We're going to take a look at the costs involved with getting a CAA drone license (PfCO).
Your initial SUAS course is usually the first significant cost, but there are a few others that are worth considering when calculating your budget.
We’ll take a look step by step and look at how much you can expect to pay to reveal how much does a drone license cost.
Your Drone Course (£999+)
Each CAA drone training NQE (National Qualified Entity) has a drone course which will include ground school (theoretical training), theory exam and the practical assessment otherwise known as the Operational Evaluation.
Please note when looking at course prices that most advertise their courses as excluding VAT, so make sure you factor that into your budget. The Fly ICARUS drone training course starts at £999 inc VAT.
Some courses on the market include practical flight training others offer it as a separate cost.
Factors which vary the price:
- Classroom vs Online Training
- Practical Flight Training
- ‘Fast Track’ Options
- Inclusive Operations Manual
- Night Flight Course
The Operations Manual (£0 - £300+)
Every candidate applying for their CAA drone license (PfCO) will need to submit an Operations Manual to the CAA. This document explains to the CAA how you will conduct yourself when you are out working commercially.
Some people choose to write the document themselves; others will use professional services such as Open Sky Consulting that create bespoke Operations Manuals for you or your company.
Some NQE’s have a stringent interpretation that because the document needs to be original, then it must be written you, the PfCO holder and therefore will not accept Operations Manuals bespoke written for you.
Other NQE’s such as ourselves are happy that as long you understand and follow what is included in your Operations Manual (as some pilots may be flying under a companies Ops Manual) then you can submit an Operations Manual as long as it is bespoke to you or your company (regardless if you have personally written the document).
However, you will be tested on your understanding of your Operations Manual so make sure you read and understand it.
So, feel free to write the Operations Manual yourself, or you can expect to pay £300+ for a bespoke consultancy service.
Drone Insurance (£3+)
You have some options when choosing insurance. However, you WILL need insurance in place when you apply for your PfCO and every commercial flight.
You can choose to either purchase a 12-month police cover or, if you believe you won't be flying your aircraft regularly, you may find it more cost effective to use a Pay-As-You-Fly option, with a company such as Flock Cover, with flight insurance from as little as £3 per flight.
You will need to purchase insurance coverage for your Operational Evaluation (Practical Flying Assessment) There are now some other insurance companies that are specific for drones such as Coverdrone.
Your insurance policy will also be one of the documents the CAA require for them to grant you your drone license and it must be EC 785/2004 compliant.
From asking our current and past students, we have averaged the first years’ insurance to be around £600.00 for small aircraft if you decide to take out a yearly policy.
If you do decide to use Pay As You Fly Insurance with Flock Cover you will need to download a cover note. You can find out how to do this by clicking here.
The fee to the CAA (£247)
When you apply for your Permission for Commercial Operation, you will have to pay the CAA £247 to submit your application.
The total sum for your CAA Drone License
The bare minimum cost (not including purchasing your first drone) to attain you Permission for Commercial Operations is approximately £1250+.
Not inexpensive by anyone's standards but neither is the journey to getting your first driving license! (pun intended).
Once you have your Drone License (Permission for Commercial Operation), you will have to renew it every 12 months. You won't have to do the course again but there are renewal fees to the CAA and obviously your ongoing insurance costs.
So there you have it. Getting your Permission for Commercial Operations is an investment but one that opens up a world of possibilities and opportunities that can only be achieved if you hold the permissions, whether you are a photographer, surveyor or simply a retired gardener looking to come out of retirement and have a change of career.