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Do I need a drone licence in the UK?

Do I need a drone Licence?

You don’t, mostly. But we’ll explain why and what you DO need and clear up much of the confusion surrounding drone ‘licences’.

The term Drone Licence is a misnomer, like neighbourhood policing – it sounds more official but it’s not actually a ‘licence’ in the same way that curtain twitchers aren’t police officers. It’s actually a permission, (so not a licence at all) – only needed by those planning to operate their drone for profit or other rewards. As such you don’t need a ‘Drone Licence’ but you may need a CAA Permission for Commercial Operations, or PfCO for short – which is what everyone actually means when they say ‘Drone Licence’.

Why don’t we all just call it a PfCO then? Well, the ship’s sailed on that one and for better or worse ‘Drone Licence’ is the established term. We see way more people Googling ‘Drone Licence’ or ‘Drone Licence UK’ than we do ‘PfCO Drone Training’, or ‘CAA Permission for Commercial Operations’. At this point, the two terms are used interchangeably.

So now that we’ve cleared that up and you know what we mean when we say ‘Drone Licence’ let’s answer some more questions we regularly receive regarding Drone Licences.

Who does need a drone licence (PfCO)?

The ‘Commercial’ part is key – you DO need a Drone Licence (PfCO) IF you plan to use your drone for profit, be it money or other reimbursements. If you don’t plan to use your drone for profit, you don’t need a PfCO/Drone Licence. However, if you only plan to use the drone as a hobbyist make sure the drone is under 20kg in weight and you obey the CAA’s regulations.

Who grants the PfCO?

Permissions are granted in the UK by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The PfCO is a necessary permission put in place by the CAA to regulate safety to ensure the public are not put at risk. The CAA issue operators a Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) which is considered a Drone Licence in that it is a requirement for most drone pilot jobs.

How do you get a drone licence?

The permissions (PfCO) required to pilot a drone for profit must be obtained from a qualified

NQE (National Qualified Entity). Permissions are granted upon successful completion of your practical and theory tests, as well as your Operations Manual.

Hummingbird UAV is not just any NQE, they are the only combined helicopter pilot and drone pilot training academy with experienced instructors and a 100% pass rate. Hummingbird provides industry-leading training locations throughout the UK to help you secure your drone licence and new for 2019 is our Online Drone Training Course.

How much does a UK drone licence cost?

Hummingbird UAV is very transparent and up-front with their price for your UK drone licence.

CAA Approved Drone Licence (PfCO) – Full three-phase process including a three day Ground School, Flight Assessment and Operations Manual consultation.£899* (inc VAT)

When booked 2 weeks in advance – saving £100.

Flight Assessment ResitFree of Charge
Theory Test ResitFree of Charge
Bespoke / Close CoursePriced on a case by case basis dependent on requirements

We are now offering 30 days Interest-Free Finance on all our Full PfCO Drone Training Courses. Hummingbird UAV also offer a Pay-as-You-Go option to help manage payment, making it easy for you to pay in 3 interest-free payments spread out over the major milestones of your training. Unlike many NQE’s are no hidden costs with our PfCO Course and you will never be charged extra costs.

Do I need a licence to own a drone?

Currently, you don’t need a licence to own a drone. There is no certainty that this will always be the case as the CAA has discussed the possibility of creating a drone registration programme, to ensure each drone can be traced back to a person. Similar to how the DVLA tracks vehicle owners. But for the time being, you don’t need to hold a licence to purchase, own or operate a drone for personal use.

How do I get a drone licence?

Our fully approved Drone Theory Course takes place over a day and a half in total and includes a pre-course study guide, ground school lessons, theory test, and operations manual review. An Operations Manual must be produced before taking your flight assessment. In total this course spans just 3 days.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect when you start your Hummingbird UAV Drone Training Course

Day 1: Ground School

The first day of the Hummingbird Drone Training Course will cover all of the required CAA syllabi across all 8 modules. Your instructor will take you through the full 8 modules required by the CAA, after which you will complete a multiple choice examination.

Day 2: Pre-Planning, Business Considerations and Operations Manual Review

The second day of your course covers everything you need to know in order to start your career in the commercial industry. This is an interactive day in which we place you into groups in order to test your problem-solving ability when confronted with scenarios.

Your instructor will walk you through the process of risk assessments, pre-flight planning, and on-site surveys. Lastly, you will also receive support and guidance on how to successfully complete your Operations Manual template.

Day 3: Flight Assessment

Once you have completed your Operations Manual to a satisfactory standard, it’s time to start your Flight Assessment. Flight Assessments evaluate your knowledge of the basic principles of air law, air space and through pre-light preparations to include risk assessments and an understanding of your personal operations manual. There will also be an assessment of your ability to fly your drone safely and maintain control within a designated space.

Do I need a licence to fly a drone?

Currently, you don’t need a licence to fly a drone providing you are a hobbyist or plan to use your drone only for personal use. You can still have a lot of fun and creativity with your drone without ever needing a licence. As soon as your drone is being used commercially, you’re being paid for your work, or you’re getting some other rewards, you will need a CAA Drone Licence or PfCO in order to fly legally. You may also need a licence if you are flying a heavier drone.

Do different types of drones need different licences?

Yes. Certain more specialist drones may require a licence in order to be lawfully piloted in the UK. Different licences are required for multirotor and fixed-wing varieties of a drone. As well, drones over a certain weight require separate training, e.g.., 0-7kg or 7-20kg.

Do I need a Drone Licence for Photography?

If you’re getting any kind of remuneration for the photos or video captured then you will need to obtain a drone licence (PfCO) to operate legally.

What countries will my Drone Licence be valid for?

A drone licence in the UK applies to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – any country in the UK.


Remember to keep up to date with UK drone laws, latest news can be found on the UK Gov website here.


Want to find out more about our drone courses?


Give us a call on 01302 802221 to discuss obtaining your PfCO with Hummingbird UAV, or get in touch here.

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