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Do I need a drone license?

Do I need a drone license?

You want to fly a drone, but you don't know if something like a license is needed for a drone? You've heard about how drone laws have changed in recent years, but you don't know what that means in practice? You haven't found any reliable source that clearly explains what it takes to fly a drone in compliance with regulations?

As drone specialists, in this article we will explain in simple terms who needs to have a license on the drone and give practical tips how to get it. When you apply this knowledge, you will be sure that you are using your drone legally and will not face any unpleasant consequences. This information is especially useful for you if you fly a drone and use it for your business.

What are the types of drone licenses?

To get our vocabulary right we clarify - there is no such thing as a license, but a rating and it is given to the pilot, not the drone itself. Thus, if you obtain training, you can perform operations with any drone that meets the conditions of your authorization. In this article, however, we will use the statements license/authorization interchangeably, due to the popularity of these terms.

Flying a drone - the law of the drone

The rapidly growing number of drone users and the vision of creating a future space for autonomous delivery has led the European Union to decide to standardize the airspace for all member countries. The new regulations came into force, also in Poland, on 01.01.2021. To facilitate the process, the regulations were divided into transitional ones, which are intended to facilitate the adaptation of these changes to reality, and the proper ones, which are to come into force on 01.01.2024. Unless this date is postponed, because the pandemic made them delayed by a year (the original version assumed that the proper ones would already be in force).

przepisy latania dronem właściwe i przejściowe

Graphic: Duration of drone regulations. Source: own elaboration based on [2]

Currently, until the end of 2023, transitional provisions are in place.
The EU authority that sets these rules is EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency). In Poland, the Civil Aviation Office (ULC) reports on the regulations. From their site, you can access documents, materials and register as a drone operator and do one of the training courses. However, about this later in the article.

Can you fly a drone without a license?

You will find a lot of false and outdated information on the Internet about whether you can fly a drone without a license. Before the new EU regulations came into force in 2021, anyone who used a drone commercially, i.e. for a company, had to have a license. With the new regulations this has been abolished and now the obligation to obtain authorization depends on the weight of the drone or the complexity of the operation. Unfortunately, many websites still convey old information, also let's establish clearly - even if you use a drone commercially, having a license in some cases is not mandatory. Read on to find out what the regulations are for flying a drone.

Will I get my drone license online?

The regulations, in addition to the temporal division into transitional and specific regulations, also divide flights into two categories - open and special. You will do open category training completely online. Licenses for more complicated flights that fall into the special category must be made at the nursery.

Open category:

Applies to the most frequently performed flights, i.e. those that take place within the visual range of the operator with a flight ceiling of up to 120m. Basic A1/ A3 training is done completely online at the ULC website. It lasts about 20 minutes, and there are an unlimited number of attempts to pass if you fail.

Obtaining your A2 UAV pilot rating can also be done online, but it depends on the nursery where you do it. You can find a list of all authorized training centers on the ULC website.

Special Category:

Flying in the special category under an ULC permit or after one of the NSTS training courses completed at the nursery, you can fly a drone with more weight, closer to people, out of sight, FPV alone, etc. A special category for drones exists for more specialized applications. Take an interest in this topic if you know that your flights will not be held under open category rules.

Flying a drone without a license

infografika przepisy drony do 250g

Graphic: Flight rules for Subcategory A1 in light of transitional regulations. Source: own elaboration based on [1]

* A1/ A3 training not mandatory under transitional regulations. However, we recommend making them, as there is key information on the safety of flight operations.

Under the interim regulations, you don't need training or any licenses, if you fly a drone in the open category with a weight of up to 250 grams. Such drones fall into the A1 subcategory and are the most commonly purchased models, especially since even on such a lightweight flying craft there can be a 4K camera.

What you need to do to fly such a drone without a license is to register as a drone operator on the ULC website, and then mark your flying craft with an individual operator number, which was obtained. Observe the strictures, i.e., the flight ceiling must be max 120 m, and the flight must be within visual range. You have to fly in zones where it is allowed, and before takeoff, do a check-in on the droneradar app. Although you don't have to do the training - we recommend the free A1/ A3 course available on the ULC website. It lasts about half an hour and contains a lot of key information.

