An operational authorisation issued by the CAA is required for any flight within the Specific category
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.
This operational 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.
The operational 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 that operator.
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 to:
- outline the proposed operation (‘what’ the operator wants to do);
- describe the operational process that will be used (‘how’ the operator will do it);
- describe the technical aspects of the UAS to be used (‘what’ the operator will do it with);
- and then demonstrate that it can be done safely (provide a risk assessment/safety case).
Further guidance on the preparation and submission of risk assessments is provided in CAP 722A .
Pre-Defined Risk Assessments (PDRA)
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
Remote pilot competency requirements
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 General VLOS Certificate (GVC)
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 ‘airspace observers’.
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 in the drop down box below.
When flying within the Specific category, the operational authorisation 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 minimum separation distances are stated on the operational authorisation.
The CAA operational authorisation 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:
- Northern Ireland: www.northernirelandscreen.co.uk
- Wales: https://businesswales.gov.wales/walesscreen/
- Scotland: www.creativescotland.com
- England (outside London): www.creativeengland.co.uk
- London: www.filmlondon.org.uk
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 UA operator or remote pilot of an unmanned aircraft can generally be considered to be:
- Anyone present solely for the purpose of participating in the flight operation.
- Anyone under the control of the event or site manager who can reasonably be expected to follow directions and safety precautions to avoid unplanned interactions with the aircraft. Such people could include building-site or other industrial workers, film and TV production staff and any other pre-briefed, nominated individuals with an essential task to perform in relation to the event.
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 UA operator or remote pilot'.
In principle, someone who is under the control of the UA operator or remote pilot at a mass public event must be able to:
- Decide to participate or not to participate;
- Broadly understand the risks involved;
- Have reasonable safeguards established for them by the site manager and unmanned aircraft operator during the period of operations;
- Not be restricted from taking part in the event or activity if they decide not to participate with the UAS operation.
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.
Additional guidance regarding filming in towns and cities can be found in the link above
Recognised Assessment Entities (RAEs) 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 RAE is necessary for those with no previous aviation training or qualifications. To achieve this, RAEs 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 RAE full-course involves:
- pre-entry/online study
- 1-3 days of classroom lessons and exercises
- a written theory test
- a flight assessment
After successfully completing the theory element, applicants will:
- develop his/her own operations manual
- practice aircraft operation/flying skills for the practical flight assessment.
Flight assessments are normally arranged and completed at your own pace:
- they are usually arranged separately but may be available on the last day of the course
- they have no structured syllabus or sequence of numbered exercises, but the test will be based on testing the procedures that have been described within the applicant's operations manual
Details of CAA approved assessment organisations (RAEs) are shown below.
- 3iC Ltd
- Acme Helicopters Limited Trading As Dragon Drone Training
- Aerial Exposure Ltd Trading As UAV Trade Craft
- Aerial Motion Pictures Limited Trading As UAVHub
- Airborne Platforms UK Limited Trading As Airborne Platforms Uk
- ASSD Media Limited Trading As Pigs Can Fly
- ATEC-3D Ltd
- AV8 Flight School Ltd
- Aviation Systems Group Ltd Trading As ASG
- British School Of Aviation
- CLS Europe Ltd
- Colena Ltd Trading As Heliguy
- Commercial Drone Training Education Ltd
- Consortiq Limited Trading As Uavair
- DAC UK Limited Trading As Flyby Technology
- Drone Pilot Academy Limited
- Drone Training Limited trading as Global Drone Training
- Eagle Eye Innovation Ltd Trading As RUSTA
- HALO Industries Ltd trading as Halo Drones
- Harbour Media Limited Trading As Osprey Drone Training
- INFRATEC-UK Limited
- Iprosurv Limited
- iRed Limited
- Martek Drones Ltd Trading As COPTRZ
- Nexus Nine Ltd
- Prodrone Academy Limited
- Professional Drone Training Ltd
- Railscape Limited Trading AS RAUS Training Acadamy
- Skeyetrain Photography And Surveys Ltd Trading As Skeyetrain
- The UAV Academy Limited
- UAV8 Ltd
- Wiltshire Police
How to apply for an operational authorisation
Please complete the online application form and submit the following documents (the application form will lead you through the process):
Applications including the UAS operators risk assessment:
- Operations manual
- Risk assessment
- Details of the competency levels of each remote pilot involved in the operation
Applications based on a PDRA:
- All documents as required within the particular PDRA listing
Please be aware that PDRA 02 is currently on under review and initial and renewal applications are not being accepted. The reason for this is to assess its risk and introduce a more robust risk assessment to make PDRA02 fit for the purpose.
The suspension is temporary, and we are working on several PDRAs to help the industry and make the process less burdensome.
An update will be provided in due course.
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 paragraph 3.11.
There is no limit on a maximum number of unmanned aircraft. The renewal cost is reduced for subsequent years.
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”.
Note: For all other purposes, the definition of model aircraft is as set out within CAP 722D.
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 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.
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).
Airspace Access Reporting
If 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 via the Airspace Access Reporting page.
How we use your information
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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