References to EU regulation or EU websites in our guidance will not be an accurate description of your obligations or rights under UK law.read more
authorisation issued by the CAA is required for any flight within the Specific
The Specific category
covers operations that present a greater risk than that of the Open category,
or where one or more elements of the operation fall outside the boundaries of
the Open category.
Full details of the
requirements related to the Specific category can be found in Annex B of CAP722.
The key element of the
Specific category is that the UAS operator is required to hold an operational
authorisation, which has been issued by the CAA.
authorisation will be based on the CAA’s evaluation of a safety risk assessment
that has been produced by the UAS operator or, in some circumstances, has been
‘pre-defined’ and published by the CAA.
authorisation document sets out the privileges and limits of the
operation. Given the name of the
category, each operational authorisation is specific to the named UAS operator
and is dependent on the risk assessment and evidence supplied to the CAA by
For further details,
please refer to CAP 722 section 2.3.
In order to obtain an
operational authorisation, unless the planned operation can be covered by a
Pre-defined Risk Assessment (PDRA), the UAS operator must first conduct a risk
assessment of the proposed operation and submit this as part of the
application. Essentially, the aim of the
risk assessment, which also includes the UAS operator’s operations manual, is
Further guidance on the preparation and
submission of risk assessments is provided in CAP 722A .
A PDRA is a shortened set
of prescriptive conditions that must be complied with by a UAS operator in
order to conduct a pre-determined type of operation.
In these cases, the CAA
conducts the risk assessment, rather than each individual operator, and then
publishes a short series of requirements (covering topics such as remote pilot
competency, ops manual contents etc) that the UAS operator must provide to the
CAA as part of a ‘shortened’ application for an operational authorisation.
Individual PDRAs are
listed in Annex B of CAP722 at B1.3
The ‘specific’ category
covers a wide range of UAS operations, each with different levels of risk.
The UAS operator must
identify the competency required for the remote pilot and all the personnel
involved in duties essential to the UAS operation, within the risk assessment.
The GVC is a remote pilot
competency certificate which 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 satisfies the
competency requirements of any published PDRA that involves VLOS flight.
The GVC is comprised of a
theoretical examination and a practical flight test, which are both conducted
at an RAE facility. The ‘basic’ GVC can
also be augmented by additional ‘modules’ which address any additional remote
pilot competency levels that may be required in order to comply with the
requirements of slightly more complex operations, such as those involving
Further details of the GVC
can be found in CAP 722B.
The CAA does not organise
or run assessment courses but we approve commercial organisations, known as Recognised
Assessment Entities (RAEs) to do this assessment on our behalf. The RAE will generally help you develop an
operations manual and will offer advice on completing the additional paperwork.
Details of CAA approved RAEs can be found
The term Commercial Operations allows a broad variety of flight applications, which are mostly based around aerial photography or the operation of sensors and other data-gathering devices.
Commercial operation is given the following meaning within article the Air Navigation Order:
“…any flight by a small unmanned aircraft except a flight for public transport, or any operation of any other aircraft except an operation for public transport-
(a) which is available to the public;
(b) which, when not made available to the public,
i. in the case of a flight by a small unmanned aircraft, is performed under a contract between the SUA operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the remote pilot;
ii. in any other case, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator,
in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.”
The key elements in understanding this term are '…any flight by a small unmanned aircraft…in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration'.
The term 'available to the public' should be interpreted as being a service or commodity that any member of the public can make use of, or actively choose to use, (e.g. because it has been advertised or offered to someone).
The essential question that needs to be asked is “what is the purpose of the (specific) flight?” i.e."If I were not receiving payment/valuable consideration, would I still be looking to fly?"
This is clearly within the remit of the permission and the operation can proceed within the limitations and conditions stated on the operator's permission.
This also would be considered a commercial operation even if it only comprised a small part of the service to the customer, e.g. advertising a customer's house or checking the property for the extent of works required. The operator of the drone would need to have a CAA permission for Commercial Operations. The estate agent or builder's firm should gain a permission or use the services of an existing permission holder.
While every case should be judged on its own merits, some types of arrangements are not generally considered by the CAA to be commercial operations such as:
Note: This would not apply if the photographic material had been directly commissioned by another party for the purposes of display or marketing on their website.
Any other imagery or data collection task where the video, photographic stills or other data collected, are used exclusively for the UAS operator's own use.
Example: A university research team wants to use a UAS to gather survey data or imagery to help with their research project.
This is legitimate as long as the research project was not directly funded by a business that intends to use the results of the data for its own business purposes (including any material or research into its products or services). Clearly university research is funded through a variety of means (grants, charitable and alumni donations, etc) and for varying purposes. The exact arrangements would need to be considered in each case.
Where an academic organisation is openly advertising their capabilities to external organisations and a business relationship is entered into with an external organisation, the use of a UAS for that purpose is likely to be construed as commercial operations. In order to alleviate difficulties with varied funding models, universities and other similar organisations should consider applying for permission from the CAA so that their services can be offered without constraint.
The first thing to note is that in most cases this will not be possible without having at least a standard permission from the CAA which will allow some types of flights within congested areas.
On its own, the standard permission does not give the right to fly unhindered and you will still require permission from the owner, manager or authority for the land from which the unmanned aircraft will be taking off and landing. The conditions of the permission will also require that you 'have control' over the area you intend to use the camera equipped unmanned aircraft, and this includes any people or vehicles in the area over which you intend to fly the aircraft. The minimum distances are stated on the permission.
Before filming you need to ensure that you have:
The CAA permission for camera equipped unmanned aircraft only addresses the flight safety aspects of the flight and does not constitute permission to disregard the legitimate interests of other statutory bodies such as the Police and Emergency Services, the Highway Agency, local authorities (and their agents) or any other statutory body.
