Drone certification in the UK

Drone certification in the UK, for drones weighing less than 20kg does not currently exist as an exam to pass. However, the RPAS course (sometimes called a drone training course or a UAV course) run by NATS is an accredited course with NQE (National Qualified Entity) status from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) facilitating operators and companies the ability to obtain a Permissions For Aerial Work (PFAW).

For aircraft weighing more than 20kg there is a requirement for licencing and air worthiness, unless a specific CAA exemption is issued: An unmanned aircraft is subject to national regulations and if it weighs more than 20kg it is not classified as a ‘small unmanned aircraft’ (or SUAS) for the purposes of the  Air Navigation Order (ANO).  If an aircraft cannot comply with all of the requirements the CAA may be prepared to issue an Exemption under Article 242 of the ANO 2009.

The above sometimes causes confusion with regards to the need for a drone licence, and although UAV training in the UK for drones weighing under 20kg is not compulsory there are many benefits to attending courses which are enablers of obtaining commercial CAA permissions. Operators and companies who will benefit commercially should obtain a PFAW regardless of the tasks they intend to carry out, and may need to in order to satisfy insurance and liability stipulations.

Governed by the CAA the drone course syllabus (CAP722 Sixth Edition March 2015) and all the topics covered during the drone training are detailed within the NATS course manual, which is issued on enrolment.

Every drone lesson over the three days of the RPAS training course has defined learning outcomes, which are shared with students at the beginning of each presentation. Experienced RPAS instructors will constantly check for understanding and provide practical demonstrations and applications.

This is a commercial drone training course and as such an enabler to facilitate a recommendation from NATS to the CAA. It ensures the candidate has an understanding of all of the topics listed in CAP722 and that they have demonstrated competent practical drone flying ability during their course, in their chosen class. The CAA’s CAP722 Chapter 4: Civil UAS Remote Pilot Competency, explains the requirements in more detail.

The final part of the drone course provides guidance on the completion of the candidates’ or companies Operations Manual/Operational Safety Case, a requirement which must be met in order to be permitted to operate commercially by the CAA. To understand what information is needed in the manual, the drone training course includes time for each candidate to have access to an individual basis with our drone specialists, who will help teach candidates how to populate the necessary operational safety case for their prospective business to meet the CAA’s requirements (CAP722 Sixth Edition March 2015).

If you have any questions, would like more information or wish to book on the course please email rpas@nats.co.uk

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