What is Operational Authorisation? Why is it required and how does a drone operator obtain this permission from the CAA?
What is Operational Authorisation?
Operational Authorisation is the latest legal requirement for UAV/drone companies to operate with reduced restrictions within the UK (i.e. to operate certain drones within built-up areas or ‘close to people’).
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the UK’s specialist aviation regulator, responsible for regulating aviation safety in the UK. The CAA is responsible for defining policy for the use of UK airspace, the regulation of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports – and, of course, safety regulations for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – more commonly referred to as drones.
Every drone operator who has been granted Operational Authorisation by the CAA will have a document confirming the permission and setting out conditions for its use.
The primary means of identifying an individual permission-holder is their Operational Authorisation document, so ensure you obtain this prior to employing a drone operator in the UK.
Why is Operational Authorisation required?
With the removal of the CAA requirement to hold a PfCO, gain a commercial drone permission (or drone license) from the CAA, under the new UK Drone Laws from 31st December 2020; what do you need, in order to fly a drone legally and make money from it?
It all comes down to the weight of the drone you want to fly, what you want to do with it and how close you want to get to uninvolved people and built-up areas.
In accordance with the new European UAS regulations that came into effect in November 2020, the PfCO has now been replaced by the “Operational Authorisation”.
In short; if your drone weighs up to 25 Kg and you can stay 150 metres away from built-up areas and 50 metres away from uninvolved people then all you need to do is the following:
- Complete the CAA Done Registration (DMARES)
- Follow the UK Drone Code
- Ensure you have EC785/2004 compliant drone insurance
However, if you want to get closer to uninvolved people or fly your drone in built-up areas, this is when you’ll need to complete an additional course such as the CAA GVC (General Visual Line of Sight Certificate) or the CAA A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC) – read more here.
How is Operational Authorisation obtained?
In order to obtain Operational Authorisation from the CAA, drone operators must complete a GVC Training Course with a CAA approved National Qualified Entity (NQE). The NQE will conduct a practical flight test, following successful theory training on a number of aviation subjects, including; Meteorology, UK Airspace Classifications, Safe Flight Operations, Navigation and Aerodynamics. The NQE will assess the competency of pilots flying drones and will provide a recommendation to the CAA as part of the Operational Authorisation application process.
Drone and Model Aircraft Code
Follow this Code to make sure you always fly safely and legally.
The Code covers everything you need to know to pass the test to get a flyer ID. This is the starting point for anyone wanting to fly a drone or model aircraft in the UK.