• 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:

    • You are responsible for flying your model aircraft in a safe manner
    • You must keep the model aircraft in your direct sight at all times while it is flying, so that you can ensure that it does not collide with anything, especially other aircraft
    • You must not endanger anyone, or any thing with your model aircraft, including any articles that you drop from it
    • If your model weighs more than 7kg, additional rules apply if you fly in certain types of airspace and you must not fly above 400ft above the surface

    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
    aircraft:

    (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;
    or
    (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
    the CAA.

    (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
    1,000 persons;

    (c) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the
    control of the person in charge of the aircraft;
    or
    (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
    acquisition.

  • 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 CAP 658