Remotely controlled model aircraft have been flown for many years in the UK. These models tend to be scaled down versions models of real types of aeroplanes and helicopters. Many hobbyists tend to fly from specific, designated sites and as part of a club environment which is clearly the best way to learn and get most out of the hobby. However, ‘solo’ flight from other locations is also possible provided that the models are operated in accordance with the requirements of the law and are flown with respect to the safety of other people and aircraft.
The regulations for model aircraft flights are contained within the Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) which is the primary document for all aviation regulations within the United Kingdom. In order to keep the regulations at a proportionate level for smaller models, a set of specific, simpler, regulations apply to aircraft that have a mass of 20kg or less (which are termed ‘small unmanned aircraft’ within the ANO).
In simple terms, these regulations state that:
The full regulations are shown below.
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 commercial operations 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
Model aircraft with a mass of more than 20kg are termed ‘Large Model Aircraft’ - within the UK, large model aircraft may only be flown in accordance with an Exemption from the ANO, which must be issued by the CAA.
Full details on the process to be followed for Large Model Aircraft can be found in
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