National Qualified Entities

RPAS Service

What is a National Qualified Entity?

Put simply, a ‘Full Category’ National Qualified Entity or NQE is an organisation approved by the Civil Aviation Authority in the United Kingdom, to issue recommendations regarding a potential commercial operators’ competency. It doesn’t matter what any NQE says, the end result is the issue of a recommendation in a format prescribed by the CAA. All NQE’s have an Exposition which is a document that clearly states which processes they intend to employ to conduct this assessment. They also have a Technical Procedures Manual which explains how they intend to conduct these processes. The standard that ALL NQE’s must abide by including what must be included in the syllabus is clearly defined for all to see in Civil Aeronautical Publication 722 (CAP 722). Some NQE’s state that they provide additional services and their course offers extra features but this is not part of the CAA NQE approval, it is an additional service which is not necessarily required.

Do I need to use a National Qualified Entity?

Now that we know what an NQE actually is, we can see if we have to use one. The short answer is no, if a remote pilot can prove competency by another means then they do not need to use an NQE. For example, a highly experienced hobby pilot may hold proof of competency in the form of a ‘B’ certificate for multiple disciplines from the British Model Flying Association achievement scheme and have evidence to back up thirty years of model flying. This could be presented directly to the CAA as proof of competency which they may or may not choose to accept. Manned aircraft pilots may also be accepted as having adequate theoretical knowledge and only require a practical proof of competency and so, a Commercial Pilot with a BMFA ‘B’ certificate is likely to be readily accepted. However, it is strongly recommended that everyone wishing to become an unmanned commercial aircraft operator takes some form of additional training.


British Model Flying Association

Who is the best National Qualified Entity?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to that question. However, knowing that all NQE’s MUST meet the same specific standard set by the CAA and MUST prove that ALL individuals involved in the NQE have adequate competence to discharge their duties, we can draw the following conclusions. All CAA approved NQE’s MUST:

  • Meet the same specific standard (at least at the time of approval)
  • Provide the required syllabus
  • Have an agreed method for testing candidate theoretical knowledge
  • Have an Operations Manual review process
  • Have an agreed method for testing candidate practical skills ability
  • Have an agreed method for issuing recommendations regarding operator competence

Does price reflect quality?

Once again, if we take a look at the information available to us. All CAA approved NQE’s MUST meet the same specific standard as defined by the CAA. I suppose you could draw an analogy to a vehicle MOT or Ministry Of Transport test. MOT testers are registered and conduct test on vehicles to a set standard, the result is the same regardless of how much it costs. If an MOT tester who charges £30 finds your vehicle unfit for the road, then an MOT tester who charges £300 should find the exact same failure points as they all examine to the same standard. If you personally feel happier paying more money for the same thing then that is your preference. Of course, the NQE may try to justify the extra expense by suggesting you are getting additional services which may or may not be true, but the actual NQE approval part that each NQE MUST comply with is the same for each and every one.

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So what’s the answer?

My advice is to work out what is most important to yourself. Some points to consider may be:

  • The cost of the course
  • The location of the course
  • How friendly are the staff, instructors and examiners
  • The frequency in which any ground school element is run
  • How long is the course
  • Can the course be completed from home
  • Can the course be structured around free time
  • Will you need to take time off work
  • Is the course online, interactive, ‘death by powerpoint’, one to one human interface etc.
  • Additional benefits offered for free

Once you have decided what is most important to you personally, identify a few NQE’s and either email them or give them a call and ask some probing questions before parting with your hard earned money. The Civil Aviation Authority do issue a list of approved NQE’s which can be found by accessing the link below:

CAA Approved NQE List