Permissions and/or exemptions are valid for up to 12 months and are subject to an annual renewal.
They allow flights within the UK subject to the
conditions and limitations that are specified within the individual
authorisation document. However, the
greater the amount of ‘freedom of operation’ that you require (in terms of
locations, procedures and the duration of the permission), then the greater the
amount of information you need to provide us (in terms of demonstrating that
you can operate safely).
A permission from the CAA is required to be held if you wish to conduct a commercial operation with your aircraft (iaw ANO 2016 article 94), or if you wish to fly your aircraft:
An exemption from the CAA is required if you wish to seek release from any other requirement within ANO 2016
In both cases however, the CAA must still be suitably satisfied that the operation can be conducted safely
Two types of Permission are available;
This enables a person to conduct commercial operations with a small unmanned aircraft (drone) and also permits operations within a congested area. Potential operators are required to provide evidence of pilot competence and an Operations Manual which details how the flights will be conducted.
This covers all other types of flight and addresses operations that contain a greater element of operating risk. In addition to the requirements for a Standard Permission, applicants are also required to prepare and submit an Operating Safety Case (OSC) to the CAA.
Full details of the pilot competence requirements and the OSC can be found in our
guidance document CAP 722.
Please note that the UK
CAA is not currently accepting the SORA methodology as a risk assessment means
to obtain an authorisation to operate an Unmanned Aircraft System. This is
because the SORA is still under internal consultation within JARUS and has not
been published for public use. EASA has also stated that the SORA in its
current form is not be used to conduct operational risk assessments, as it is
still under review. The SORA will only be accepted as a methodology once it has
been accepted and adopted by EASA within the EU framework, as an acceptable
means of compliance.
operators wishing to obtain an authorisation should refer to CAP 722 Appendix D
for the risk assessment methodology which is acceptable to the CAA. Should an
applicant chose a different methodology, then a robust and reasoned rationale
must also be provided
Please note that permissions and exemptions only authorise the commercial use of a drone from a safety perspective. Operators are still subject to rules and regulations imposed by other bodies and organisations. These may include the emergency services, the Highways Agency and local authorities. Before beginning a job in a particular location a permission holder should always check with all relevant bodies to establish what, if any, other restrictions apply.
Operators should also be sure they understand the rules around trespass and nuisance.
Anyone who wants to fly a drone for commercial work (often also referred to as aerial work) needs a Permission from the CAA (take careful note that this is not a licence).
To get this Permission, you will need to:
Details are available in our
guidance document CAP 722, including the requirements for remote pilot competence.
The CAA does not organise or run assessment courses but we approve commercial organisations, known as National Qualified Entities (NQEs) to do this assessment on out behalf.
Anyone interested in getting a CAA Permission should first contact one of the NQEs shown on our
guidance for operators page in order to obtain the required proof of remote pilot competence. The NQE will generally help you develop an operations manual and will offer advice on completing the additional paperwork.
Some concessions from the full remote pilot competence requirements are available if you already have suitable aviation (piloting) qualifications such as previous model aircraft flying qualifications or a licence or certificate that allows you to fly in non-segregated UK airspace (PPL, gliding certificate, etc). At the present time suitable British Model Flying Association (BMFA) certificates are accepted and although not listed, equivalents from the Scottish Model Association and Large Model Association will also be accepted. Previous military flying experience may also be accepted, the general requirement being that the pilot already has qualifications or experience in flying an aircraft in non-segregated UK airspace (i.e. not limited to flying only within military ranges, training areas or on active military service overseas).
The full range of available concessions (acceptable alternative evidence of pilot competency) is set out in more detail in
Once you have met the requirements, please follow the
guidance on how to apply and submit your application.
Permissions and exemptions are issued for a fixed period of time, which can be for up to 12 months in duration. They can be extended for further periods (renewed) or amended (varied) during the validity period. When making an application, the meaning of the terms ‘renewal’ and ‘variation’ on the application form are treated as follows:
‘Renewal’ means an application to extend the validity of an existing Permission, Exemption or other operational authorisation, where there is no change being requested for the class of UAS being used, the operational conditions, or the terms of the current approval.
‘Variation’ means a request to change the conditions within an already granted Permission, Exemption or other operational authorisation (Eg. a change of, or addition to, the class of UAS being used, a change to the operational parameters that are permitted, or a change to the terms within the current approval).
A variation to a Permission or Exemption is different to a renewal and so must be applied for separately. Please note that a ‘Standard’ Permission cannot be ‘varied’ to become a ‘Non-Standard’ Permission or Exemption due to the additional workload involved; such changes must be regarded as a new ‘Non-standard’ application.
It is each applicant’s/operator’s responsibility to ensure they have appropriate insurance coverage and this is a condition of each Permission, Exemption or any other form of operational authorisation.
Regulation (EC) 785/2004 requires air carriers and aircraft operators (which includes drone operators) to “…ensure that insurance cover exists for each and every flight…”.
Note: Given that it takes time to process an application, insurance should either be in place from the date of application or be post-dated (minimum of 28 working days / 6 weeks). A post-dated approach will restrict the issue date of the Permission, Exemption or authorisation, so that it complies with the stated dates.
Note: 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.
If an operator with a Permission, Exemption or authorisation conducts a flight without valid insurance, then that Permission, Exemption or authorisation would not be valid, and therefore the operation be in breach of the ANO as well as EC785/2004.
Article 2(b) of EC 785/2004 states that the
regulation does not apply to ‘model aircraft with an MTOM of less than 20kg’. In the absence of any definition of ‘model
aircraft’ within the regulation, the United Kingdom has interpreted ‘model aircraft’ to mean “Any small unmanned aircraft which is being
used for sport or recreational purposes only”.
Therefore, for all other types of small unmanned aircraft flight,
whether commercial or non-commercial, appropriate cover that meets the
requirements of EC 785/2004 is required.
The price for Permission depends on the mass of the aircraft.
Details of our charges can be found in the
General Aviation Scheme of Charges at paragraph 3.11.
There is no limit on a maximum number of drones.
The renewal cost is reduced for subsequent years.
Note that the current turn-around time for a standard permission is 28 Working Days, this time scale applies when the CAA has received all required documentation and payment.
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