How Do I Get Noticed?

Over the years I have met many individuals and organisations on their journey through to achieving a Permission for Commercial Operations from the Civil Aviation Authority. Some have a clear plan of the services they intend to offer and have a carefully considered, methodical route to follow to achieve their ultimate goal. Others have a rather more chaotic approach, they just want to be commercial ‘drone’ pilots and that’s about as far as they have planned. To be honest, both approaches seem to have their success rate.

One common complaint is that it is difficult to be noticed above any other operators, especially when first starting out. In order to best understand how to standout, one must first understand the process in its entirety. Commercial pilots of unmanned aircraft are merely required to prove competency, this can be completed with many different approaches. However, most individuals tend to go with the simplest route which is to use a CAA approved National Qualified Entity which is certainly not a bad way to go. Individuals taking this route will be exposed to specific training tailored to the commercial unmanned aircraft pilot.

In addition, an organisation the pilots work for must obtain approval from the CAA in the form of a Permission for Commercial Operations which requires an Operations Manual which is a document which states who they are, what they intend to do and how they intend to do it. The main thing to remember is that there isn’t actually a commercial ‘drone’ pilot licence which is quite an important consideration to keep in mind. The other key element to consider is that most organisations will obtain a ‘standard’ permission for either rotary or fixed wing operations, usually in the sub 7kg category. This ‘standard’ PfCO allows heights of 400 feet above ground level and 500 metres from the Person in Charge (PiC).

Drone Pilot
Green L Plate

So How Do You Standout?

Most of us drive cars and so I shall use this as a useful analogy having been a driving instructor myself for many years. Many individuals pass a driving test and fit green ‘L’ plates to their vehicles. As many will have forgotten, passing the driving test simply means that you are now safe enough to practice whilst driving alone and it DOES NOT signify that the driver is now a fully fledged expert. The idea is that drivers will see the green ‘L’ plate and hold back slightly, giving the driver a little more time and space to make the necessary judgements. However, how many of us see the green ‘L’ plates and think ‘Oh no, I don’t want to be stuck behind this driver all day’. The advantages and disadvantages of displaying these green ‘L’ plates is topic for another discussion. The point I am trying to make is that there is a way in which new drivers may be identified.

So lets turn things around slightly. By looking at standard PfCO’s alone, new ‘green’ operators cannot be identified from experienced operators. Lets stick with driving and use another scenario. Imagine you run a small delivery company using small vans. You need a new driver and after talking to your insurance company to establish any minimum requirements, you place an advert in the newspaper, the only requirements you have identified is that they must be 18 or over, have a full UK driving licence and have no penalty points. The applications come flooding in and soon it is time to make a decision but how will you do it. I suppose its a little like picking a commercial operator for a job you have lined up. You decide to reject all of the applicants who are too far away to start with which brings the list down quite a lot. You are now left with potential employees who meet the requirements you set so how will you choose now? Some of the candidates have sent in a copy of their Curriculum Vitae and reading through these you become quite impressed by the calibre of these individuals and elect to dismiss the applications not accompanied by a C.V.


You are now down to six individuals and decide to call them for a chat. After talking to the six candidates, you decide one does not seem to come across how you would like your business to be represented, one has changed their mind and one is completely inflexible, stating they can only work Tuesdays and Fridays despite the position being advertised as full time. This brings your list down to just three, how will you decide now. You notice that one individual has provided evidence that they learnt to drive as a minor through a youth driver training scheme and passed their driving test with no minor faults. They then went on to pass their advanced driving test. Now, who will you employ? One of the two who merely passed their driving test or the highly skilled advanced driver?

What Can You Do?

Most commercial operators are like green ‘L’ plate drivers until they develop a portfolio of work which they can utilise as leverage when securing work. Sometimes it can be difficult to build up a useful portfolio due to Non Disclosure and secrecy agreements. Therefore, you will need another way to stand out from the other operators. If you consider the advanced driver, this is an option which can be explored. Although only a PfCO is required to work commercially, the operator with additional qualifications and proof of experience is more likely to secure the job. It is a good idea to provide your potential clients with as much information as you can regarding your organisation. You need them to see that you are a conscientious, professional organisation prepared to go the extra mile.

There are training organisations and companies such as the European Advanced Drone Academy who can help with Advanced Qualifications if you wish to prove your competence. You may also wish to consider creating an Operating Safety Case to apply to the CAA for exemptions to the Air Navigation Order. This is an additional document which states how you will conduct commercial flight operations beyond that of the standard permissions listed on your PfCO and is a service offered by RPAS Service. This may include permission to fly closer to persons not under your control, higher altitudes than 400 ft AGL or even further than 500 metres from the PiC.

If you would like more information regarding how RPAS Service can help with the planning and creation of ‘Volume 3 – Operating Safety Case’ documents, please feel free to contact us on 03301 132 796 or email us on

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