How long does it take to get a CAA Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO)?

UAVAir is one of the UK’s leading drone schools, and to date it has trained over 1000 commercial drone pilots. Whether you have been flying model aircraft for 20 years or are completely new to drones, its course will give you all you need to begin flying drones commercially. Its comprehensive training package is particularly popular because the learning format is streamlined to enable candidates to obtain their PfCO quickly. Below is an outline of the steps involved in obtaining a PfCO, and how long each of them is likely to take.

Distance Learning

Your goal in the distance learning is to develop a solid understanding of the theoretical elements of the course. Achieving this will enhance your experience of the Ground School, and greatly improve your chances of passing the written assessments. The amount of study required varies considerably with each candidate, but on average UAVAir advises students to spend 20 hours going over the material before attending their chosen Ground School.

Ground School

This is where the theoretical part of your training will be completed. The sessions will cover all of the core content of the course, and you should use the opportunity to learn as much as you can from UAVAir’s instructors. The Ground Schools take place over a two day period, and any delay in a candidate completing this section of the course will be caused by them failing the written assessments. These assessments take place at the end of day 2. Ensure you do adequate amounts of distance learning to avoid having to attend again for a resit.

Flight Assessment

Candidates can attend a Ground School and take a Flight Assessment all in a three day period. The Flight Assessment requires you to demonstrate the practical competence necessary to operate safely. Your goal here should be to demonstrate a number of things. These include, controlled flying, a good working knowledge of your aircraft, and effective operating procedures. Candidates often fail a Flight Assessment due to inadequate flying experience. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) requires 2 hours of logged flight time; however, UAVAir recommends at least 5 hours of flying before taking an assessment.

Operations Manual

The Operations Manual is a technical document which will form your agreement with the CAA about how you will operate. Writing this is often the most challenging part of an operator’s route to PfCO, and the length of time it takes to complete depends entirely on the individual’s level of motivation. Some applicants take less than a month, others take over a year. In Autumn 2017, UAVAir created a new streamlined template which has helped many of its candidates write their manuals in a much shorter space of time.


Once the stages above have been completed, UAVAir will issue a full category recommendation. Along with your competency certificates, operations manual and insurance documents, this will form the basis of your successful application for PfCO. The CAA currently processes applications for PfCO in 28 working days.

UAVAir is committed to the success of each of its students. Its courses have been written by aviation professionals, and are delivered by some of the best instructors in the industry. Every stage of its CAA-accredited training is designed to make the learning experience as quick and easy as possible for candidates. See UAVAir's course options here.