To operate as a commercial drone pilot in the UK permission needs to be gained from the Civil Aviation Authority. This is called your ‘Permission for Commercial Operations’ ( or ‘PfCO’) – often called your ‘licence’.
Undertaking any commercial work without CAA permission is against the law. Knowingly using a drone pilot without this permission may have legal implications. This is one of the main reasons the Drone Safe Register was created – to provide an easy way to source legal drone services within the UK.
To operate under this ‘Permission’ a number of steps need to be carried out before any flying is done to ensure that it is carried out in a safe manner.
These include carrying out an initial ‘Site Assessment’ to try and identify any constraints that need addressing (both on the ground and in the air) or, in extreme cases, prevent you from flying. After confirming a flight is possible then a Risk Assessment is carried out ahead of the actual operation. This is finalised on the day of the operation when on site. It may also be necessary to notify various authorities (Air Traffic Control, MOD Low Flying etc).
A PfCO is gained by, in most cases, undergoing training (Ground School) with a suitable training body (an NQE) and passing an exam to demonstrate your technical knowledge of drones and operating in the air.
Following that Operating procedures and manuals need to be created (OSC vol 1 and 2 as a minimum). This details how your commercial operations are carried out (including Emergency Procedures).
Finally, carrying out a flight test to assess your abilities actually flying your drone.
If all goes well you send your pass certificates from your assessor along with your manuals (oh, and a fee) to the Civil Aviation Authority. After that, you should recieve your ‘Permission’.