Do I Need a PfCO?

With an increasing number of people finding a way to incorporate drone technology into their existing businesses, it is inevitable that more applications will emerge from a range of different sectors, some of which are entirely new to the drone dimension. 

As these new future drone operators enter the market they will (or should) consciously be examining whether they need to obtain a UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO). This is an important consideration for newcomers to the drone sector as it will determine what path they will take. With Christmas approaching and significant numbers of drones anticipated to be given as presents there may be recipients asking these very questions.

A PfCO is a requirement for persons who wish to use drones for commercial purposes.  To provide guidance on this the CAA states on their website that a commercial operation is “Any operation of an aircraft other than for public transport which is available to the public or which, when not made available to the public, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator’.  The most important caveat of that statement is that if those services are, ‘in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.” 

Additional information continues with advice on determining a potential operators’ situation by offering case studies on what can be considered as commercial work. There are many obvious examples of commercial work.

For instance, if you are an Estate Agent who wants to use a drone to take imagery to help sell a property as part of a service, then a PfCO is required, even though the images are not being given directly to a client in exchange for payment. The fact remains that drones form part of the services offered and so this is very clearly commercial work.

However, there are often circumstances that are not so quite clear-cut and an individual or organisation may often be confused as to what constitutes commercial drone work. Generation of self-marketing material is not considered commercial work unless it is done on behalf of another party. Indeed, any data capture which is for the operators own benefit is not considered commercial work as well as if the drone activity is conducted for the purposes of research, e.g., the academic sector using drones to contribute to a project outcome. There is no obvious financial gain in this case so no PfCO is required.

The industry is starting to self-regulate, with clients in a range of sectors now aware of a possible requirement for CAA permission and increasingly requiring it as a condition of work. Of relevance is the subject of insurance as this is often required to operate safely in s specific operational environment. The consequence of this is that there may be circumstances where the drone operator may have determined that they do not need a PfCO but their client base will insist on it being in place, such that they can demonstrate a minimum level of operational competence, legal compliance and insurance coverage.

The basic rule is that each individual or organisation should look at each case and decide based upon on its specific circumstances. If an individual or organisation is considering this question, then contact UAVAir - we are leading drone industry experts and are perfectly positioned to provide this sort of advice.  If you do require a PfCO then we can provide specific training solutions through our ProQual accredited Unmanned Aircraft Qualification (UAQ), a major step on the path to achieving that permission.

The key piece of advice though is to research your situation to see what is required. For advice on whether you need a PfCO, get in touch with us today.