New drone regulations came into force in the UK at the end of 2020. These regulations focus on the level of risk for the type of flying you intend to do, rather than differentiating between commercial and recreational.
The training and qualifications you require will depend on the amount of risk that results from the weight of the drone you will fly, and the chosen location you will be flying in. If you need to fly any drone weighing over 250g where there will be uninvolved members of the public or a busy area you will need to gain a qualification.
If you don’t intend on flying closer than 150m to people and keep to quieter areas, you may not require extra qualifications, however if you want to fly your drone closer to people or within a built up area then you will be required to hold either an A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC) or a General VLOS Certificate (GVC) with a CAA Operational Authorisation.
Check out the EU Drone License Finder find out which EU drone category and/or subcategory you fall into.
A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC)
The A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC) is a brand-new qualification introduced at the end of 2020 to give you the ability to fly in built up areas and closer to people.
The A2 subcategory will let you fly down to a maximum distance of 30m horizontally from uninvolved people provided you are flying either a C2 class drone (not yet available) or if your drone has a flying weight of less than 2 kg. If you fly a drone weighing 500g or less, you will be able to fly in the A1 subcategory with your only separation required being to not intentionally overfly uninvolved people.
There is no flight test or operations manual required for the A2 CofC. You will, however, need to have completed a period of practical flight training which can be either self-training or with an instructor. This qualification is valid for a period of 5 years.
The General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC)
The new GVC qualification replaces the old PfCO course but can be used to apply for a CAA Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO). Your PfCO will continue to be valid after new EU regulations take hold at the end of 2020 and will automatically be upgraded to an ‘Operational Authorisation’ on the first annual renewal.
The Operational Authorisation is based upon a risk assessment that is completed by the UAS operator, or through a series of Pre-Defined Risk Assessments (PDRA). The GVC allows you to fly a drone up to 25kg in the Specific Category.
With a GVC you will be also be able to take advantage of the new ‘bolt-on’ qualifications which the CAA will start to introduce in 2021. The GVC, along with any additional modules that are attached to it, is valid for a period of five years.