Understandably, there's a lot of confusion around terms, permissions and qualifications in the drone industry in the UK and this article is designed to help bust through the jargon and confusion. So let's go through the PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations, the GVC (General Visual Line of Sight Certificate) and the OA (Operational Authorisation).

PfCO vs GVC vs OA - Whats the difference_ JARGON BUSTER


NQE Recommendation Certificate

The NQE Recommendation Certificate is what certified drone companies used to issue to candidates after they had completed their drone course. Most drone companies in the UK are now what is called a Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE) and will now issue the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate.

Click here to see the official list of RAEs (and those who are still an NQE)

All NQE Recommendation Certificates will become invalid after 30th December 2020, even if you have been issued it by your training company in 2020.


PfCO - Permission for Commercial Operation

The PfCO is, until the 30th December 2020, the permissions that the CAA will grant to remote pilots if they hold either:

  1. NQE Recommendation Certificate
  2. General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC)

and they have an Operations Manual.

The company (or sole trader) is granted Standard Permissions to fly their drone within congested areas and can operate commercially.

From 30th December 2020, the CAA will no longer issue the PfCO as we transition over to a new framework when they will then issue an Operational Authorisation.


Operational Authorisation (OA)

The Operational Authorisation is what is replacing the PfCO from the 30th December 2020.

You will only be able to get a NEW Operational Authorisation if you hold:

  1. General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC)
  2. A current (not expired) PfCO

You will NOT be able to apply for an Operational Authorisation if you hold an NQE Recommendation Certificate, however, if you hold a current (not expired) PfCO, the CAA will issue you an Operational Authorisation in 2021 when you renew your permissions.


General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC)

The General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) is the certificate that your training company will issue to you after you have completed a GVC drone course and they are an RAE (Recognised Assessment Entity).

(Did you know that UAVHUB was the FIRST company to be granted RAE status in February 2020?)

General VLOS Certificates are valid for 5 years from date of issue and you will have to 'refresh' this certificate before it expires.


Why are some courses called PfCO/GVC?

Some courses are called PfCO/GVC mainly for marketing purposes by training companies. The PfCO is what has become known as the 'drone license' in the UK and many companies (including ourselves) used to market their drone courses as 'PfCO Drone Courses' rather than NQE Recommendation Certificate Drone Courses.

Because the General VLOS Certificate (GVC) is replacing the NQE Recommendation Certificate, many companies have adopted this title to distinguish from the legacy 'PfCO courses'.

The key thing to bear in mind when looking for a drone course is to make sure they are issuing the General VLOS Certificate and not an NQE Recommendation Certificate. Your training company should be an RAE (Recognised Assessment Entity) and NOT an NQE (Nationally Qualified Entity) because NQEs will cease to exist before the end of 2020.



I hope that helps to clear things up a little for you!

Remember, the GVC will allow you to get the PfCO before the 31st December 2020, and you will be issued an OA (Operational Authorisation) in 2021. The GVC will be valid for 5 years from issue.

You won't be able to get an OA (Operational Authorisation) with an NQE Recommendation Certificate, but you can if your PfCO is current and valid when you renew.

If you'd like to start operating professionally with your drone, why not give the team at UAVHUB a shout on 0800 033 4400 or you can email hello@uavhub.com.