(Note, since Dec 2020, a PfCO has not been required for commercial operations, however we’ve left this blog post in from Oct 2019 as a reference source, it was valid at the time and some elements of it are still valid.)
One of the questions we get asked time and time again here at EMAV is “What is a PfCO?” – generally these folks have been looking around the web, at sites like ours and have seen the term “PfCO” in various places. So what is a PfCO?
Quite simply, it’s a “Permission for Commercial Operations” – granted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) here in the UK, it’s essential for any commercial drone operator to obtain their permission before they can legally operate commercially. And that’s the key phrase there – commercially…
For us to operate as a business and provide our services to you, we’ve had to jump through a few hoops (not many, but some) in order to prove that we can operate safely and responsibly. Is it a licence? No, not as such – anyone (currently) can go and buy a drone and fly it around, keeping to certain restrictions (see https://dronesafe.uk/drone-code/ for more info) – a PfCO grants us certain extra abilities, for example, EMAV operators are legally allowed to fly closer than the 150m dictated by the Drone code.
What does it matter to you? Well if you’re looking to use a drone (whether it’s yours, your firms or an external contractor such as ourselves), ensure there is a PfCO in place if relevant – generally speaking, if “valuable consideration” i.e. money is swapping hands then a PfCO is needed. However, it’s not entirely that clear cut – for example, if you are an estate agent offering drone footage to your vendors, then yes a PfCO is required as this is quite obviously a commercial use of the drone, even if it is just a part of the package.
“But I was flying my drone and something interesting happened while I happened to be filming it, now a tv station want to pay me for it – do I need a PfCO?” – the simple answer there is “no” – if you went out flying intending to sell that footage then you need a PfCO, if it was just a happy coincidence then you don’t.
What does it matter to us here at EMAV? We’re fully covered by insurance and have our PfCO, so we’re ready and waiting to answer that call to get that aerial footage you need – why worry about jumping through those hoops yourself when we’ve already done it?