Homedo you need a drone licenseDronedo you need a drone license

do you need a drone license

Do You Need A Drone Licence: A Complete Guide on Drone Licensing

Drones have become increasingly popular in the UK, providing a unique perspective on our landscapes and serving various purposes, from recreational to professional. However, with this rise in drone use comes the need to understand the legal framework and regulations governing their usage. One of the most common questions that arise is that of a drone licence. If you’re unsure about the answer, fear not. Our complete guide on drone licensing will take you through everything you need to know about UK drone regulations. By the end of it, you’ll be able to fly your drone worry-free and fully compliant with all the necessary regulations.

Understanding the Basics of UK Drone Laws

Before you fly your drone, it’s important to understand the basics of UK drone laws. Terms like drone registration, licence, and certificate are not just industry buzzwords but essential requirements for legitimate piloting. These terms help define the UK’s intricate aviation framework, which applies to everyone who operates a drone, whether for fun or commercial purposes. Compliance with these laws is mandatory, laying the foundation for the UK government’s efforts to ensure the safety of ground-dwellers and sky occupants

.aerial view of a drone

Do You Need a Drone License for Recreational Flights?

Regarding recreational drone flights, you might wonder if you need a drone licence or registration. Although there are fewer legalities involved, there are still rules you need to follow. Your need for registration depends on your drone’s weight and the type of aerial activities you plan to do. Additionally, there are age limits to consider and certain areas where you can fly your drone with fewer regulations. You might be unsure if you need a licence for recreational flights, but with the right knowledge, you can confidently and easily navigate the UK’s drone-friendly airspace.

The ABCs of Commercial Drone Licence

In the UK, commercial drone operators are required to register for a Flyer ID and Operator ID and, depending on the nature of their operations, may need additional certifications like the A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC) for smaller drones in congested areas, or the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) for larger drones up to 25kg. The GVC is more comprehensive and expensive, involving an exam, operations manual, and practical flight assessment, and is necessary for applying for an Operational Authorisation from the CAA, which allows for broader commercial drone operations. Additionally, commercial drone operations require insurance compliant with EC 785/2004

Key Changes in Regulations Post-December 2020

Time doesn’t stand still, and neither do drone laws. In December 2020, significant updates to drone laws in the UK were introduced, categorising drone operations into three main categories: Open, Specific, and Certified.

  • Open Category: This category is for operations that present low or no risk to third parties. It’s subdivided into three subcategories (A1, A2, and A3) based on the drone’s proximity to people and the associated risk. The Open category doesn’t require prior authorisation or operational declaration before the operation.
  • Specific Category: This category is for operations that present a greater risk than the Open category or those that don’t fit into the Open category’s boundaries. Operations in this category may require prior authorisation from competent authorities based on a risk assessment, or they might meet criteria of pre-determined standard scenarios.
  • Certified Category: This category is similar to manned aviation in terms of safety requirements and is used for operations that involve a higher risk of damage to property or people. It includes operations such as flying over assemblies of people, transporting people, or carrying dangerous goods.

These categories are part of a framework designed to align with the level of risk associated with different drone operations. The transition from the previous PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operation) system to this new categorisation aims to streamline and simplify the process for drone operators, focusing on the type of operation and risk assessment rather than the commercial nature of the operation.​

What You Need to Know About Drone Use on Indoor and Private Property

Specific regulations and considerations govern the use of drones on indoor and private property in the UK. While the UK’s drone rules, categorised into Open, Specific, and Certified, are primarily focused on risk and apply to outdoor flights, these categories generally do not cover indoor drone use. However, it’s crucial to consider privacy and safety even when flying indoors.

Flying drones over private property is legal as long as certain guidelines are followed. It’s essential to ensure that drone flights do not endanger people or property and respect others’ privacy. You must also avoid causing a nuisance to those on the ground. Operator registration is mandatory for drones equipped with cameras, and adherence to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is required for any captured images or sound recordings. If your drone weighs less than 250g, it can fly closer to people than 50m, but you must avoid flying over crowds.

