• 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[5]), or if you wish to fly your aircraft:

    • at a height of more than 400 ft above the surface (iaw ANO 2016 as amended article 94A),


    • within 150m of either a congested area or an organised open-air assembly of more than 1000 persons (iaw ANO2016 article 95),
    • within 50m of people or properties/objects that are not under your control (iaw ANO2016 article 95)

    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;

    Standard Permission

    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.

    Non-Standard Permission

    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 722A

    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.

    UAS operators wishing to obtain an authorisation should refer to CAP 722 A 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 an unmanned aircraft 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. 

  • How to apply

    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:

    • Remote Pilot Competence
      • Demonstrate a sufficient understanding of aviation theory (airmanship, airspace, aviation law and good flying practice). 
      • Pass a practical flight assessment (flight test).

    • Develop basic procedures for conducting the type of flights you want to do and set these out in an Operations Manual.
    • If your intended operation requires an approval with greater privileges than in a Standard Permission, you will also need to provide us with an Operating Safety Case to demonstrate that the intended operation is appropriately safe.

    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 CAP722.

    Once you have met the requirements, please follow the guidance on how to apply and submit your application.

    Renewals and variations

    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.

    Lapsed Renewal’ means an application to update the validity of a Permission, Exemption or other operational authorisation which has now expired. Please note a lapsed renewal will be treated as an initial issue and will therefore be charged the equivalent initial fee as per our scheme of charges.

    Renewal and Variation’ means an application to extend the validity of an existing Permission, Exemption or other operational authorisation, where conditions have changed (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).


    • 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 UAS operators) to “…ensure that insurance cover exists for each and every flight…”. 
    • An operator must have appropriate insurance in place at the time of exercising the privileges of the Permission, Exemption or authorisation, i.e. for each and every flight undertaken.

      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.

      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 appropriate.

      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 your broker.

      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. 

      Our charges

      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 unmanned aircraft. 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.