How To Become A Drone Pilot In UK | Step By Step Process

The world of drone piloting is rapidly expanding, offering a mix of exhilarating adventure and cutting-edge technology. If you’re eager to take to the skies as a professional drone pilot in the UK, obtaining your General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) is essential. From mastering flight controls to understanding airspace regulations, this article will guide you through the step-by-step process to become a drone pilot in UK.

Table of Contents

I aimed to fly drones for big surveys. If you want a drone license, there are two main types of drone license:

  • A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC)
  • General VLOS Certificate (GVC)

The license you need depends on the drone’s weight and the flying risk. To become more employable as a drone pilot, I recommend getting both the GVC and A2 CofC licenses together in one training course.

It’s a good investment that can really boost your career as a drone pilot.

Having both licenses shows employers that you can operate various drones, which makes you more valuable. Employers prefer candidates who understand safety rules, airspace regulations, and flight restrictions. This reduces legal risks and ensures safe operations, which can lead to more business opportunities and career advancement.

The A2 COFC Drone License

The A2 COFC is a certificate for safely operating small drones near people. It’s for both commercial and non-commercial use. It would help if you flew in the A2 Sub-Category under UAS regulations, or you might face restrictions. The course teaches flight basics and safety, like flying in crowded areas and battery safety.

GVC Drone Certification

The GVC drone certification is for remote pilots who want to fly drones within sight, in a category with higher risk. It’s suitable for pilots using commercial drones like the M300 RTK, M30 Series, and Inspire 2.

Pilots need permission from the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) to fly these drones commercially. The GVC course includes theory learning, an exam, and a flight test. It covers topics like air law, airspace safety, navigation, and weather.

become a drone pilot in UK

A2 COFC Vs GVC License Comparison Table

FeatureA2 CofC GVC
Category A2 Sub-Category of OPEN Category Specific Category
Operations TypeCommercial and non-commercialRiskier operations
PurposeOperating small drones safely near people who are not involvedDemonstrating pilot skills for flying drones within a specific area.
Course ContentFlight control, battery safety, and environmental factors Flight control, Air law, UAS airspace safety, navigation, and meteorology
Weight limit 0 – 900g Drone Max Takeoff Weight 0 – 25kg Drone Max Take-Off Weight
AssessmentMostly theoretical, 25 hours of self-assessed flight timeTheoretical learning and exam, practical flight assessment
Suitable DronesMavic 2’s, Parrot ANAFI, Mini 2, Mini 3, Autel Robotics EVO 2 ProM300 RTK, M30 Series, Inspire 2, Phantom 4 RTK, Mavic 3 Series
AuthorizationA2 CofC certificationCAA operational authorization

A2 COFC Vs GVC License

When I was choosing a drone licence, I decided to get the GVC (General VLOS Certificate), which is the highest level.

The GVC provides complete coverage for piloting drones.

Some providers offer combined GVC and A2 CofC (A2 Certificate of Competency) courses so that you can get both licenses simultaneously. I found a provider that offered an A2 CofC GVC course so I could cover both permits in one go.

This approach ensures that you receive a well-rounded education and get the necessary qualifications for different types of drone operations. By choosing the proper license(s) for your goals and doing a combined training course, you can expand your opportunities and improve your skills as a drone pilot.

I choose Dragon Drone Training for my drone training. It’s in Scotland, which is good because I live in Edinburgh. I liked that it’s a local business and easy to reach. Bob’s owner impressed me because he has experience flying helicopters and planes.

This made me feel confident in his skills. The cost of the training was only 499, which was much cheaper than other companies like Heliguy, UAV Hub, and Coptrz.

The GVC course covered a lot of information. The main parts are:

  • Student study guide for the CAA GVC syllabus.
  • 3-day interactive course on Zoom with live lectures and Q&A sessions.
  • Formal CAA exam with 60 questions taken online over Zoom with a remote invigilator.
  • Access to practice papers from our Question Bank.
  • Flight skill test on the 4th day or at a convenient time.
  • A structured self-assessment guide for flight maneuvers.
become a drone pilot in UK

GVC Provider Cost Comparison

Feature UAVHUBDragon Drone Training HeliguyBritish School of Aviation
Theory ExamOnlineOnlineOnlineIn-class
Operations ManualYesYesYesYes
Course formatOnline, on-demand videosOnline Zoom Class, in-person practicalOnline theory, in-person practicalIn-class theory & practical
Practical Flight AssessmentEnglandScotlandEnglandEngland
Instructor BackgroundIndustry expertAviation Pilot + Drone Industry ExpertExperienced in-house team Professional drone pilots

Before choosing a drone pilot training program, check if they offer the General VLOS Certificate (GVC) drone test in your area.

The GVC test is necessary for getting a license, so make sure to find out when and where the test is available.

