We summarise the latest drone laws and provide you with links to the relevant authority websites
July 30th 2018 Update:
It has been coming for a while but on July 30th 2018, drone laws were brought in to force by the UK government which sees penalties and even prison sentences come in to action to enforce drone regulations which were largely already in place.
The new laws have largely come in to force off the back of near misses with aircraft and safety concerns of large drones flying near to people and buildings. Whilst many of these rules were already in place, there is now potential for unlimited fines and up to 5 years in prison if the rules are flouted so be sure you understand your responsibilities and the limitations on drone usage in certain areas before you fly.
The government has been quick to point out that whilst they don’t want to dampen a growing industry, they do want to need to “protect planes, helicopters and their passengers from the increasing numbers of drones”.
The main changes to the law that have come in to effect as of July 30th 2018 are that you cannot fly within 1km of an airport and you cannot fly above 400ft anywhere – these rules were already in place but are now punishable by law.
The UK government have also announced that drone owners with drones that weigh over 250g will now be required to register with the Civil Aviation Authority – although you do have until November 2019 to do so. This means that drones such as the Mavic Air and Parrot Anafi will be required to register.
It is likely that the long awaited use of geofencing will be used to prevent drones from entering certain restricted areas – e.g. prisons and airports – essentially using the onboard GPS to prevent the drone from entering these protected spaces. In addition to this the government have announced plans for drones to be tracked when not airborne and that they will be wanting drone users to plan their flights in to an app prior to take off.
It is likely that there will be a further update to this law before the year is out – the good news is that the UK government seem to be trying to work with drone users rather than against them to come up with practical solutions that will not inhibit their use.
The article below was updated on 16th March 2018
UK Drone Laws Explained
Flying drones is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the UK. Add to that the number of commercial drones and of course all of the other air traffic in the United Kingdom and it is easy to see why we have one of the busiest air spaces in Europe. It is for this reason that the Civil Aviation Authority and NATS with the support of a number of aviation bodies have launched the Drone Code – a simple set of Drone safety rules that are to be followed by drone users.
The Drone Code can be found at dronsafe.uk and that is where you will find the most up to date drone flying laws for the UK. We advise you to use the Dronesafe website rather than our summarised set of laws here – but for your convenience here is a summary as of May 2017.
The Drone Code UK
The drone code is a simple code to follow to stay safe. Whilst it doesn’t include every law that you will need to know as a drone pilot, it will certainly help you and others to stay safe when flying your drone.
The basics of drone code are as follows:
Airports – Stay away from airports with your drone – do not fly anywhere near an airport.
Flying altitude – Always stay below 400ft (120m).
Stay in sight – always remain within sight of your drone and never get any closer than 150ft (50m) to other people or their property
Other aircraft – Never fly nearby any other aircraft (including drones)
Be responsible – Whilst enjoyment is encouraged you should fly your drone with the utmost responsibility for the safety of self and others
Drone Laws UK
Luckily, and in many parts thanks to drone owners being very responsible, their have been very few instances in the UK where people have been prosecuted due to negligence on their part.
Of course, as drones become increasingly popular, the legislation has needed to keep up as the potential for danger or risk is greater with the greater number of drones in our skies.
The UK law is now quite clear and Civil Aviation Authority has now produced a dedicated set of rules/laws for drones – no longer just classed as a small unmanned aerial vehicle (as they were previously).
The Dronecode will be sufficient for most people who are looking to use their drones for fun, but for those using them commercially there is a different set of rules which can be found here.
For most people, the Dronecode and some common sense will be sufficient – in addition to our Dronecode points above you should also:
- Ensure you do not fly your drone more than 500m away from you horizontally – in most cases you should get nowhere near this as your visibility of the drone would be minimal after around 200m.
- Camera equipped drones should be flown at least a 50m distance away from a person, building or vehicle that is not owned by the pilot.
- Drones that are fitted with a camera should remain at least 150m away from congested areas or areas that have large groups of people.
It is also important to note that as drone technology improves it is possible for these limits to be broken easily and unwittingly – and whilst many of the technological advances will actually help us to stay safe they will also allow us to break these boundaries if we are not aware of the limitations and taking relevant precautions.
Remember that above all, you as the pilot are the one who is responsible for your drone flight.
Where to fly your drone
If you are worried about flying a drone too near to an airspace that you think might be used by air traffic control then the Drone Assist app can be downloaded for iOS and Android mobile phones. This app has been designed by NATS and provides users with an interactive map showing which airspace is used by commercial airlines.
This is a fantastic solution if you are worried or asking if it safe to fly your drone where you are currently located or if you want to plan ahead.
If you are asking ‘can I fly my drone in my garden?’ then the answer is usually going to be no. Unless you have a huge garden that does is more than 50m away from another property then you are not going to be able to contemplate flying it there.
Large parks are another option for flying your drone but again you will need to ensure that you are not contravening the distance rules as provided above.
UK Government Drone Registration and Safety Test – Update 23rd July 2017
The Uk government has announced its intention to put forward a set of new legislation that will affect some drone owners in the United Kingdom. There is no date set as yet when they expect these new drone laws to come in to effect and they come off the back of negative press around the usage of drones for inappropriate uses.
As well as the concerns over busy skies being filled with an ever increasing number of drones, the UK government is concerned over the use of drones for other uses, including the delivery of packages to inmates in prisons and also concerns over possible use of drones in terror related crimes. The new legislation would mean that drone manufacturers would have to extend the use of geo-fencing which prevents drones from entering certain types of airspace. This is likely to include extensions to restricted airspace around airports and will almost definitely prevent drones from flying within a few kilometres of prisons. Imagine a GoPro Quadcopter over a prison and getting footage from the inside or even dropping parcels in for the prisoners!
DJI, one of the largest drone manufacturers in the world has already reacted positively to the announcement and has all of the tech in place already to comply with the intended changes.
The impact on drone owners is that anyone owning a drone weighing more than 250g will have to take a safety course and register their drone. This makes perfect sense and will put the UK in line with other major European countries and the US where drone laws are a lot less lax than in the UK.
It is worth noting that the US had drone registration laws overturned in court where they were challenged, although it is expected that UK owners will be happy to comply given the focus on public safety that this new legislation will promote. In the US all drone users have to register with the FAA (at a cost of around $5) to be able to fly outdoors. These laws also expressly forbid drones to be flown by kids. Anyone under the age of 16 is not allowed to fly.
We will bring you updates on this news as and when we get it, however for now, the drone laws on this page are still in force.
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