Certification and licensing

Basic requirements and procedures

What certificates or licences are required to operate drones and what procedures apply?

There are no requirements in relation to drones with a MTOM less than 250g without a camera. For drones with a maximum takeoff mass (MTOM) below 250g but that are fitted with a camera, an operator ID will be required. For drones with a MTOM above 250g, both a flyer ID and an operator ID will be required. 

In relation to drones in the Specific or Certified category, operational authorisation must be given by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). This requires the submission of an operating safety case and will involve the requirement for additional certificates or licences determined on a case-by-case basis, considering factors such as the type of operation being conducted and the system being operated.

Taxes and fees

Are certification and licensing procedures subject to any taxes or fees?

The operator ID costs £9 each year from the CAA. The flyer ID is free.

To obtain an authorisation to operate an unmanned aircraft system in the Specific or Certified category, an application must be made to the CAA with an operating safety case. The costs applicable to such application are set out at paragraph 3.11 of the CAA Scheme of Charges (General Aviation).  

Eligibility

Who may apply for certifications and licences? Do any restrictions apply?

Anyone applying for an operator ID must be at least 18 years old. There is no age limit to apply for a flyer ID but children under 13 must be with a parent or guardian when they take the test and register.

There are no nationality or financial stability restrictions applicable to drone ownership in the UK. Where an application for operational authorisation requires the submission of a risk assessment as part of the operating safety case, financial risks (including financial stability) do not form part of the risks that should be included, which should be solely limited to aviation safety risks.

Remote pilot licences

Must remote pilots obtain any certifications or licences to operate drones? If so, do the relevant procedures differ based on the type of drone or operation?

There are no requirements in relation to drone with a MTOM less than 250g.

In relation to drones with a MTOM over 250g, to operate a drone, a remote pilot must have completed an online training course followed by completing successfully an online theoretical knowledge examination provided by the CAA achieving at least 75 per cent pass mark. The examination comprises 40 multiple choice questions covering air safety, airspace restrictions, aviation regulation, human performance limitations, operational procedures, UAS general knowledge, privacy and data protection, insurance and security.

In relation to drones in the Specific or Certified category, there may be additional training and licence requirements as required by the operational authorisation given by the CAA (and included within the operating safety case). To apply for an operational authorisation, a General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) may be required to satisfy the pilot competency requirements for visual line of sight operations in the Specific category. The GVC involves completing an online theory course, preparing an operations manual and passing a practical flight assessment at a recognised assessment entity.

Foreign operators

Are foreign operators authorised to fly drones in your jurisdiction? If so, what requirements and restrictions apply?

Article 13 of the UAS Implementing Regulation, which provides for cross-border operations or operations outside of the state of registry has been omitted pursuant to section 69 of the Unmanned Aircraft (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1593). Accordingly, as matters stand, any foreign operator intending to operate in the Specific or Certified category within the UK would be required to make a fresh application to the CAA for operational authorisation.

For Open category operations, pursuant to the amendments to Part A of the Annex to the UAS Implementing Regulation, any flyer ID must be obtained from the CAA and therefore a flyer ID obtained from a foreign competent authority will not be recognised within the UK. The same will be true for an operator ID.

Certificate of airworthiness

Is a certificate of airworthiness required to operate drones? If so, what procedures apply?

There is no requirement for a certificate of airworthiness for drones operated within the Open or Specific category.

Unmanned aircraft subject to certification will need to comply with the full provisions of the ANO and will therefore require a certificate of airworthiness under Part 4 of the ANO as for manned aircraft.

Law stated date

Correct on

Give the date on which the information above is accurate.

25 August 2020.