A lot of people ask us 'Why do you need a drone license?' and the very simple answer is that it is a legal requirement if you want to make money from using your drone.
***From the 1st July 2020, the requirements to hold a formal qualification dissapears to conduct Commercial Operations.*** Check out this article to find out more!
But what if I don't make any financial gain from flying my drone but it helps my business? Let's dive into the finer details and a few case studies.
You can receive payment for your services
First of all, in practical terms, you will be able to advertise a legal commercial service and receive payment for performing your service, usually in the provision of aerial filming and photography. This is known as 'Commercial Operations' which is defined by the Civil Aviation Authority as;
Any purpose, other than commercial air transport or public transport, for which an aircraft is flown if valuable consideration is given or promised for the flight or the purpose of the flight.
The type of flying doesn't involve flying paying passengers or transporting mail or other cargo.
Now you may have noticed it doesn't say anything about financial compensation, but 'valuable consideration', so an exchange of money doesn't have to take place for it to be classed as a commercial flight.
Effectively the way of looking at it as is if you are (or are going to be at some point) better off for flying your drone than you were before you flew your drone then you have conducted a commercial flight operation.
Having a PfCO reduces the limitations on where you can fly
Article 95 of the ANO (Air Navigation Order) says that (paraphrased) if you don't have a PfCO then you have to stay 150 metres away from congested areas (streets, towns cities) and maintain a separation distance of 50 metres from people, vehicles, buildings and vessels not under your control. So in essence, unless you are in the middle of a big empty field, you won't be flying.
With a Permission for Commercial Operation, your limitations are reduced to 50 metres for congested areas which opens up a lot more opportunities.
Let's take a look at a few examples of people who may or may not need a commercial drone license.
I'm a wedding photographer and I want to be able to take photos from my drone - if I say the aerial photos are 'free' do I need a license?
Even though you are saying that you aren't been 'paid' to take the aerial photographs but you are taking them as part of your service and the customer is receiving an end product then you will need a license. You could be seen as enhancing your services already and therefore have been paid to fly your drone.
There really is no getting around it, you still need a PfCO.
I'm a farmer and I want to fly a drone to check my crops, I'm not making money from this so why do I need a license?
Though the farmer is not making a financial gain that day, by using a drone he is still potentially helping to increase his yield of crop and therefore make a commercial gain down the line. By using the drone he will be better off further down the line in his commercial endeavours.
So yes, you do still need a Permission for Commercial Operation.
I work for an estate agent and we want to take aerial photographs of properties we're selling
Again, yes there's no getting around the law. Even if the estate agent isn't charging the client to take the photograph but the photograph will help sell the property this is still classed as commercial work.
I'm a film student and I want to fly my drone on a short film I am producing
Technically no as this wouldn't be deemed as commercial work however you won't be insured to fly because you don't have a PfCO and secondly it is very unlikely that you will get landowners permissions to fly from public spaces if you have to get permission from the Council or Local Film Office.
Our recommendation is to either get a qualified drone pilot to fly for you or consider getting your own license.
I just want to fly for fun and I won't be selling my photographs
Then you go ahead and fly, enjoy yourself but remember to stick to the drone code. Take great photos and share them with your friends and family
I hope this has answered your question and put into context the scenarios that mean you would your certification. If you are still unsure don't hesitate to call us on 0800 033 4400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org