Drone Training

Drone Training – Where To Start?

Let’s start with the first thing you should know about drone training in the UK. New drone training regulations came into force on 31st December 2020.

What does this mean? The PfCO – Permission For Commercial Operations was the previous CAA certification needed to fly commercially in the UK before 31st December 2020. The PfCO has a replacement with a new training GVC – General VLOS Certificate.

Anyone who has a valid PfCO can still operate under its rules until it expires and will be able to renew as an Operational Authorisation after 31st December 2020 if renewed before its expiry.

My PfCO Has Expired What Do I Do?

If your PfCO has expired after 31st December 2020, you will not be able to renew as an Operational Authorisation with the NQE certificates that you currently have. You will need to complete a GVC course and sit an examination with a minimum of 40 questions at an RAE facility to get the required GVC certificates to apply for an Operational Authorisation.

Suppose you want to continue to operate drones within the specific category without having to retrain in the short term. In that case, you must ensure your Operations manual is updated to reflect the changes and then be submitted to the CAA for renewal, leaving plenty of time to complete.

Please note, not all commercial operations require an authorisation from the CAA. However, everyone who flies unmanned aircraft in the Specific category, including many commercial operators, must have approval from the CAA.

Unmanned aircraft operators granted an operational authorisation to conduct Specific category operations will have a document from the CAA describing what they can do.

Drone Categories

With the new drone regulations in place, your drone could fall into one of the following categories:

  • Open Category
  • Specific Category
  • Certified Category

We will detail each category giving you the best information on all courses and drones related to each one.

Open Category

The open category contains low-risk operations with small drones for most leisure drones activity and low-risk commercial activity, weighing less than 25 kg. Within the open category, there are subcategories.

  • A1: fly over people but not over assemblies of people;
  • A2: fly close to people;
  • A3: fly far from people.

Each subcategory has requirements and rules, so be sure to determine which subcategory your drone falls into. The subcategory you fall into will then decide which training you need to fly it. You can find out what type of drone you have by finding the class identification number on it, which will be between C0 and C4 or if it doesn’t have one of these, check the weight.

As a drone operator or remote pilot, you must know how to fly your drone safely and legally. As of 31st December 2020, you will need to comply with the new European drone rules. These new rules are the information you need to fly your drone in a way that does not create a risk to any other aircraft or person. This information is valid for all of Europe.

Please see the table below to give you more information about the rules that apply for each subcategory for drones without class identification labels. You can then confirm which subcategory your drone falls into.

Expect drones with a class identification label to be available on the market at a later date.


open category


When drones are made with a class identification label from C0 to C4 and are on the market, you can operate them as described in the table below:

open category2


How Do I Determine If I Fall Under The Open Category?

A drone can be operated in the open category when it:

  • Has one of class identification labels 0, 1, 2, 3 or 4 or
  • Privately built, and its weight is less than 25 kg or
  • Purchased before 1st January 2023, with no class identification label as mentioned above
  • It is not to be operated directly over people unless it has one of the class identification labels or is lighter than 250 g. Please do refer to the subcategories of operations: A1, A2 and A3 to find out where you can fly your drone
  • Is in visual line of sight (VLOS), or the remote pilot will be assisted by a UA observer.
  • Flown at the height of no more than 120 metres.
  • Will not carry any dangerous goods and will not drop any material to cause harm.

I Fall Under The Open Category. How Do I Determine Which Subcategory I Can Fly-In?

The subcategory is determined either by the following:

  • The label on the drone, class identification label (0, 1, 2, 3 or 4), or,
  • The weight of your drone. The importance also applies to a privately built drone or for a drone without a class identification label.

To facilitate the transition, drones without class identification labels may fly until 1st January 2023, according to the requirements. Please refer to the FAQ on flying without CE Class Markings for additional information.

Applying the instructions above, please refer to the table below to determine the subcategory you must fly in. For instance, drones with CE class 2 marks are flown under subcategory A2 (close to people) or A3 (far from people).

Open Subcategory

Open Subcategories




Drone Courses To Fly in the Open Category

Heliguy – £249.99 – One Day

One of the best things about Heliguy is they offer finance in 3 monthly payments to break it up.

Get your A2 CofC by completing a one-day Ground School course with heliguy™, via their Learning Management System. The A2 CofC you to complete the modules remotely in your own time and at your convenience. heliguy™ instructors will be available throughout to assist if you need help or advice along the way via the live messenger feed.

Take the course online with heliguy™, and learn from a team that has trained more than 3,000 candidates and led closed courses for Network Rail and the UK emergency services.

