Can you have a PfCO *and* be a hobbyist?


Police course providing incorrect information on their ‘drone’ courses has been a common theme seen from members comments , which is a shame to have to point out being an ex-cop!


yes we all remember the farce of ‘Gatgate’ just how wrong the police can get it.


I have signed up for a course in May UAV8. This is the only reason I am doing it. Reason for waiting is purely monetary reasons, but I am looking forward to it.


I’ve just signed up with UAS Airborne Platforms, again not for the commercial side of things (although if successful I certainly wouldn’t turn a commission down) but principally for the training and operating discipline.
Hope to be taking my Practical Assignment and Flying Test around April when the weather improves. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Anyone have any experience of UAS Airborne Platforms?


Just signed up with a local provider iRed (Emsworth, Hampshire) which is a 3 day course plus the flight assessment that can be taken up to 3 month after the course. The idea with their programme is that you do the course, then complete the operations manual, which they support and review before you send away, and then the flight assessment. I will update when I have done the course


Maybe an odd question but if I was to do the PfCO and get the occasional paid job, does that mean I can’t really fly as a hobbyist any more? Obviously wouldn’t matter until I made a mistake but would they throw the book at you if you were just cruising around and hadn’t done a whole risk assessment thing etc.?


Moved your post over to an older one with the same question, @ash2020.


With you on this one .
I can take pics all day long and sell them to my work place .
As soon as i use the drone to do the same thing then it’s a different ball game . Why ?


Because it’s got not a single thing to do with the photos … per se.

The CAA don’t give a damn about the photos … it’s all to do with the reason the flight is undertaken, and if there’s a financial/commercial intent related to the flight.

Undertaking the flight with a view to sell the photos/videos, or make other commercial gains from the flight, is what renders the flight as a commercial flight … for which you need PfCO.


I had a long conversation on this subject with a PfCO training manager who is also an avid hobby flyer.

As a commercial flyer for many years he was clear that you can separate the two. The key thing to remember is that you have to submit an operations manual to the CAA for your PfCO in which you make clear how you will fly commercial operations I.e plan your flight, get your high-vis on, get your cones out to cordon your take off and landing area etc. Then you are flying under your PfCO guidelines.

If you just want to go out a fly for a practice / fun / holiday flight you can as you would now, but you have to fly as per the standard drone code.

So he was very clear that you can separate the two.

Now for me, in the main, this made it easy. If I have a paid specific job I will do this using my PfCO. If I am just flying for fun then I will do that under the hobby drone code rules.

I was also advised that hobby flights can be logged in your flight records as flying hours.

However, for the keen photographer the question then becomes, if I am flying a ‘hobby’ flight and I take a great photo, can I sell it?


I reiterate - the photos aren’t the real question.

The real question is, when you commence the flight, do you have in mind that you may sell that photo. If so - it’s PcCO.
If you are just having fun in hobby mode, and winging about without any thoughts of taking marketable pics/vid, and then - by chance - there’s an opportunity to sell them - the this is indeed still a hobbyist flight.

The problem becomes one of how you prove that you were in hobbyist mode … and, for example, if you sell a load of pics every year from PfCO flying it would be fundamentally nigh on impossible to not have in mind a commercial potential from those pics.


Another way to take photos out of the equation (which is difficult because that’s almost the only commercial potential from a drone) …

Let’s say you could earn money from your drone by performing bird scaring operations for a local farmer … that would also be PfCO.

It’s the FLIGHT that matters - it’s all the CAA are worried about - and is it a commercial flight.

For a flight to be commercial, there doesn’t need to be any money/profit/customer (although if those exist there is no doubt) … there only needs to be an intent/potential for there to be revenue … at the start of the flight.

The old one, where “I was up there flying about and this house caught on fire and the TV company wanted the video” isn’t commenced as a commercial flight - and a flight cannot be retrospectively reclassified as one.


PS - whilst I’m not PfCO, and nor did I ever have a commercial pilots license for fixed wing …. this is the CAA … and a 2 year battle I had with them about a flight as to whether or not it was “commercial” remains ingrained in my brain. Basically they have the same logic for either.
I also won that case against the CAA.


Hence why I am doing the PfCO.

I think photos and videos are very much the point Dave. When flying a commercial operation your only purpose is to see the product you film.

But yes, you might get away with selling one or two, or maybe even more as a hobbyist if you were not flying for that intention. Like all things you normally only get a problem when something goes wrong - but who wants to be that person?!


I think you have it correctly.

Brief synopsis of what happened to me …. took a friend up for a fun flight … I knew he was a commercial photographer and (as far as I was aware) he was taking pics for his own fun/interest … he then sold them … unbeknown to me.

The CAA tried to prosecute me for “undertaking a commercial flight” without a commercial license.


In the end it came down to me, my belief as to what the flight was about, and that there was absolutely no payment to me toward the flight … and at the time I took off, and for the duration of the flight, I had no knowledge that the passenger had pre-planned taking photos for someone.

His - “Oh - I know someone who’s business is over there - I’d love to surprise him with some pics of his factory” was ALL pre-planned. #TheShit!

It was a long and expensive battle.


Being philosophical. Because that’s how I am, seems to me that it’s not too much about safety, but about charges / fees / fines. How can we make a buck out of it.


I think it’s actually far more simple than that.

A drone is an “aircraft” … and they have basically extended the same philosophy that already existed for aircraft.

Nothing more - nothing less.

I very much doubt the CAA clears a fraction of the costs they incur contemplating drones, let alone “make a buck”.




Here’s a synapsis for you?.
My nephew is a Licenced Airline Pilot with a well known Airline north of the border.
He is also PfCO registered with the CAA as a Commercial Drone Pilot.
He regularly takes photos from his Cockpit of his Plane, and, posts them on Social media.
Legal or Not Legal?.


Nothing to do with PfCO

Legal - (a) he’s not selling them (b) he has a commercial license if he were.