Tutorials |Understanding the UK’s drone regulations

HOW TO... Understanding the UK’s drone regulations

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Drone use is on the rise, but they’ve come under some recent criticism for potential safety hazards. In their latest guest post, the team at Heliguy explain the UK’s drone regulations.

The rules and regulations for drone pilots in the UK are not always the simplest things to follow. Confusion over who can fly and where is a common occurrence, especially with new drone users. It doesn’t help that there’s a lot of talk about the law, negative stories in the press as well as a lack of knowledge with the general public, all adding to the confusion.

In our previous post, we addressed who needs permissions to fly in the UK and how to get them. This time, we’ll look at the general rules drone pilots must follow to fly legally under the current regulations and talk about the new suggested regulations from the UK government.

Drone Regulations Explained

Drone rules and regulations are overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), a statutory corporation of the Department for Transport. Full details of the regulations can be found in the CAP 393: Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO).

The following are the main rules and regulations you must follow when flying your drone:

  • Always fly your drone within your visual line of sight
  • Fly your aircraft lower than 400ft (121m) and within 1640ft (500m)
  • Comply with the manufacturer’s instructions for your aircraft
  • Don’t fly within 150ft (50m) of a person, vehicle, vessel or structure that’s not under the control of the pilot
  • Stay at least 500ft (150m) away from built up and congested areas and never fly over them
  • Stay away from other aircraft, airports and airfields
  • Flights must not be reckless or negligent
  • Never takeoff or land within 100ft (30m) of a person
  • Never cause or permit an article to fall from your drone
  • Only fly if you’re reasonably satisfied you can do so safely
  • Legal responsibility is with the pilot

Exemptions from some of the rules may be obtained for pilots with a Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) however, an exemption must be granted by the CAA following their application process.

UK Air Restrictions on Drones

As well as the above, you need to ensure the area you’re flying is appropriate and legal. You must be aware of the following before flight:

UK Airspace – There are a number of restricted and prohibited areas when flying in the UK airspace. The following cannot be flown in Prohibited Areas, Restricted Areas or Danger Areas (military ranges etc.) Additionally, temporary restrictions may be put in place as Aeronautical Information Circulars or NOTAMs (Notice to Airmen).

Airspace can be checked on websites and apps such as notaminfo.com and skydemonlight.com. (These websites are advisory and not always absolute fact). The National Air Traffic Service (NATS) is the most suitable.

Private Land – If taking off or landing on private land, you must get the land owner’s permission. There are currently no laws against flying over private land as long as you follow the above rules however, you must ensure your flight doesn’t infringe on the land owner’s privacy and is not a nuisance or endangering in any way.

Bylaws and Restrictions – There isn’t a general rule for local and national parks and available permissions. Check the standard air permissions and directly with the owners. It’s becoming commonplace for national parks to include their drone rules on their website but if in doubt, phone or email directly and note the details of your conversation.

Upcoming UK Drone Rules

Following an announcement on the 26th of November 2017, the UK government have publicised their intentions to release a new Drone Bill in the Spring of 2018.

The bill is set to include drone registration for all aircraft over 250g (this includes DJI’s smallest drone, the Spark, a drone test for all pilots, police powers to ground and seize drones, mandatory use of apps and a complete ban of drones flying near airports or over 400ft.
A draft of the bill will be released in the Spring of 2018 with the full details.

Drone pilots need to work together to follow the rules and regulation set out in the UK. With the negative press about close calls and a clear focus from the government with the new regulations, flying safely and legally may be more important than ever.

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