Small unmanned aircraft are now widely available for commercial and recreational use. More popularly known as drones, they can cause injury or damage if they are not used responsibly and so are subject to safety rules, which are underpinned by UK law.
These regulations are shown below and there are some specific additional steps that must be taken if a drone is being flown for ‘aerial work’.
Anyone using a small drone needs to be aware of the regulations contained in the
Air Navigation Order, specifically:
A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger
any person or property
(1) A person must not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not
attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to
endanger persons or property.
(2) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if
reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
(3) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct,
unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in
relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the
purpose of avoiding collisions.
(4) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more
than 7kg excluding its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or
attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly the
(a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air
traffic control unit has been obtained;
(b) within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the
air traffic control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless the permission of
any such air traffic control unit has been obtained;
(c) at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in
airspace described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b) and in accordance with the
requirements for that airspace.
(5) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly the aircraft for
the purposes of aerial work except in accordance with a permission granted by
(1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the
aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in
accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.
(2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are:
(a) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
(b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than
(c) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the
control of the person in charge of the aircraft;
(d) subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.
(3) Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned
surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.
(4) Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small
unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in
charge of the aircraft.
(5) In this article 'a small unmanned surveillance aircraft' means a small unmanned
aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data
Article 255 of the Air Navigation Order provides the following definitions:
means an aircraft (other than a commercial air transport aircraft or a public transport aircraft) flying, or intended by the operator to fly, for the purpose of aerial work.
means any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight.
The Air Navigation Order defines a congested area as being 'any area of a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes'.
These rules have been established to provide a safe environment in which small drones can be flown without coming into conflict with manned aircraft and without risk to other people or properties.
You must be in possession of a Permission issued by the CAA before you conduct any aerial work with your drone.
Please see our
guidance about large unmanned aircraft (aircraft with an operating mass of more than 20kg).
The CAA is on occasion able to grant a temporary permission for aerial work to a commercial drone operator. This will depend on the evidence of 'pilot competency' that the applicant is able to provide and the location(s) where the filming is to take place. Each application is considered on its own merits.
Applications should be made on the standard form SRG 1320 and information should also be supplied about the scope of the operation and where and when it will take place.
In the majority of cases, only the 'standard' CAA permission is granted and this favours aircraft weighing no more than 7kg (15 lbs).
Any aircraft weighing more than 20kg (44 lbs) are subject to a more involved process and are more difficult to approve.
All applications should be made as far in advance as possible.
For full guidance on unmanned aircraft systems in UK airspace, please read CAP 722.
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