In order to exercise the necessary 'control' over a nearby public environment, it will often be necessary to contact the local authority to make suitable arrangements such as road-closures or other restrictions of access. This is a normal part of ground-based filming in urban areas and the same procedures should be followed in the case of camera equipped unmanned aircraft. Due to the lead times advisable for making such arrangements, Location Managers and production staff should start this process as early as possible.
Guidance on filming is available from the British Film Commission (BFC).
Guidance for filming in the UK:
London drone-filming information and Borough film offices:
Detailed guidance on drone flying in London and other towns and cities can be found in CAP722.
Due to the large number of possible circumstances, the CAA can only give general guidelines, however a person or people under the control of the SUA operator or remote pilot of a small unmanned aircraft can generally be considered to be:
Spectators or other people gathered for sports or other mass public events that have not been specifically established for the purpose of the UAS operation are generally not regarded as being 'under the control of the SUA operator or remote pilot'.
In principle, someone who is under the control of the SUA operator or remote pilot at a mass public event must be able to:
To use an example: if filming with an unmanned aircraft at a large music festival or public event, it would not be sufficient for the audience/those present to be informed of the UAS operation via a public-address system, or in advance by e-mail or text. Those types of communication channels do not satisfy the points above.
Permission has occasionally been granted for unmanned aircraft flights at public events by special arrangement. These permissions have been extremely limited and usually involve a segregated take-off site with the unmanned aircraft operating only vertically within strict lateral limits. There is no allowance for direct over-flight of persons in these circumstances.
National Qualified Entities (NQEs) are established to assess the competence of people operating small unmanned aircraft as part of the CAA's process in granting operating permissions.
Assessment by an NQE is necessary for those with no previous aviation training or qualifications. To achieve this, NQEs may offer a short educational course/programme prior to the competency assessment aimed at bringing an individual's knowledge up to the required level (but please note that these are not CAA approved training courses).
A typical NQE full-course involves:
After successfully completing the theory element, applicants will:
Flight assessments are normally arranged and completed at your own pace:
Details of CAA approved assessment organisations (NQEs) are shown below.
*A Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE) are organisations that have transitioned to be in line with the EU Regulatory framework and are approved to assess pilot competency, to apply for a Permission for Commercial Operations or an Operational Authorisation.
Please complete the online application form and
submit the following documents (the application form will lead you through the
Applications including the
UAS operators risk assessment:
Applications based on a
Note: The application process contains rejection rules for incorrect
application submissions. Should an application be rejected the applicant will
be notified and will be required to make a fresh application submission. A
rejection/assessment fee of £124.00 for applications which do not meet a
certain level of standard may be charged in line with the CAA Refunds & Waivers Policy.
Details of our charges can
be found in the General Aviation Scheme of Charges insert link to the correct ORS5 entry at
There is no limit on a
maximum number of unmanned aircraft. The renewal cost is reduced for subsequent
It is the responsibility
of every UAS operator to ensure they have appropriate insurance coverage. This is a condition of each operational
authorisation that is issued by the CAA.
Regulation (EC) 785/2004 , which came into force on 30 April 2005,
requires most operators of aircraft, irrespective of the purposes for which
they fly, to hold adequate levels of insurance in order to meet their
liabilities in the event of an accident. This EC Regulation specifies, amongst
other things, the minimum levels of third-party accident and war risk insurance
for aircraft operating into, over or within the EU (including UAS) depending on
their Maximum Take-Off Mass (MTOM). Details of the insurance requirements can
be found on the CAA website under “Mandatory Insurance Requirements”.
Article 2(b) of EC
785/2004 states that the regulation does not apply to ‘model aircraft with an
MTOM of less than 20kg’, but the term ‘model aircraft’ is not defined within
the regulation itself. Therefore, for
the purposes of interpretation within the insurance regulation only, its use of
the term ‘model aircraft’ should be taken to mean:
“Any unmanned aircraft which is being used for
sport or recreational purposes only”.
all other purposes, the definition of model aircraft is as set out within CAP
For all other types of
unmanned aircraft operation, whether commercial or non-commercial, appropriate
cover that meets the requirements of EC 785/2004 is required. Insurance for
“each and every flight” could be a per flight/daily/weekly/monthly or annual
policy so long as it satisfies the requirements of the EC Regulation for the
duration of the flight.
The insurance must be in
the name of the applicant, not just the name of the pilot (unless the pilot is
the applicant) or the trading name.
I.E. for companies the insurance
must include the full name of the company including Ltd / Limited / PLC as
Insurance must be EC
Regulation 785/2004 compliant. If you have any concerns your insurance policy
might not comply with EC Regulation 785/2004, then please check directly with
Non UK operators
If you are an unmanned
aircraft operator from overseas and want to carry out work in the UK, then you
must register as a UK operator and comply with the same requirements that would
apply if you were based in the UK.
There is some scope for
valid national documents relating to operator certification, remote pilot
competency or even national operational authorisations to be accepted by the
CAA as part of a risk assessment. This
is particularly the case where the regulatory environment in the UAS operator’s
parent country is similar to that of the UK (e.g. EU Member States).
you have been denied access to a portion of airspace, and feel that your
request was not considered appropriately, you can report this to the CAA
The UK CAA’s Consumers and
Markets Group collects and stores your name, date of birth, address, email, telephone
number and Nationality (not routinely) for the purpose of processing the
application for a Foreign Registered Aircraft Permit.
We may also share such
information on an adhoc basis with DfT and UK Border Forces for Aviation
Security purposes as part of the National Aviation Security Plan.
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