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Training for the journey to becoming a commercial drone pilot

A drone pilot is always learning and the regulations are not fixed in time either. Whether to meet new legislation, adding new skills, or developing new services a pilot should stay informed of opportunities that training can bring.

Starting out on the journey to achieving CAA permissions can look quite daunting, but in reality, it is the same for all trainees. The training school’s courses have to meet the standards set, so although they may be approached and taught in slightly different ways the end result on passing is to hold CAA permissions.

UK drone training school interactive map

You can find a local training school through the training portal on CAS Listed.

3 areas of drone use

To give some separation drone use can be categorised into 4 distinct areas. The being Hobbyist, Commercial, Supportive.


As it suggests this is the use of drones by the general public and tends to use entry-level drones for leisure and lifestyle purposes. UK legislation requires all individuals to register a drone through a dedicated website provided by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).


To offer aerial services through the employment of a drone a person is required to undertake training, sit and undertake examinations to achieve authorisation from the CAA operate commercially. The permissions require the pilot to follow strict regulations. They also pay an annual fee at the same time as providing their paperwork and required documentation on renewal.


In line with commercial users supportive pilots have to gain the same CAA authorisation to work with drones. Supportive use covers The Emergency Services and other authoritative and governmental bodies. There are separate and extended regulations for these users that are not available to either the hobbyist or commercial drone pilot.

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How many commercial drone pilots are there in the UK?

The number of UK drone pilots who have held permissions has exceeded 11,000 and continues with steady growth on a monthly basis. Industry commentators state many varying forecasts on how this will grow. Some seem valid others not so.

To answer the question of “How many commercial pilots are there in the UK” there has to be an understanding that this is counted as pilots with current (in-date). permissions. Overall current CAA permissions is around 55% of all pilots who have held the permissions. You can find the current number published on our home page.

Why do drone pilots let their permissions expire?

To answer this accurately we would need to know the precise reasons for each pilot. So looking at this in a wider context there seems to be a few reasons for this.

Firstly many pilots have simply let their permissions expire permanently as they do not wish to work commercially. The secondary market for used drones is evidence of this although not the only reason. Other pilots do not renew on the expiry date. They later renew within the required timeframe before the renewal is no longer available.

CAS Listed has noticed that there are a very limited number of pilots who renew before expiry. This figure may suggest two things. 1. An oversight by the pilot or 2. A clerical error in paperwork delaying renewal.

Managing permissions

The permissions granted by the CAA cover a 12 month period. Each year these permissions need renewing through a process of the pilot submitting their documentation and paying a fee. To operate legally and within the assigned permissions there are a number of important documents including: –

Operations Manual
Pre-Site Visit Research Form
Site Survey Form
Risk Assessment and Mitigation Form
Aircraft Maintenance Log
Battery Log
Incident Log
Aircraft Log
Pilot Log
Emergency Procedures

Other forms may also be employed by pilots on an individual preference basis too.