UAVHub – £99.00 – One Day

UAVHub is the world’s first Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE); authorised by the CAA to provide professional drone training to allow you to apply for your A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 C of C).

Get your qualification in under 24 hours. They have designed the course to be as practical and efficient as possible. That means there’s zero fluff – just the genuine insights & relevant information you need to prepare for and pass your CAA A2 exam.

They are we are the UK’s Highest Rated Drone course on Trustpilot with over 3000 5***** star reviews.

UAV Academy – £99.00 – One Day 

Our final selection is The A2 CofC with The UAV Academy that is completed entirely at home. This qualification allows you to legally fly your drone in more demanding locations (such as built-up areas) and to fly closer to uninvolved people.

Holding an A2 CofC means that you can operate in the new A2 (Open) subcategory, no matter if it’s for recreational or commercial reasons.

Course Elements

  • Online Learning ( 3 modules)
  • Quizzes to check your knowledge
  • Mock examination
  • Theory Examination is taken online at home
  • Issue of your A2 Certificate of Competency

Check out their testimonial page.

Best Drones Suited for Flying in the Open Category

DJI Mavic Air 

DJI Mavic Air

DJI Mavic Air

Amazon – £699.99

DJI Mavic Mini Combo

DJI Mavic Mini Combo

DJI Mavic Mini Combo

Amazon – £419.00

Drones Direct – £409 Finance Available

DJI Official Site – £459 

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

Amazon – £1,218.77 

Drones Direct – £2,125.00 

Specific Category

The specific category is for flying drones that pose a higher risk than in the open category. You need to apply for an operational authorisation from the National Aviation Authority unless the operation is covered by a standard scenario.

Please note, an Operational Authorisation has replaced the PfCO.

Before an operation of drones in a specific category occurs, an authorisation by the competent authority is required. Risks are to be mitigated through safety measures identified in a risk assessment or standard scenario published by EASA.

Specific Category


Standard Scenario 

The standard scenario (STS) is a predefined operation. There are two you need to know about, STS 1 and STS 2, and they require a drone with class identification labels C5 or C6. Suppose your operation falls under the STS and your drone has the class identification label C5 or C6. In that case, you are allowed to send a declaration to the NAA, where you are registered and wait for confirmation.

If your operation is not covered by an STS and does not fall in the open category, you need to have an operational authorisation beforehand. The operational authorisation provides flexibility and caters for the many types of operations.

Risk Assessment 

To obtain an operational authorisation, unless the planned operation can be covered by a Predefined Risk Assessment (PDRA), the UAS operator must first conduct a risk assessment of the proposed operation and submit this as part of the application. The aim of the risk assessment, which also includes the UAS operator’s operations manual, is to:

  • Outline what your proposed operation will be
  • Describe the operational process that applies
  • Describe the technical aspects of the UAS used
  • Demonstrate safety performance

Predefined Risk Assessment 

A PDRA is a shortened set of prescriptive conditions that must be complied with by a UAS operator to conduct a predetermined type of operation.

The CAA conducts the risk assessment, rather than each operator, and then publishes a short series of requirements. These cover topics such as remote pilot competency, ops manual contents and much more than the UAS operator must provide to the CAA as part of a ‘shortened’ application for an operational authorisation.

Light UAS Operator Certificate (LUC)

The light UAS operator certificate is another option. You, as a UAS operator, may decide to ask the NAA to assess your organisation and show compliance with specific requirements defined in subpart C to Regulation 2019/947. The NAA may grant you the privilege to self-assess the risk of its operation and self-authorise it.

How do I know if my drone falls into the specific category?

A drone can be operated in the ‘in the ‘specific’ or the ‘certified’ category when it exceeds not the requirements laid out under the open category.

What Training Do I need To Operate In the Specific Category?

To operate in the specific category, you will need to complete a GVC (general visual line of sight) training course to get your certificate. The GVC course is what you need to apply to the CAA for an operational authorisation that will allow you to operate in the specific category.

Drone Courses To Fly in the Specific Category

ABJ Academy – Specialist Courses

Huge deals are going on at the moment at the ABJ Academy!

You can either purchase one of their training courses to operate in the specific category or become a member where you get:

  • Only $95/month (You save $624 from the monthly membership)
  • 12 months of access
  • Get access to ALL primary, specialist and instructor courses
  • Unlimited updates to all courses
  • Exclusive access to new content
  • Premium and first access support
  • Access to instructors and field operators
  • Drone network access and opportunities
  • Exclusive discounts on drone products from their drone online store
  • 10% discount for drone simulator products
  • Cancel any time for your yearly subscription

Coptrz Academy – Starting at £499.00

By taking your GVC with Coptrz Academy, you’ll get access to benefits that are exclusive only to students.