For all drones that weigh more than 250 grams, you need to do mandatory training. However, they are not expensive, and going through the training itself is relatively simple. See below for an explanation.

Flying a drone - regulations

We have discussed mini drones, so let's move on to the heavyweights. We will focus on the transitional provisions of the open category and its subcategories A2, and A3.

We'll start with subcategory A3, even though it's out of sequence, but you'll understand why right away. A3 authorizes drone flights up to 25 kg. To legally fly a drone in this subcategory you must:

- register as a drone operator
- perform A1/A3 online training

It is necessary to adhere to the restrictions, i.e. fly to a maximum of 120 m in sight,it is not allowed to fly over people and gatherings, and the minimum horizontal distance from people and buildings must be 150m. So if you know you'll be using your drone more in a remote area fly the A3 rules. However, if your drone is lower in weight and you want to get the most out of it learn more about the A2 subcategory.

Subcategory A2 is drones up to 2 kg, i.e. popular, more advanced devices such as DJI Mavic Air 2S, Autel Evo 2 Pro, DJI Phantom 4. In order to fly in subcategory A2, you need to do the same as in A3 and additionally complete the training, which is the following BSP Pilot Competency Certificate. This certificate entitles you to fly the described drones while maintaining a a minimum horizontal distance from persons of 50 m. So you can fly drones under the rules of subcategory A3, but if you want to get close to buildings and people, use subcategory A2, whose restrictions allow you to do so. Keep in mind that the drone must keep its weight to 2 kg.

infografika przepisy drony do 2 kg i 25 kg

Graphic: Flight rules for Subcategories A2 and A3 in light of transitional regulations. Source: own elaboration based on [1]

How much does a drone license cost?

Training costs vary from nursery to nursery. The price of a drone license for the open category is much cheaper than the special one. A1/ A3 training is free, and the A2 UAV certificate costs about £100. There are seven NSTS special category exams, with prices sniffing between £900 and £6800.

Penalty for flying a drone without a license - how much is it?

mandat za latanie dronem policja

Source: Image by storyset on Freepik

As everywhere, the amount of the fine for flying a drone depends on the offense. When you illegally use a drone, or fly in an unauthorized zone, you are subject to the amended Aviation Law, where penalties for violations range from PLN 350 to as much as PLN 15,000. This type of fine can be received for flying in a prohibited area, not having an operator sticker on the drone, or not having the proper credentials. Interestingly, a fine can be inserted not only by the police, but also by the municipal police, border police, etc.

It is worth remembering that flying a drone without the required license and proper knowledge involves the risk of endangering the health and lives of others. Getting a bystander injured by a drone accident is the worst thing that can happen. According to the Criminal Code, this is an "air traffic disaster," which can result in deprivation or restriction of liberty. We often encourage our customers to take advantage of third party insurance for drones. This type of insurance protects against damage through the fault of the Insured caused during the operation of an unmanned aircraft.


The change in regulations has taken place decidedly in favor of entrepreneurs, as using a drone in a company is even simpler and cheaper. Hobbyists and individuals have been forced to become more educated, but at the end of the day, the goal is to keep the airspace regulated and the risk of an accident as low as possible. You fly a drone up to 249 grams? Use the drone radar app and avoid zones that are prohibited. If your drone is heavier - do proper training. After applying the knowledge from this article, you will avoid any unpleasant consequences. We encourage you to take care of your safety others and their own, observing the relevant regulations. If you have any questions, we can assist you by phone and email. Our trained crew, will give you all the information and help you choose the equipment for your needs.

[1] COMMISSION DELEGATED REGULATION (EU) 2019/945 of March 12, 2019. on unmanned aerial systems and operators of unmanned aerial systems from third countries
[2] COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING REGULATION (EU) 2019/947 of May 24, 2019. on regulations and procedures for the operation of unmanned aircraft.

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