The first thing to understand is that there is no such thing as a Drone License in the UK, however, there are a number of certificates and authorisations that you can be granted! For the purpose of this article, we'll just call them a 'license'.
[This article has been updated on 15.06.2021]
The easiest way to look at the cost of a CAA drone license (Operational Authorisation) is to break it down into sections. Your initial Drone course is usually the first major cost but there are a few others that are worth considering when calculating your budget.
Your Drone Course (£349+)
Each CAA drone training RAE (Recognised Assessment Entity) formerly an NQE (National Qualified Entity) has a drone course which will include (at least) ground school (theoretical training), theory exam and the practical assessment otherwise known as the Operational Evaluation
Please note when looking at drone course prices that most advertise their courses as excluding VAT, so make sure you factor that in. The UAVHUB drone training course for the GVC is £349 inc VAT or £290.83 ex VAT.
Some courses on the market include practical flight training others offer it as a separate cost.
Factors which vary the price:
- Classroom vs Online Training
- Practical Flight Training
- ‘Fast Track’ Options
- Inclusive Operations Manual
Check out our article on What is the GVC Drone Course?.
The Operations Manual (£0 - £300+)
Every candidate applying for their Operational Authorisation will need to submit an Operations Manual to the CAA. This document basically explains to the CAA how you will conduct yourself when you are out working commercially.
Some people choose to write the document themselves, others will use professional services that help to create bespoke Operations Manuals for you or your company.
Some RAE's and NQE’s have a very strict interpretation that because the document needs to be original then it must be written you, the PfCO holder and therefore will not accept Operations Manuals bespoke written for you.
Other NQE’s and RAE's such as ourselves are happy that as long you understand and follow what is included in your Operations Manual (as some pilots may be flying under a companies Ops Manual) then you can submit an Operations Manual as long as it is bespoke to you or your company (regardless if you have personally written the document).
However, you may be tested on your understanding of your Operations Manual so make sure you read and understand it.
So, feel free to write the Operations Manual yourself or you can expect to pay £300+ for a bespoke consultancy service.
As part of our GVC Drone Course, you get FREE onboarding to our HUBSub where you can get your Drone Operations Manual updated whenever you need for a small monthly subscription. This makes sure your Operations Manual is always up-to-date!.
Drone Insurance (£3+)
You have a number of options when choosing insurance, however, you WILL need insurance in place when you apply for your Operational Authorisation and for every commercial flight.
You can choose to either purchase a 12-month police cover or, if you believe you won't be flying your aircraft regularly, you may find it more cost-effective to use a Pay As You Fly option, with a company such as Coverdrone and Flock Cover, with flight insurance from as little as £3 per flight.
You can get FREE Drone Insurance for your GVC Drone Course Flight Test with Coverdrone.
Your insurance policy will also be one of the documents the CAA require for them to grant you your drone license and it must be EC 785/2004 compliant.
From asking our current and past students we have averaged the first years’ insurance to be around £200-£400.00 for a small aircraft if you decide to take out a yearly policy.
Fee to the CAA (£253)
When you apply for your Operational Authorisation you will have to pay the CAA £253 to submit your application.
The total sum for your CAA Drone License
The bare minimum cost (not including purchasing your first drone) to attain your Operational Authorisation is approximately £602 inc. VAT with UAVHub
Not inexpensive by anyone's standards but neither is the journey to getting your first driving license! (pun intended).
Once you have your Drone License you will have to renew it every 12 months. You won't have to do the course again for at least 5 years but there are renewal fees to the CAA and obviously your ongoing insurance costs.
So there you have it. Getting your Operational Authorisation is an investment but one that opens up world of possibilities and opportunities that can only be achieved if you hold the permissions, whether you are a photographer, surveyor or simply a retired gardener looking to come out of retirement and have a change of career.
NB: This blog has been updated on 15.06.2021 to reflect changes from PfCO to Operational Authorisation