UK Drone Regulations
With the news of the proposed drone registration and training in the UK, we wanted to give our readers a clear overview of the current regulation in place for drone pilots, focussing on recreational users. Rules can differ for commercial users. If you’re looking for information on how to get a drone license – you can find it here.
In the UK, the use of UAVs including drones is overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), a statutory corporation of the Department of Transport who regulate all civil aviation.
The information is detailed in CAP 393: The Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) and Regulations.
With the huge increase in drone users in the UK who are contributing to the busy skies, the CAA and NATS developed dronesafe.uk. The website gives pilots a clearer understanding of the regulations they must adhere to legally fly their aircraft within the Drone code. The Drone code is a simplified version of the regulations to be followed by all hobbyists unless specific permissions are granted.
The Drone Code
The Drone code states the following:
- Always keep your drone in sight to ensure you can see and avoid anything while flying
- Stay below 400ft (120m) to reduce the likelihood of an encounter with a manned aircraft
- Keep the aircraft within 1640ft (500m) of the pilot
- Always comply with the manufacturer’s instructions for your aircraft
- Always stay 150ft (50m) away from people and property
- Always stay 500ft (150m) away built up and congested areas and never fly over them
- Stay away from other aircraft, airports and airfields. If you endanger another aircraft you can face up to five years in prison
- Legal responsibility is with the pilot. This includes reckless or negligent flight. Failure to fly responsibly may result in criminal prosecution
There are several other rules you must observe to ensure your drone is flown legally:
- Never cause or permit an article to fall from your aircraft, even if using a parachute
- The pilot may only fly if they’re reasonably satisfied they can do so safely
- The pilot must maintain direct and unaided visual contact with the aircraft
- Unless granted CAA permission, a pilot who has a camera on their aircraft is not able to do the following:
- Fly over or within 500ft (150m) of an organised open-air assembly where 1000+ people are in attendance
- Fly within 150ft (50m) of any vessel, vehicle or structure that’s not under the control of the pilot
- Take-off or land within 100ft (30m) of any person
Permission and exemptions from the regulations set out by the CAA can be requested. This can be done through the CAA’s website. You will need to provide information about your drone, your competency and skill as a pilot by passing a flight test and create an Operations Manual and Operating Safety Case. Full details are contained in the CAA’s CAP 722.
If your aircraft exceeds 7kg in weight, inclusive of equipment etc., you must also comply with the following:
- Not fly in Class A, C, D or E airspace without the air traffic controller’s permission
- Not fly in an aerodrome traffic zone within the hours of watch unless the air traffic controller’s permission is received
UK Airspace Permissions
Further to the above regulations, drone pilots must also follow UK airspace permissions. These come in several different forms that apply to UAVs that include Prohibited Areas, Restricted Areas or Danger Areas (military ranges etc).
There are also areas that can be temporarily restricted for long or short terms which will be announced in Aeronautical Information Circulars or NOTAMs (Notice to Airmen).
Several apps and websites are available to check airspace permissions and updates for the UK. Heliguy would recommend the following to keep up to date with the information:
These apps and websites are to be used as advisory and not absolute fact.
Flying on Private Land
Permission must be obtained from the land owner to take off or land on their property. There are no current laws in relation to flying over private property, however, it’s recommended that the land owner is notified and any objections are listened to. Pilots may also be liable if the property owner feels their privacy is being infringed upon, the aircraft is being a ‘nuisance’ or ‘endangering’, or if the aircraft doesn’t have sufficient documentation to prove its airworthiness such as a warranty.
Local Bylaws and Flight Restrictions
There isn’t a blanket rule for local or national parks. If an area is controlled by the UK airspace permissions, follow the standard rules. If not, it’s always best to check with the land owner on their website or by phone. If able to fly, ensure the CAA regulations are followed.
DJI No Fly Zone
DJI have incorporated a No Fly Zone (NFZ) feature as an added safety measure for all of their aircraft. The NFZ uses the drone’s GPS signal to prevent pilots flying within these zones.
The NFZ are split into A Zone for international airports and B Zone for smaller airports. Within these zones, flight is not possible and height restrictions are put on the outer areas. Warnings will also appear before entering both the zones. If entered with no signal, the aircraft will automatically land.
Permissions for Commercial Operation (PfCO)
If you’re planning on profiting from your drone, you must become an approved commercial drone operator. This is done by undertaking a training course with a CAA NQE in order to obtain permissions.
For more information or to book a course please click here.
It’s important that all drone pilots follow the regulations in their country, fly sensibly and responsibly. Make sure all pilots do their research and follow the drone code and they should avoid any issues.
David is Heliguy’s Blogger and Head of Digital Content Production. David keeps our readers up to date with drone news within the ever-changing industry.