GVC / CFCO A2 and Commercial activities

Evening all

I’ve been thinking about wanting to get my license for a while now with the look to finding a commercial interest that I can profit from and also enjoy working on. The following pops to mind, in order of how likely I want to carry them out:

Roof Surveys (following a chance conversation with my mate who is a roofer). Commercial and private with the potential to work in city centre environments.

Aerial photography - commissioned (I want an aerial view of my house / land)

Aerial photography - non commissioned (flogging scenic shots that I’ve all ready taken or intend to take)

Mapping and agriculture - when I’ve got a lot more experience and the budget to/need to hire out a specific drone.

I’ve gone through the Heliguy guide on the differences but it’s still not crystal clear.

Also what extras do I need to pay out for to be able to complete such endeavours? I’m aware of the £243 to the CAA if I go GVC, I’m aware I need ‘insurance’, will I need public liability etc too?

Lastly I will be starting out with a DJI Spark maybe with a 6 month upgrade to a Mavic etc.

Your guidance will be greatly appreciated


The best way to make a little money with your drone is to start with a lot of it.


I’m more of a I want to get out of bed and enjoy what I’m doing rather than become rich and miserable in the process and thankfully in a position in life to be able to do that

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What does your business plan look like?

With the recent rule changes it’s only a matter of time before people are doing roof surveys for £25 quid a pop so I’m not sure how much of a commercial market is left for that sort of thing now.

And what will you do for the other nine months of the year when it’s too windy, too wet, too dark, etc, to fly?

This is just another feather in my cap of earnings, and as mentioned not all about money. No business plan set up, just bouncing the idea around.

An A2 CofC will allow you to do most things commercially, although you will still need insurance, both public liability and commercial. There will still be some restrictions on your flight.

A GVC is a far more comprehensive qualification. The initial cost is much higher (think hundreds) plus your annual renewal. This will give you more flexibility in where you fly. You won’t be able to hire a drone and use it though as you will have an ops manual as part of your qualification that is specific to one drone.

I was commercially qualified for around 18 months and if I did the sums, I’m not sure I ever fully recovered the cost. As @PingSpike says, we’re already in a race to the bottom on price and - to put it bluntly - against your competitors you have no experience, no recommendations and no portfolio. It’ll be tough.

The scenic shot market really is very, very small. I’ve sold bits and pieces, but again, you’re up against some excellent photographers with established businessess. Whilst the spark is a cracking drone, camera wise you’ll struggle to compete against more capable machines.

My advice, enjoy the hobby for what it is. Do the courses as they make you a better pilot. It you sell some stuff then AWESOME, just don’t expect it to wash its face as a business or even make a profit. The exception to this is if it’s a bolt on to an existing business. If you already do wedding photography then it’s another chargeable opportunity.

Sorry if that’s a bit doom and gloom, but it’s my personal experience and something I’ve watched happen time and time again on here and other forums.


I realistically know the prospects of running a successful business are slim, cost isn’t the overall deciding factor in this either. It’s more a case of I’ve got some spare cash, I work self employed doing a bit of everything and if I have a good day then I’m happy and if I make more than minimum wage for my hours it’s a bonus.

It’s more a case of specifics, such as ‘I need to fly within 3-5m of a building in a city centre where there could be pedestrians and vehicles’. Difficult stuff draws me in and to do that within the law.

You seem to have a wide range of ideas covering different types of work e.g. informal pcs of houses for homeowners vs B2B doing agricultural/mapping work.

For clarity, I already run a business in a safety-critical sector doing compliance systems/audit/inspection work. Over the summer, I went through a process of getting my GVC/PfCO and setting up to focus on specific industry niches where it’s fairly unpopulated drone-wise- basically adding drone work to what I already offer.

Some thoughts you may want to consider:

  • If a niche doesn’t have much drone work in already, there will be a good reason- for example it may be a heavily regulated industry where you need to undestand not just drones but also have a deep understanding of (and ideally the right sort of contact in) that sector. Even then it can be a very slow process getting a toe in the door.
  • It’s difficult to sell to more time-critical sectors if you can only fly on a dry/calm day. Very few drones can fly in the wet and of those, most are seriously expensive and/or compromise on flight time and image quality. And it is wet/damp/windy on many days in UK especially in the western half.
  • It’s difficult to sell a service B2B unless you have case-studies and worked examples- which you have to do in your own time at your own cost.
  • Insurance and competence. Expect that any larger client will want to see your insurances and in some cases proof of your competence. To “pass go” with corporate procurement teams you may need an annual policy with a minimum liability level, and that costs.
  • As others have said, the photographic market is already well saturated with people who are often extremely skilled- just look at the photos and videos on GADC!. What are you offering that is different and worth paying for?

If you’re serious about the B2B market and go the OA route so you can fly in the Specific category (rather than Open A1- you said you wanted to fly in built-up areas), I’d say you need a minimum start-up budget of a few thousand.

You’d still struggle to fly on anything but dry/calmish days with most drones though, and if you hire in a big/water resistant drone such as a M300, will you really have the skill level to fly it safely and in a way which makes money? You will also need to have the big drone on your OA Ops Manual and so you’ll prob need to hire it for a period to learn to fly it first (even then I’m not sure how that works with an OA as it’s not a route I would use). Note that hire works best either as long-term lease or where you already have one type of drone and need another of the same type for reliability on a critical job, or need one to cover whilst yours is away being maintained/repaired. The mapping and agricultural side needs a level of technical knowledge, although from your post maybe you have that?

Are you looking to do work for jobbing self-employed roofers or on construction sites? If the latter, do you have the knowledge/experience to get your RA/MS accepted and work safely on them?

There seems to be 2 alternative approaches to this.

(1) Informal, flying in Open/A1, a few photos now and then for a local jobbing roofer- providing the property isn’t in a restricted zone and they can wait for a decent-weather day. A few quid now and then to help towards the Drone Fun fund- albeit you’ll have to declare the self-employed income to HMRC.


(2) More formal, going the GVC/OA route and focusing on specific sectors to sell B2B.

Most of what I have said applies to the latter because the former is really just a small extension of usual hobby flying. Nor am I being pessimistic- these steps reflect my own thought process before I put together an 18-month business plan to bring drone work into my existing business offering. Time will tell whether it will wash it’s face, but I don’t expect it to be profitable until at the earliest Dec 2021.