You’ll be joining monthly GVC accelerator sessions with their training team, LIVE Drone Talks and the chance to speak to industry experts across a range of sectors, including inspection, surveying, real estate and public safety. On top of this, you’ll get a monthly operations manual review.

They are the only training provider that allows you to take your exam 24/7.

The online GVC drone training course is OFQUAL Level 4 accredited, meaning you can rest assured knowing you are training with the best, and you’ll have the certificate to prove it.

UAV Academy – £349 

UAVHUB is an NQE, and the world’s first Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE); authorised by the CAA to provide professional drone training to allow you to apply for your Operational Authorisation with the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC).

They have trained over 3000 Remote Pilots since 2015, and we have an outstanding reputation, supported by the fact that we are the
UK’s Highest Rated Drone course on Trustpilot with over 3500 5***** stars reviews.

The Online GVC Drone Course Includes:

  • Video-based E-Learning of GVC syllabus (8+ Hours)
  • CAA Approved ‘Virtual theory Examination Session.’
  • Operational Evaluation (Your Drone Flight test) – booked on a separate day
  • Award of RAE Recommendation Certificate for GVC*

An Application for Operational Authorisation costs £253 and is payable directly to the CAA to be granted your Permissions by them. Free flight test insurance (with Coverdrone)

Best Drones Suited for Flying in the Open Category

DJI Mavic 2 Pro with Smart Controller & Fly More Kit

DJI Mavic 2 Pro with Smart Controller & Fly More Kit

Amazon – £1688.00 

AerialTech – £1174.34

Drones Direct – £2125.00

DJI Inspire 2 with Zenmuse X5S

DJI Inspire 2 with Zenmuse X5S

Drones Direct – £4999.00

AerialTech – £4137.70

DJI – £4999.00 



Drones Direct – £10,454.00

AerialTech – £7737.71

Tekshop – £8,605.26

Certified Category

The Certified category covers missions that pose the most significant risk out of all three categories. The type of drones that fall into this category would be ones used to carry passengers, such as air taxis.

These aircraft will always need to be certified (i.e. certification of the unmanned aircraft, certification of the UAS operator, licensing of the remote pilot etc.). The UAS operator will need an air operator approval issued by the competent authority, and the remote pilot must hold a pilot licence.

Please note that UK regulations relating to the Certified category are still being developed and are not yet published.

For drones flown in the certified category, almost all the aviation regulations will need amending.

The EASA decided to conduct this into multiple phases forming three types of operations:

Operations type #1: An international flight of certified cargo drones conducted in instrumental flight rule in airspace classes A-C and taking-off and landing at aerodromes under EASA’s scope.


International Flight of Certified Cargo Drones

International Flight of Certified Cargo Drones


Operations type #2: Drone operations in urban or rural environments using predefined routes in airspaces. These drone operations include operations of unmanned drones carrying passengers or cargo—for example, air-taxi or package delivery services.


Drone Delivery

Drone Delivery


Operations type #3: Operations as in type #2, but conducted with an aircraft with a pilot on board. This operation typically covers the first type of air taxi operations, where the pilot will be on board. In a second phase, the aircraft will become remotely piloted (operations type 2)


Air Taxi

Air Taxi

How Do I Determine I Full Under The Certified Category?

Drones that would fall into this category would be air taxis or package delivery services. UK regulations relating to the Certified category are still being developed and are not yet published.

If this was something you were interested in, if and when regulations have been published for the certified category for these missions to go ahead, you can start looking into it in more detail then.

Drone Regulations and Registration

UK Drone Laws 

The new regulations started in the UK and throughout Europe on 31st December 2020.

These regulations look at three basic concepts:

  • The type of operation
  • The level of risk
  • The level of performance

In the long run, these new regulations will open up more possibilities than previously before and allow you to sell your drone imagery without having to complete a drone training course.

UK Drone Registration

Most drones require registration when being flown outdoors. You can complete drone registration through the UK Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service (DMARES).

You do not need to register if your drone falls into any of the below:

  • Toys below 250g or in C0 class
  • In C0 class with no camera, whether they are a toy or not
  • It is below 250g with no camera and no class mark, whether they are a toy or not

If your drone does not apply to any of the above, you will need to register. It is against the law to fly your drone without a flyer ID.

Apply Here For Your Flyer ID 

We have provided a lot of information here about drone categories, training and UK laws and registration. If you are still unsure about what you need to know or what you should do, you can speak to some leading industry experts to get more detailed knowledge or advice.



ABJ Academy