Avoiding PFCO requirements

Sorry for the long winded question, but if anyone with commercial drone experience could assist it would be appreciated.

Firstly, to clarify, I am not interested in commercial flying.

As part of my job as an engineering consultant I have access to clients across the country with interesting sites and buildings. Some of them have offered to let me film in proximities and areas that would be unavailable to the typical hobby flyer. In exchange they would want access to videos and pictures I would take to use for commercial purposes (put on the website etc). I would use the vids for compilations on my non monetized youtube (i.e hobby purposes only). No monies/goods/favours would change hands but the individuals giving permission would be clients conducting separate business with me on the engineering side. I am not offering the service as an addition to our current works or an incentivisation to maintain contract retention etc.

Am I in the clear if I persue these opportunities?

Thanks for any guidance you all may be able to provide :grinning:

Hi Richard.

Unfortunately I can’t comment on the current regulations pertaining to what you currently have in mind, but for future reference it might be in your favour to keep an eye on the future EASA proposals as we get closer to June 2020.

One thing I’m led to believe is that there maybe a sub 900g category whereby a PFCO will not be required to undertake some commercial work. I don’t think it will be a complete free for all but rather some form of online registration and test. Maybe something similar to the Part107 thing they had in the States.



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I suppose those proposals will be decided by the Brexit process if It ever happens!

I’d say this would be counted as needing PFCO imho.

If you are making a flight that you know the resulting footage shot is going to be used for commercial purposes then you need that PFCO (as I understand it).

@ianinlondon is good on this sort of thing.


Thanks for the response. I assume I could circumvent this legally by ensuring that discussions regarding what their intentions of the footage use will be are not had with me. I would provide them a copy for “Audit” purposes to get approval before I publish to YT. They can then keep the audit copy plus raw data for whatever use afterwards.

Oh, also my insurer has logged an official detailed request for this specific info from the CAA (very nice of them) so will hopefully get a direct response at some point but will likely take ages. I will share on this thread if they ever get back to them.

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Similar to my thoughts Richard but then I am a well-known wide boy with scant regard for the intent of the law. With the wrong police officer or prosecutor taking exception to your operation it could prove costly and embarrassing. Developments in June next year may sort this anomaly out - although I have an idea that the post of Brexit negotiator is going to become like a peerage - hereditary and part-ceremonial.

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I have been down a very similar query road and got so many conflicting responses including angry PfCO holders (nobody on here I might add - this was FB) that in the end I contacted the CAA.

Within a day of me filling out their contact us form I had my reply. The short answer was, YES, I could.

The scenario was a friend approached me to ask if I would take photos and video of their golf club - leaving aside any issues of controlling crowds, etc - the benefit to them was to use on their website, flyers, promotional material, etc. All with a potential to be of financial benefit to them.

For my part, there would be no monetary or other gain other than keeping copyright and being able to use said imagery on my own sites or for my own non commercial (i.e. no money / gifts / favours) purposes.

I will dig out their response and post it up… bear with.


So … the CAA reply, in full is as follows:

Based on the information provided the CAA would not deem your operation as commercial, as I do not believe your type of operation falls under the definition below:

‘any flight by a small unmanned aircraft except a flight for public transport, or any operation of any other aircraft except an operation for public transport;

which is available to the public;


which, when not made available to the public,

in the case of a flight by a small unmanned aircraft, is performed under a contract between the SUA operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the remote pilot


in any other case, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator,

in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.’

The key elements in understanding this term are ‘…any flight by a small unmanned aircraft…in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration’.

The term ‘available to the public’ should be interpreted as being a service or commodity that any member of the public can make use of, or actively choose to use, (e.g. because it has been advertised or offered to someone).

‘Commercial operations’ allows a broad variety of flight applications, predominantly centring on aerial photography or the operation of sensors and other data-gathering devices. The essential question that needs to be asked is “what is the purpose of the (specific) flight?” i.e.“If I were not receiving payment/valuable consideration for making the flight, would it still take place?”

In terms of insurance the CAA only enforce that insurance is in place for commercial operators, therefore it is down to the individual recreational pilot where they deem insurance needs to be in place.

To complete the flight the pilot must abide by the drone code and Air Navigation Order which states you must not operate within 150m of a congested area. The definition of a congested area is:

Congested Area’ in relation to a city, town or settlement, means any area which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes’

I can confirm golf clubs can be regarded as congested areas as they are available to members of the public. If however the owner of the club is able to cordon off an area of the golf club, so that no other individuals not under your control are within the area, then the flight may take place.

Kind Regards,

Alain Quinquenel
Team Leader

Consumers and Safety
Civil Aviation Authority


Hi @stubbyd I think that’s good news at least you asked the question and got a positive response, I certainly don’t have a problem at all, It shows you are a responsible Drone user and that good enough for me


As it happens, I was such a n00b drone user at the time that I declined the offer from my mate - for a number of reasons. But I was intrigued enough to ask the question** if only to shutup some of the arsey complaints on FB.

I may however, re-offer to him, just to try and get a swooping shot down a fairway or similar… But perhaps I’ll wait until the warmer months :slight_smile:

** will happily screenshot the original question for all to see the query and that I didn’t try and hide anything if anybody needs convincing.


Spot on! and gives valuable information to other Grey Arrows, that’s what its all about, Fook Facebook its full of fruit cakes


Thanks for posting that. Very very helpful.
My next planned flight under these conditions however was to be located within a congested area (takeoff/landing) that the authorising people are controlling (but unable to cordon off). Is that going to breach the CAA requirements? I have PL insurance.

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Now that, I have to say, is a question to far for me :smiley:

As above though, just ask them. From posting my query to receiving a reply was very quick. I posted on their web form at 07:03 and a reply was in my inbox by 13:09 of the same day.

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Ok, having read the CAA requirements in more detail (and now feel like a bit of a tit…) I can see that there will never been an exemption to the congested area rule for non pfco holders. Sod it, I am just going to get the damn pfco and still do it for free lol

I did send them a query directly a minute ago. I know what the answer will be however. I should have just looked at the website!!

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For anyone still interested it seems the CAA responses have become err… somewhat abrupt.

Dear Richard

The CAA will not advise on locations where drones can be flown, as this covered by the Air Navigation Order i.e. classes of Airspace. The responsibility lies with the operator if the area he has chosen to fly in is suitable.

If you are a recreational flyer, please follow the drone code.

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I reckon their emails probably changed tone dramatically at the beginning of this month. Something tells me that we used to be a fairly innocuous bunch who, on the rare occasions we would ask a question, would be a welcome break for somebody from the daily grind. Now we haunt their nightmares, lined up as far as the eye can see, all waiting to ask them whether we can stick our operator ID in the battery compartment. :rofl:


2 posts were merged into an existing topic: Where best to attach your CAA Operator ID label?