If you plan to fly a drone over private property, obtaining permission from the landowner for the spot where you wish to take off and land is crucial. While flying over someone else’s property without permission could be construed as trespassing, it’s important to note that the law allows for some flexibility, and the height at which trespassing occurs may vary depending on circumstances.

Licensing Guide for Foreign Drone Operators in the UK

Beyond the British Isles’ operators lies the wider world’s drone devotees; with them, a whole other angle of authorisation arises. If you’re a drone operator from overseas and plan to fly your drone in the UK, you must comply with the UK’s drone regulations. This involves obtaining a UK Flyer ID and Operator ID before operating your drone in the UK. These IDs are mandatory regardless of the size of your drone if it’s equipped with a camera.

Commercial drone operations require permission from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It’s important to note that drone approvals or qualifications from other countries are not automatically accepted as valid in the UK. If your operation requires UK-specific authorisation, you will need to apply for this, considering your existing qualifications from your home country. The same is true if you are a UK drone operator and plan on flying abroad: make sure you fully understand the local drone laws before travel and if permitted to fly, make sure you adhere strictly to them while you are there.

Steps to Get Your UK Drone License

To obtain a UK drone licence, you need to follow these steps:

Determine the Type of Licence Needed

In the UK, there are two main types of drone licences. For most recreational flyers flying drones under 250g, these licences aren’t needed to fly. If you are flying a heavier drone, flying will likely still be permitted but severely restricted without one or both of these certifications:

  • A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC): This is for flying small drones near uninvolved people and covers both commercial and non-commercial operations. It’s suitable for drones up to 900g in weight.
  • General VLOS Certificate (GVC): This is for operations with a higher risk, such as larger commercial drones, and is required for VLOS (visual line of sight) operations within the Specific Category. It’s suitable for drones up to 25kg in weight.

Get a Flyer ID and Operator ID

  • Flyer ID: This shows you’ve passed the introductory drone flight test and know how to fly a drone in the UK. It’s necessary for flying drones or model aircraft weighing over 250 grams or equipped with a camera.
  • Operator ID: This is required if you’re responsible for a drone or model aircraft. It must be labelled on your drone.

Select a Training Provider

  • If you want to get further certifications, be sure to choose a reputable training provider to complete your A2 CofC or GVC course. The course typically includes theoretical learning, a theory exam, and a practical flight assessment. Prices and course formats can vary between providers.

Register Your Drone

  • If you own a drone, you need to label it with your Operator ID. This is mandatory for all drones over 250g or those with a camera.

Meet the Insurance Requirements

  •  Commercial drone operations in the UK require insurance compliant with EC 785/2004. Insurance is not mandatory but is recommended if you only fly recreationally.

Adhere to Drone Laws

  • Ensure you’re familiar with the UK’s drone laws, such as keeping your drone in Visual Line of Sight, not flying over crowds, and maintaining safe distances from people and structures as is appropriate according to the weight of your drone.

Remember, the specific requirements can vary based on the drone’s weight and the nature of the operations you plan to undertake. Also, for foreign operators, UK-specific documentation is required to fly drones in the UK.

drone licence

Final Thoughts

As we end our comprehensive discussion on drones, we are left with the question of whether a drone licence is necessary in the UK. The answer to this question and other critical details have been outlined above. Just as a flight path requires careful planning, adherence to regulations also necessitates careful consideration and compliance. We have covered the “what,” “how,” and subtleties of drone operation, providing you with the knowledge to take off safely. If you want to use drones within your work and create amazing aerial visuals, Drone Studio North East can be your reliable partner. We offer regulation-compliant services, professional-grade aerial photography and videography, and expertise that can take your project to new heights. Visit dronestudionortheast.co.uk to learn more about the potential that awaits you.