Following on from my recent note on the potential changes to laws in the UK on Drones and their use (as highlighted in last month's Queen's speech) the following provides a quick checklist of do's/dont's when it comes to flying your drone for recreational and work purposes.  These essentially derive from the Air Navigation Order and the Civil Aviation Authorities powers in this field:

  1. Drones must be visible to you at all times (fly no higher than 400 feet and 500 feet horizontally)
  2. Keep your Drone away from aircraft, helicopters, airports or airfields.
  3. Use common sense when flying Drones.
  4. Drones with cameras cannot be flown within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or structures without specific permissions.
  5. Drones cannot be flown over sporting or music/other similar events or congested areas without specific permissions (no closer than 150m).

You will also sometimes need permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) even if you are flying recreationally.  Typically these permissions relate to the wish to fly Drones within a congested area or nearer to structures or buildings than currently permitted by the Air Navigation Order.

Public Authorities who wish to use Drones for continuous purposes may also need to obtain Permissions from the CAA or a continual Permission for repetitive use (i.e. traffic monitoring/incident assessment/local authority building maintenance).

Drone usage for commercial purposes generally requires Permission from the CAA (Permission For Aerial Work - PFAW) and will be subject to the individual operator in question meeting and adhering to stipulated criteria.  This typically includes:

  • an age stipulation of 18 or older
  • sufficient knowledge of aviation theory
  • flight assessment (usually run by a National Qualified Entity (NQE) rather than the CAA itself
  • basic procedures manual for the work to be carried out to be approved by CAA

The PFAW is typically in force for 12 months and must be renewed each year.  Insurance must be obtained for the work which is adequate given the risks involved.

Failure to adhere the CAA rules can have serious consequences.  Recklessly endangering an aircraft in flight can lead to a custodial sentence and criminal liability and the CAA may also prosecute for flying a Drone through restricted airspace.

Looking ahead additional legislation is likely in this area soon - probably bringing us closer to the US style registration system.