Differences between a drone pilot and a drone operator

Many people think that a drone pilot and a drone operator are basically the same and have the same skills, but this is not the case. Both can fly a drone, but there are some differences that are worth pointing out and this post will try to clarify them.

That is why, if you have considered taking a drone pilot course and focusing your professional career on the world of unmanned aircraft, you will learn in detail all the particularities of the drone pilot and the drone operator to be able to better decide your future career.

Drone pilot

A drone pilot is a person who has all the theoretical and practical knowledge of drone flight and holds a valid certificate issued by AESA. He/she is able to design, plan and execute a drone operation within the category in which he/she can fly the aircraft.

Drone pilots must be at least 18 years old, hold a valid aeronautical medical certificate and have passed the relevant theoretical and practical exams.

Before the new European regulations came into force, it was not necessary to have an official certificate to fly drones for recreational purposes, you only had to do so in permitted areas, but nowadays, anyone who wants to fly a drone, regardless of its purpose, must have a certificate. In addition, new legislation delimits the geographical areas in which drones can and cannot be flown.

Nowadays, any drone pilot who wants to become a professional drone pilot must be registered as a drone operator or work for a company in the sector that complies with the current legislation related to drone pilots. 

In short, to become a drone pilot you need to meet the following requirements:

– You must be at least 18 years old.

– You must have completed at least one theoretical and practical course at basic levels A1, A3 and A2.

– Obtain the certificate corresponding to the levels taken.

– Obtain a Class 2 or LAPL medical certificate.

– You can only work for one operating company.

Drone operator


A drone operator is someone who flies drones professionally, either on their own, setting up their own company or as a freelancer working for any client who wants to hire them.

If you register as a drone operator, you have to meet a number of important requirements. These are: 

– Hold a drone pilot certificate of at least the basic levels.

– Draw up an aeronautical study detailing the activities you are going to carry out.

– Fill in an A1 and A2 appendix.

– Draw up an operations manual with the different configurations, safety measures, maintenance manual, steps to follow, records and any other information related to the drones that the pilot is going to use and the activity that he/she is going to carry out.

– Document accrediting the drone or drones to be used in the work activity.

– Civil liability insurance.

– Establish a company or be registered with the tax authorities as a self-employed professional.

If you do not comply with these requirements, the administrative penalties can be very high, so it is essential to invest the necessary time in complying with them before starting your career.

Differences between drone pilot and drone operator

The basic difference between a drone pilot and a drone operator is the activity to be performed and the remuneration, i.e. whether you are a professional or not. Even if a person has the official drone pilot certificate, it does not mean that he or she is a professional and offers his or her services to other companies. 

If you want to take that step, then you will have to register as a drone operating company, or as a self-employed professional with AESA (Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aérea), which is the body in Spain in charge of everything related to drones.

If you still have any doubts, with the example we are going to explain below, we are sure they will be dispelled. In Spain, if you want to drive a car, you need a driving license issued by the General Directorate of Traffic (Dirección General de Tráfico). With this license, you can drive a number of vehicles. If you decide to drive others, you will have to obtain another license. However, if you want to be a professional driver, i.e. a taxi driver, lorry driver or something similar, you must work for a company or be registered as a self-employed professional in order to be able to drive without breaking the law.

As you can see, although it may seem like a minimal difference, there are important nuances between a drone pilot and a drone operator. If you want to be a professional (drone operator) you will have to meet many more requirements than if you just want to fly drones. If you have any doubts, contact us and discover all the drone pilot courses that we offer and that will help you to become a recognized drone operator.

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