If you’re starting from the beginning, you’ll need some vital drone gear. Some drone training UK courses may ask you to use your equipment. That’s why I’ve created the drone pilot starter pack. It includes all the gear I would choose if I had to start over based on my experiences and lessons learned.

I’m sharing this valuable information with you for free. By following my recommendations for the starter pack, you can save yourself from trial and error and start using reliable equipment immediately.

Let’s confidently explore the essential gear you’ll need for your drone piloting journey.

Recommended For Beginners

The DJI Mini 3 is recommended for beginner drone pilots. It is affordable, portable, and has advanced features. It weighs less than 249 grams, so pilots can practice without needing a GVC license. The compact design is great for taking aerial photos during adventures. DIJI Mini 4 pro has impressive camera features and capabilities.

It has 4K HDR video, True Vertical Shooting, QuickShots, and Panorama features. The Fly More Combo is a good upgrade, providing two extra batteries and a portable charger. This has extended my flight time to 1 hour and 40 minutes, allowing me to capture great aerial shots.

The new DJI remote in the Fly More Combo has changed the game for me. I used to have trouble with Wi-Fi when trying to connect my phone to the drone. But I no longer have these issues with the new DJI mini three controllers. It’s easy to use and works well.

The shoulder bag with the combo makes it easy to carry the drone to scenic spots. The DJI Mini 3 Fly More Combo has been a significant upgrade and has made my drone flying adventures much better. It’s the perfect way for new drone enthusiasts to get into piloting.

drone training near me

Drone Helipad

When you fly a new drone, you might worry about crashing it. But there’s another risk to consider: taking off and landing. The propellers can kick up stones, dirt, and gravel, which could damage your drone’s camera. To prevent this, use a drone helipad. Choose one with a metal-weight ring edge or ground pegs for stability.

The AURTEC Universal Drone Landing Pad (32-inch 80cm) with LED Lights is recommended for the DJI Mini 3 Pro. This helipad has a sizeable 32-inch target for landing, making it easier for your drone to return home and land accurately.

It’s designed for smooth landings, with four loops and four stakes to secure it in place and prevent it from being blown away by the wind. The pad is easy to carry, quickly folding to a compact 12-inch size for convenience.

Drone Flight Logbook

Drone pilots need a flight logbook, especially when aiming for a drone license. The UAV Aircraft Logbook by Parhelion Aerospace is designed for UAV owners and operators to record flight, equipment, and maintenance details for one aircraft, regardless of the number of pilots. It is compact, portable during flights, and can be used for a long time in manned aircraft.

It’s best to avoid getting a hardback logbook unless you want extra weight in your backpack.

Drone Pilot High Visibility Vest

A high-visibility vest for drone pilots is essential after getting your drone pilot license uk. It helps keep you focused and safe during flights by deterring people from coming near you. Whether you’re a licensed pilot or still practicing, a high-visibility vest is a valuable investment for smooth and uninterrupted training sessions. Prioritizing safety and professionalism will enhance your drone-flying experience.

Make sure to add a high-visibility vest to your drone equipment collection.

To get your UK drone license, it’s important to be well-prepared and well-informed.

The 290-page course booklet covers topics like;

  • Air Law/Responsibilities
  • UAS Airspace Operating Principles
  • Airmanship and Aviation Safety
  • Human Performance and Limitations (Human Factors)
  • Meteorology
  • Navigation/Charts
  • UAS General Knowledge
  • Operator Responsibilities
  • Operating Procedures

Each topic is explained thoroughly to help you understand the principles for safe drone operation. The booklet was beneficial for studying and as a reference during training.

I received a course booklet and four practice exams with 60 questions each. These materials helped me get ready for the real test and practice answering similar questions. I also got a booklet with flight exercises to practice different maneuvers, which was useful for me as a beginner to enhance my drone flying skills.

faa drone training

Before starting the GVC course for your drone license, you must get your Flyer ID and Operator ID. The UK government has new rules for drones weighing over 250 grams. You have to register your drone and pass an online safety test.

What is Flyer ID and Operator ID?

The Flyer ID is a unique number from the UK Civil Aviation Authority for people who want to fly drones over 250 grams or with a camera. You get it by passing a test and registering online. The Operator ID is for people using camera drones for business. You need to pass a separate test and pay a fee.

Here’s a simple guide on what you need to do to fly a drone in the UK.

1. Read The Drone And Model Aircraft Code

It has all the information you need to pass the test and is the starting point for flying a drone. Knowing the rules and best practices for flying drones is essential for everyone’s safety.

By understanding and following The Code, you can ensure you’re using drones responsibly and following the rules set by the UK authorities.

2. Take The Drone And Model Aircraft Code Test

Passing the test is crucial for obtaining your Flyer ID. The test is accessible online; you can take it as often as possible. You only need to pay for your operator ID once you pass your test. 

