What are A2 CofC & GVC Qualifications?

Sky Revolutions Academy Delegate piloting a drone
Sky Revolutions Academy Delegate piloting a drone

As professionals working with drones in different environments every day, operating safely is our top priority.

It goes without saying that our drone pilots are fully trained and qualified – staying up to date with all the latest drone regulations. But how did our pilot crew get to where they are now?

The mix of available qualifications can be confusing, so we thought we’d dig into the two main courses and help aspiring pilots to understand what they are and which you need.

Once you’ve read this and got to grips with them, head over to our Academy page and book the course that’s right for you!

Drone flight categories

The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) requires drone pilots to meet certain competency levels before operating a drone in the UK. This is simply to ensure drones are used safely in particular environments.

In the UK, the CAA has split drones into three main categories. These categories are based on the risk that the drone presents to ‘uninvolved’ people (people on the ground who have nothing to do with your drone flight).

The categories are:

  1. The Open Category, broken down into:
    • A1 sub-category (basic, low risk flying over people – not crowds)
    • A2 sub-category (more risk than A1 and A3, flying close to people)
    • A3 sub-category (low risk flying but flying far from people)
  2. The Specific Category (moderate risk flying)
  3. The Certified Category (high risk complex flying – currently in development)

Flying drones weighing less than 250g

Let’s start with the drone itself. If your drone weighs less than 250g, there are two main rules to know about:

  • If your drone has a camera, you must register as an operator and get your Operator ID, but you do not need to complete the Flyer ID test (although it is sensible to do so).
  • If your drone does not have a camera, then you can fly quite freely without an Operator ID or Flyer ID.

For more information about flying drones that weigh less than 250g, head over to the CAA specific page here.

We’ll assume that if you’re reading this then you probably already have your Drone Operator ID. If not, head over to this page at the CAA site to find out how you get one, and if you simply want someone to chat you through all of it, give us a call and talk to one of our pilots – we’re happy to help.

Flying drones weighing more than 250g

If you’re flying a drone weighing more than 250g, you must have an Operator ID and a Flyer ID. If you need help working out what type of drone you have, check out this guide from the CAA.

If your drone weighs between 250g and 500g, then you will need to hold an A2 CofC (Certificate of Competency) to fly close to uninvolved people.

And if your drone is between 500g and 2kg (like the DJI Mavic 2 for example) then you will need an A2 CofC and you will need to maintain 50m horizontal separation from uninvolved people.

What is the A2 CofC?

An A2 CofC is a certificate that allows drone pilots to operate their drones in the Open Category / A2 subcategory. The course itself culminates in a 30 question closed book exam which you will need to complete in 75 minutes.

Do I need an A2 CofC?

Drone regulations focus on the size and weight of your drone and the intended flight location, rather than the purpose of the operation – so think of your drone and the type of flight you need to undertake first.

Without an A2 CofC, a pilot can only fly drones weighing up to 25kg at a minimum distance of 150m from residential, commercial, industrial, or recreational areas.

What can I fly with an A2 CofC?

An A2 CofC grants you permission to operate drones weighing up to 2kg within the Open Category/A2 sub-category.

If your drone weighs 250g-2kg, an A2 CofC allows you to fly it no closer than 50m horizontally from uninvolved people.

In some cases you can fly over uninvolved persons, but you must never fly over a crowd of people. This is because in a crowded space, people are unable to quickly move away from an area of potential danger.

The A2 CofC is valid for five years, after this the certificate will expire. To continue operating in the A2 sub-category, you will have to complete the A2 CofC course again to obtain another certificate.

Remember, flying without the required IDs is against the law, and can result in a fine.

If you are intending to fly outside these parameters, you will need to operate in a different category or subcategory. This may mean you need another certificate, for example a GVC.

What is GVC?

You will need a General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) to apply for an Operational Authorisation from the CAA.

An Operational Authorisation allows you to operate within the Specific Category. This represents a higher risk than the Open Category, so you must have a GVC to demonstrate your higher level of competency.

A GVC is obtained following the completion of a GVC course and it’s your first step to being able to operate within the Specific Category.

Each Operational Authorisation that you get is issued following a safety risk assessment of your planned operation by the CAA.

Once a GVC and Operational Authorisation are obtained, you’ll have permission to:

  • Fly up to 400ft above ground level.
  • Operate a drone within 500m of its pilot.
  • Fly a drone weighing up to 25kg in built-up areas.
  • Operate enterprise drones up to 50m from uninvolved people.

Remember, you must keep constant visual contact with your drone without the aid of any equipment.

The GVC is valid for five years, after which you will have to complete the GVC course again to obtain a new certificate.

How do I get an A2 CofC or GVC?

Are you looking to become A2 CofC and GVC qualified? At Sky Revolutions Academy, we’re passionate about the future of the drone industry and are proud to be shaping new drone pilots into pros! We currently deliver the following two courses at our office at Littleport:

  • Two-Day A2 CofC / GVC course
  • Two-Day Aerial Imaging Masterclass for mapping, surveying, and photogrammetry

Our A2 CofC / GVC course includes theory, discussion, practical flight assessment and an A2 CofC exam. CDT (Commercial Drone Training) provides the training, and it is led by two of our most experienced instructors who work in the industry daily.

Sign up to Sky Revolutions Academy and learn more here.