions. Should an application be rejected the applicant will be notified and you will be required to edit the application.

Completing the GVC involves completing an extensive theory test of 40+ questions under closed book exam conditions. The GVC Theory Course covers all unmanned aircraft from 0-25Kg, regardless of the aircraft type. Whilst completing this training, you will create draft manual operations and its practical applications. 

The Practical Flight Test fulfils the CAA requirements with regard to practical competence. The practical competence is categorised by maximum take-off mass and aircraft type. The Practical Flight Test is designed to test and prove both your flying skills and the practical application of the knowledge and operational processes covered in the Theory Course.

Once this has been completed, your documentation and evidence can be passed onto the application team at the CAA who can confirm your Operational Authority. 

It is the responsibility of every OA operator to ensure they have appropriate insurance coverage.  This is a condition of each operational authorisation that is issued by the CAA. At Drone Safe Register, we work with Coverdrone to ensure that all of our operators receive best in class insurance options. 

Drone Safe Register endorses a number of training providers across the country, each of which can provide training for either the A2CofC or the GVC + Operational Authority. 

The Operational Authority is the gold standard of drone permissions and allows you to fly all classes of drones for commercial purposes. 


Share This Post

About the Author: DSR Journalist

Henry Greenshields