You’ll need an email address and a debit or credit card when registering for an operator ID.

RegistrationValid yearCost
Flyer ID5 years£0
Operator ID1 year£10.00

Drone And Model Aircraft Code Test

  • The test is free.
  • It has 40 multiple-choice questions, and you need to get at least 30 right to pass.
  • You can look at the Code during the test.
  • It takes about 30 minutes, but you can’t be inactive for more than 90 minutes.
  • You can take the test as many times as you want, and the questions will be in random order.
become a drone pilot in UK

3. Get Your Flyer And Operator ID

After passing the Drone and Model Aircraft Code test, you will get your UK Flyer ID and Operator ID. You need these IDs before starting your drone GVC training. Label your drones and model aircraft with your operator ID to follow the law. This number identifies you as the operator and helps with accountability.

Label your drone:

  • Write your Operator ID in clear, block letters that are at least 3mm tall.
  • Attach the label securely to the main body of the aircraft so that it is visible from the outside or easily accessible within a compartment.
  • Make sure to protect the label from damage and keep it legible for the entire lifespan of the drone.
  • Repeat this process for each drone or model aircraft under your responsibility, using the same Operator ID.

On the first day of training, drone pilots learn theory and rules to help them succeed in the drone industry.

Air Law/Responsibilities

They study air law and responsibilities, including the EU UAS Regulation Package and the CAP393 Air Navigation Order. This session ensures that future drone pilots know and follow the rules.


They also learn essential terms and vocabulary used in the drone industry to communicate effectively and understand concepts taught by flight instructors.

Airspace Operating Principles

Understanding how drones operate in different airspace conditions is essential for safe and responsible piloting. Participants learn about airspace classifications, types of manned aviation, and airspace reservations. They also know how to obtain necessary information and approvals for operating drones in specific airspace areas.

Airmanship And Aviation Safety

Every drone pilot needs to develop sound airmanship principles. This module focuses on the importance of flight safety, including perception and operational mitigations. Students also learn the significance of maintaining detailed remote pilot logbooks to record their flights and experiences.

become a drone pilot in UK

Drone Theory Test Tip

Study this section well to prepare for the drone theory test and feel confident about your understanding of drone regulations and pilot responsibilities.

On your second training day, you will learn about drone operations, focusing on the basic principles of flight and control. Understanding these concepts is essential for safely and effectively operating unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The Drone license course will teach you the fundamental principles of flight, including lift, drag, thrust, and weight. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions while piloting a drone. You will also learn about effective command and control, including the drone’s control systems and flight modes.

The course will cover recognizing drone limitations, using operating guides for specific drone models, maintaining your drone system, and using safety features and systems.

All of these topics will be presented in a clear and easy-to-understand way.

Meteorology: Obtaining And Interpreting Weather Information

You will learn about meteorology on the second day of your drone training course. Drone pilots need to know about the weather and how it impacts their work. You will learn to read METAR and TAF reports in this part of the training.

Don’t worry if this is your first time seeing these reports. I didn’t know about them either, but I learned everything on the second day of the course.

METAR And TAF Reports

METAR and TAF reports are essential for drone pilots. METAR reports describe current weather, while TAFs forecast weather up to 30 hours ahead.

Importance Of METAR And TAF For Drone Pilots

Understanding these reports is crucial for drone pilots as they provide essential information about wind, visibility, clouds, and weather that could affect drone operations.

Decoding METAR And TAF Reports

Decoding these reports may seem complicated, but your instructor will help you learn how to read and understand them. You can learn to understand weather information by practicing and watching instructional videos. This will help you during your theory test and when flying drones.

drone pilot training

How To Read A TAF Report 

Step 1: Know the TAF Format. TAF reports have a standard format. They include the airport code, time of issue, valid period, and weather details. Learn the format so you can find and understand the information quickly.

Step 2: Find the Airport and Issue Time The TAF report starts with the airport code, like EGPF for Glasgow Airport. Then, find the issue time, usually given in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which ends with a Z. For example, 031056Z means the TAF was issued on the 3rd day at 10:56 UTC.

Step 3: Find the valid period for the TAF, which shows when it applies. It has a start time and an end time. For example, 0312 0412 means the TAF is valid from the 3rd day at noon UTC to the 4th day at noon UTC.

Step 4: Look at the weather elements in the TAF report for different periods within the valid period.

Aeronautical Charts Reading

I learned to read aeronautical charts after I learned about TAFs. The instructor showed us how to unfold the charts and start reading them.

The course taught about aeronautical navigation and charts.

  • We learn about longitude and latitude, which are used to find locations on Earth.
  • We also study aviation charts to understand airspace classifications, navigation aids, airways, and other important information for drone operations.
  • We learn about GPS technology and how it helps with drone navigation.

