How to become a CAA Licensed Drone Operator for Hire

If you’re thinking of doing the studies required to become a licensed CAA drone operator for hire, so you can do commercial drone photography and video work, read on – because I’ve already trodden that path and may be able to offer some tips and advice.

Personally, how I became a CAA licensed drone operator for hire in Liverpool is a bit of a long story that has involved going from a drone photography hobby, to studying for CAA drone qualifications like PfCO, and then getting newer GVC and A2CoC that are the modern standard in the UK for commercial drone operators.

Here’s my back story but you can skip it if you like…

From hobby to running a drone photography business

I’ve been into photography from a fairly young age — my dad was a keen photographer and my mother dabbles quite a bit as well. But in 2006, when I was 33, a freak accident left me with a spinal cord injury — paralysed from the chest down and with impairments in my hand function. I thought that would be the end of my photography days but it actually opened up many doors for me.

Drone operator in Liverpool

After spending a while in hospital I went back to work in 2008, as a designer on a newspaper, but the whole company went bust in 2011 and I was made redundant. That’s when I set up my own web design business, Leeming Design, and picked up a client that does exterior building cleaning.

Around the same time I bought my first drone and my new client saw the photos I was taking with it, and asked me to take some drone photos of him working on a local hotel. I did the job but soon realised I’d broken the law because you have to be licensed and insured to do commercial work with drones — so that’s what I did.

Me working as a drone operator in Liverpool

How I got qualified as a drone operator for hire in Liverpool

My first qualification as a professional drone operator, back in 2018, was called Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO), issued by the CAA. It cost me about £1,000 and involved two days of studying at a hotel near Preston, followed by an exam.

The course was run by a company called UAV HUB, and run by a former RAF helicopter pilot who had started one of the UK’s leading drone schools. I later converted my PfCO across to the modern equivalent called General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC). I also hold the A2 Certificate of Competence (A2CoC) CAA drone license.

Learning from a former pilot has given me a high level of respect for the rules we have to follow as commercial drone operators carrying out all kinds of aerial work from drone roof inspections and surveys to building site updates and promotional video work.

All require a level of planning and safety, and having the knowledge passed on from someone who’s served as an airman in Iraq and Afghanistan was an insightful way to gain the drone qualifications I hold.

Working as a professional drone operator with a disability

Surprise surprise! Some disabled people have jobs. And as I’ve already mentioned — I have two! When I receive an enquiry for a drone job I get as much detail as I can so I can make the judgement on whether or not it’s something that I’m going be able to do.

The only jobs I avoid are ones which might involve extremely rough terrain, but I have regular clients in the construction industry and often work on building sites as you can see in the photo above.

So what can you expect to earn as a CAA qualified drone pilot?

I would say there’s no upper or lower limit to answer that question. For me it’s a part-time job that some months might make me a couple hundreds extra pounds but other times it can be really busy and bring in 5 or 10 times tat amount.

As a rough guide, though, here’s what you should expect to be able to charge for typical drone-related work and remain competitive:

Job Price
Domestic roof inspection £100 – £250
Commercial roof inspection £200 – £550+ (depending on your day rate)
Photo shoot with editing £300 for half day
Photo and video shoot with editing £550+ (depending on your day rate)


If you’re into drones and digital image/media production as a hobby, it can be a very rewarding experience to convert it into paid work. There are obvious hurdles like cost of studies/CAA licences and equipment, then building a website and marketing yourself to attract customers to your new drone business venture.

But get it right and you’ll be flying high!