Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO)

drone, Film Making, Photography, Technology

I should’ve spent last week in Scotland. With my family. Camping. But I couldn’t go with them. You see, the date for my SUA (Small Unmanned Aircraft) or Drone Flight Test came through, in the middle of the week. I had to make my apologies and let them head north without me.

I bought my Drone, a DJI Phantom 4 Pro towards the end of last year with the intention of using it to earn some money. Aerial photography, Surveying, Film making and so on. To remain ‘legal’ while undertaking paid work a PfCO or Permission for Commercial Operations license must be granted by the CAA. To obtain this license it is necessary to complete a course, short exam and flight test.

The course was quite an in-depth 2-day affair earlier in the year. It covered the Air Law relevant to Small Unmanned Aircraft and how to operate them safely. Once I completed the course and passed the test, I had an Operations Manual to complete and submit. This details how I will manage and operate the aircraft. Risk Assessments, Flight Planning, Insurance, keeping an accurate maintenance log of the aircraft and batteries, and so on.

The Ops manual was signed off after surprising few revisions and then it was on to the flight test. The date of which turned out to be mid week on my holiday…

To say I was nervous about it would be an enormous understatement. My test was originally booked at 4pm in a nice farmers field in Knutsford, but as the days rolled towards test day, my time advanced to 12pm. Then when I checked the weather the evening before there was a 90% chance of rain. I contacted the test centre and they said everyone else on the test had cancelled due to weather. If I wanted to go for 9am I could wait for a gap in the weather.

So that’s what I did.

I arrived at 9am to an overcast but dry sky. Had a briefing with my examiner, then was directed to perform a sequence of manoeuvres, carefully and controlled and a bit like a driving test, execute an emergency procedure. At the end of the flight test land the aircraft safely.

With a quick handshake I was told I’d passed. It turned out not to be as terrifying an experience as I’d imagined. Once packed away it was up the motorway to join my family in Scotland. I made it in time for tea and a quick over a deserted coastline!


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