Understanding aeronautical charts using longitude and latitude is essential for planning safe drone flights and following air laws. The instructor had us do a hands-on activity to practice using aeronautical charts. We had to figure out details about a location using specific coordinates on the charts.

We had to identify the terrain or landmarks, the flying height limit, and the airspace classification.

After studying each night on the 3rd day of the GVC training course, I was ready to take the GVC drone license theory test. You should feel prepared for this critical exam if you consistently study.

The GVC drone license theory consists of the following:

  • A formal CAA exam with 60 multiple-choice questions.
  • The test is done online over Zoom with a remote invigilator.
  • You will have a maximum of 75 minutes to finish the test, but most students spend less than 40 minutes.
  • The passing score is 75, and the course has an excellent pass rate.

You must have your webcam on during the exam and show the invigilator around your room to prevent cheating.

The exam was doable, and I have some tips for those getting ready to take it. 

  • Take lots of practice exams to get used to the questions and feel more sure of yourself.
  •  Ensure you understand TAFs and aeronautical charts well, as these are easy points.
  •  Focus on the regulations; this part might be challenging for some students.
become a drone pilot in UK

Operations Manual

Congratulations on passing your theory test exam! You are now in the final stretch. The next step is to create your enterprise drone operations manual. Your drone service provider should give you a template manual to use as a starting point.

The operations manual explains the rules, steps, and guidelines for safely and responsibly flying a drone. It guides pilots to ensure they follow aviation authorities’ proper practices and regulations.

The operations manual is necessary because 

  • It creates standard procedures.
  • Ensures pilots follow local rules and laws.
  • Increases safety by giving pilots a clear understanding of their duties and the proper steps to follow when flying a drone.

In the UK, when you apply for a General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC), you must give your operations manual to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The CAA will check if the manual meets safety standards and rules.

Once the CAA approves your operations manual, you must keep it current and ensure that all pilots working under your permission follow the manual’s procedures. It’s essential to regularly review and update the manual to include any changes in rules, technology, or your drone operations. You’ll need to provide your drone information and flight logs and conduct a risk assessment and flight plan for a drone operation.

Your operations manual should cover the following operating procedures: 

  • Pre-planning: Describe selecting a location, obtaining permissions, and gathering necessary information before the drone operation.
  • Situational Awareness: Be aware of what’s around you, like other aircraft, obstacles, and people on the ground.
  • Communication: Plan how you’ll communicate with your team, air traffic control, and others during the drone operation.
  • Pre-flight: Before each flight, inspect the drone, check the weather, and set it up.
  • In flight: While the drone is in the air, keep it in sight, watch the battery, and handle any problems.
  • Post-flight: After each flight, record the flight data, check the drone for damage, and store it safely.
  • Security: Protect your drone, its data, and any sensitive information related to your operation.

You must pass a practical flight test to get your GVC drone license. This test checks if you can do specific flight moves well.

Having at least 25 hours of drone practice before taking the test is best.

A critical part of the test is flying circuits. This shows if you can control your drone well in different situations.

Departure And Approach

You’ll need to do a standard take-off and landing in the test. This shows you can control the drone well during these essential flight parts.

  • Start by lifting the drone to 2 meters.
  • Fly away at a 45-degree angle and at constant speed.
  • After that, you come back to the same spot.
  • Land the drone safely.

The examiner will evaluate if you can keep a steady angle and speed when taking off and landing.

You will be judged on these critical factors for success during the practical flight test:

  • Following all specific procedures is essential to show your knowledge and professionalism as a drone pilot.
  • You must maintain control of your drone throughout the test to demonstrate your ability to handle the aircraft safely.
  • Also, you can adapt to changing conditions, such as wind, by adjusting your flying technique.
  • Execute the required maneuvers precisely and consistently to prove your competency in handling various flight situations.
drone pilot courses

After passing your practical flight test, submit your Operations Manual to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Once approved, you’ll become a fully licensed drone pilot in the UK.

As a certified drone pilot, staying updated on drone laws and guidelines is essential to operate your drone safely and responsibly.

Earning your full GVC drone license in the UK is a valuable experience that creates exciting opportunities for drone pilots. Based on my experience, this step-by-step guide aims to help you understand how to become a drone pilot in UK. Getting a drone pilot license requires a commitment to safety, professionalism, and continuous learning. As you begin this journey, stay updated on the changing drone rules and guidance to ensure you remain a responsible and skilled pilot.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a drone pilot license in the UK?

It takes 4 days to become a licensed drone pilot in the UK. You need to complete the full GVC drone training course, pass the theory exam, and take the practical drone test. It’s best to have at least 25 hours of drone flight experience before starting the course.

Is there a minimum age to be a drone pilot in the UK?

Yes, you need to be 18 years old to get a GVC drone license in the UK.

How often should I renew my drone license in the UK?

The GVC drone license lasts for five years. You must renew it before it expires to keep flying drones for business.

Jaweria Malik