UK CAA PFCO – SUA Pilot Assessments

inspire_banner2We are able to provide assessments for pilots of fixed and rotary winged aircraft systems up to 20 kgs AUM.

Subjects covered in this article:

a. Why Do You Need A Practical Flight Assessment?
b. The Assessment Criteria
c. The Assessment Process
d. About Flight assessments
e. About Concessions
f. When Should You Call For A Practical Flight Assessment?
g. Information about the AJSSL SUA Pilot Assessment

This article is based on the guidance provided on the CAA website. Please use the source information as the authoritative guidance.

aerial survey equipment & support Independent equipment and support specialists - experienced operators.

Why Do You Need A Practical Flight Assessment?

Anyone wishing to fly a drone for commercial work needs a Permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) the permission is referred to as a Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO).

This is defined within the the CAA CAP 393 and CAP 722. But basically means that if the operator stands to gain in any way from the flight, then a PFCO is required.

Examples of when you would require a PFCO include: Drone flights to deliver a service to your direct and indirect customers, Operation for your own marketing or your customers marketing purposes.

The Assessment Criteria

To obtain a Permission, applicant will need to:

a. be at least 18 years of age
b. demonstrate a sufficient understanding of aviation theory (airmanship, airspace, aviation law and good flying practice)
c. pass a practical flight assessment (flight test)
d. develop basic procedures for conducting the type of flights you want to do and set these out in an Operations Manual
e. obtain an adequate level of insurance

There are a number of CAA recognised assessment organisations called National Qualified Entities (NQE) that can help applicants meet these requirements. The NQE will generally help the applicant to develop an operations manual and will offer advice on completing any additional paperwork.

Once the applicant can meet the requirements they can make an application using form SRG 1320 to  The applicant needs to allow up to 28 working days for the permission to be processed.

The Assessment Process

The CAA does not organise or run assessment courses but they approve commercial organisations called National Qualified Entities (NQE) or Restricted National Qualified Entities (R-NQE) to do this.

NQE organisations will:

a. Run full or restricted modular courses
b. Make a recommendation to the CAA about the pilot’s competence
c. This recommendation provides the basis for the CAA granting a PFCO.

Most NQEs provide the full course and this is suitable for those with no previous aviation training or qualifications.

A typical NQE full-course involves:

a. pre-entry/online study
b. 1-3 days of classroom lessons and exercises
c. a written theory test
d. a flight assessment

After successfully completing the theory element, the pilot will:

a. develop their own operations manual
b. practice aircraft operation/flying skills for the practical flight assessment.

About Flight assessments

These are completed at your own pace and:

a. usually arranged separately but may be available on the last day of the course
b. have no structured syllabus or sequence of numbered exercises

About Concessions

You may already have qualifications that cover the teory part of the critical evidence in that case there are concessions. Concessions against the theory part of the course are possible if you have:

a. flying experience (including model aircraft)
b. a licence or certificate that allows you to fly in un-segregated airspace (PPL, glider rating)

See Section 2 Approvals – Chapter 4 – Civil UAS Remote Pilot Competency of CAP 722 for full details.

Critical evidence elements aligned to existing aviation qualifications as part of your evidence to obtaining a Permission For Commercial Operation (PFCO):


Table 1 – Pilot Competency Criteria for Small Unmanned Aircraft Permission under ANO articles 94 and 95

When Should You Call For A Practical Flight Assessment?

Key Steps Of The Process

Key Steps Of The Process

A SUA Pilot, after successfully completing the theory element (Step 1) with an NQE or as part of a previous aviation qualification (Concessions); will develop their own operations manual (Step 2) and practice aircraft operation/flying skills for the practical flight assessment (Step 3).

At this point as a UK CAA R-NQE we can take you through your assessment (Step 4) and if successful we will make a recommendation to the CAA against their practical assessment criteria. This will form the final part of your evidence towards your application to the CAA for a PFCO (Step 5).

Each of the elements of the process A through G have guidance within CAP 722 and on the CAA Website. Or alternatively you could give us a call.

We would advise contacting us as early as possible in your development of your evidence for your PFCO.

For more about the assessment with AJSSL see here.

Or contact us if you have any queries.