• Ian Crowson Photography

Getting PfCO from the CAA. Flying a Drone Commercially.

Updated: Nov 10, 2019

Flying a Drone Commercially in the UK - Ian Crowson Photography - Southsea

If you charge someone or make money from flying your drone you need Permission for Commercial Operations from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). Getting permission is fairly involved and requires a Certificate of Recommendation from a CAA approved NQE provider. I used 3iC

One of four forts in the Solent built around 1860

Good Day from Southsea

This was my route as a photographer. A path through woolly and sometimes rather obscure regulations


What's involved is first a theory course and test followed by a practical flight assessment, then the preparation of an Operational manual. Armed with these and an expensive fee you make your submission to the CAA.

Once permission is obtained a drone can be legally flown in more restricted areas or situations. However I'm still just as vague as to exactly where and what after many hours of study!


Is my photograph above of Spitbank Fort legal? It would depend on the lens I used and if I was on a boat.


There are two approaches to covering the theory, either attend a 3 or more day classroom course or do it online. Either way a theory test is required. The syllabus is laid out by the CAA and in my view mostly boring and over the top. I just can't see how some of the stuff taught is applicable to flying a drone.

I choose the online route with 3iC. Their online material was well presented and easy to use. Any subject matter can be easily repeated either before or after the included self tests.


Is that person in the background more than 50meters away? No but she's my observer!

The instructor manages to keep most of the potentially very boring syllabus interesting. His voice (British English) is lively, engaging but not annoying. He seems to have a lot of enthusiasm for the subjects.

Revision is easy with an this online learning I made notes to reinforce my learning although this is not essential. Working away on your own allows for say an hours study and then a break.

I did not try to download the course to use offline. Check if this can be done if you intend to study on a train or wherever.

I found the invigilated multiple choice test easy and only lost marks for not remembering reference numbers of some CAA notices.


Legal then but maybe not now due to new rules of flying near airports (archaeological survey near Sandown, no payment involved)

3iC's fee of £395 plus VAT includes the online course, test, flying assessment and Operations Manual pro forma and checking and support.

I have to admit the I went for the cheaper online option due to mainly to cost. My view is that many providers of PfCO course are charging far too much with 12 or more students paying over £1000 each. Nice work if you can get it!



I have been involved in giving training and teaching for a lot of my working life and understand just how tiring three or more days of classroom study can be. Students miss the point because they are bored, dozing off or whatever. Maybe they don't understand and the pace is so fast the can't or don't ask for an explanation.

In my experience, some tutors are very good but many are not.


I'll write more about the practical test another day.


The wilds of western Scotland. Hopefully everyone happy.

By the way it looks like PfCO is flying out of the window in June 2020.

See CAP1789. (You will need to know about CAPs!!!)

https://ikopta.co.uk/caa-publish-cap1789-is-this-the-end-of-the-pfco/

Did I waste my time and money?


Bye from crow's-eye,

Ian Crowson Photography of Southsea

If you would like to see more of my work see: www.iancrowsonphotography.co.uk or www.droneandcamera.co.uk or buy or use an image stock side Alamy.


Every drone owner must register with the CAA by the end of November 2019

If you own a drone in the UK see here https://register-drones.caa.co.uk.



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