References to EU regulation or EU websites in our guidance will not be an accurate description of your obligations or rights under UK law.read more
What is an Unmanned Aircraft?
An unmanned aircraft (UA) is defined
as: Any aircraft operating or designed to operate autonomously or to be
piloted remotely without a pilot on board. Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 –
The CAA considers the following as
flying ‘objects’ rather than flying ‘machines’, and so do not fall within the
definition of an unmanned aircraft:
The safety regulations for
unmanned aircraft are primarily contained in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU)
2019/947 ‘The UAS Implementing Regulation’. A consolidated version
of the UAS IR can be found in CAP
1789A These are mainly safety regulations but they also cover
some matters relating to privacy and security. The UAS IR sets limits on where unmanned aircraft may
The Air Navigation Order 2016 ,
as amended, (ANO) also sets out some requirements
that apply to unmanned aircraft, and the most relevant ones are:
A person must not recklessly or negligently act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, or any person in an aircraft.
The term 'Aircraft' within article 240 refers to any aircraft which is not a small unmanned aircraft, as set out in article 23
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 remote pilot of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
(3) The remote pilot 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) Intentionally blank (articles removed)
(5) The SUA operator must not cause or permit a small unmanned aircraft to be flown for the purposes of commercial operations, and the remote pilot of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly it for the purposes of commercial operations, except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.
(1) If the permission or permissions that are required under this article for a flight, or a part of a flight, by a small unmanned aircraft have not been obtained-
(a) the SUA operator must not cause or permit the small unmanned aircraft to be flown on that flight or that part of the flight; and
(b) the remote pilot must not fly the small unmanned aircraft on that flight or that part of the flight.
(2) Permission from the CAA is required for a flight, or a part of a flight, by a small unmanned aircraft at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface
(3) But permission from the CAA is not required under paragraph (2) if-
(a) the flight, or the part of the flight, takes place in a flight restriction zone at a protected aerodrome, and
(b) permission for the flight, or the part of the flight, is required under paragraph (4) from an air traffic control unit or a flight information service unit.
(4) Permission for a flight, or a part of a flight, by a small unmanned aircraft in the flight restriction zone of a protected aerodrome is required-
(a) from any air traffic control unit at the protected aerodrome, if the flight, or the part of the flight, takes place during the operational hours of the air traffic control unit;
(b) from any flight information service unit at the protected aerodrome, if the flight, or the part of the flight, takes place during the operational hours of the flight information service unit and either-
(i) there is no air traffic control unit at the protected aerodrome, or
(ii) the flight, or the part of the flight, takes place outside the operational hours of the air traffic control unit at the protected aerodrome;
(c) from the operator of the protected aerodrome, if-
(i) there is neither an air traffic control unit nor a flight information service unit at the protected aerodrome; or
(ii) the flight, or the part of the flight, takes place outside the operational hours of any such unit or units at the protected aerodrome.
(5) In this article, “operational hours”, in relation to an air traffic control unit or flight information service unit, means the operational hours-
(a) notified in relation to the unit, or
(b) set out in the UK military AIP in relation to the unit.
(6) In this article and article 94B, “protected aerodrome” means-
(a) an EASA certified aerodrome,
(b) a Government aerodrome,
(c) a national licensed aerodrome, or
(d) an aerodrome that is prescribed, or of a description prescribed, for the purposes of this paragraph.
(7) The “flight restriction zone” of a protected aerodrome is to be determined for the purposes of this article in accordance with the following table-
A protected aerodrome which is-
(b) a Government aerodrome, or
(c) a national licensed aerodrome,
and which has an aerodrome traffic zone.
The flight restriction zone consists of-
(a) the aerodrome traffic zone at the aerodrome,
(b) any runway protection zones at the aerodrome, and
(c) any additional boundary zones at the aerodrome.
but which does not have an aerodrome traffic zone.
The flight restriction zone consists of the airspace extending from the surface to a height of 2,000 feet above the level of the aerodrome within the area bounded by a circle centred on the notified mid-point of the longest runway and having a radius of two nautical miles.
But if the longest runway does not have a notified mid-point, the mid-point of that runway is to be used instead for the purposes of determining the flight restriction zone.
(1) This article makes provision about the meaning of expressions used in the definition of “flight restriction zone” in article 94A that applies in relation to a protected aerodrome which is-
(2) Subject to paragraph (4), there is one runway protection zone for each runway threshold of each runway at the aerodrome.
(3) A “runway protection zone”, in relation to a runway threshold at the aerodrome, is the airspace extending from the surface to a height of 2,000 feet above the level of the aerodrome within the area bounded by a rectangle-
(a) whose longer sides measure 5 km;
(b) whose shorter sides measure-
(i) 1 km (except in the case of Heathrow Airport);
(ii) 1.5 km, in the case of Heathrow Airport; and
(c) which is positioned so that-
(i) one of the shorter sides of the rectangle (“side A”) runs across the runway threshold, and
(ii) the two longer sides of the rectangle are parallel to, and equidistant from, the extended runway centre line as it extends from side A out to, and beyond, the runway end to which the runway threshold relates.
(4) There is no runway protection zone-
(a) for any runway threshold at the London Heliport;
(b) for any runway threshold that is prescribed, or of a description prescribed, for the purposes of this paragraph.
(5) The “runway threshold” of a runway at the aerodrome is the location that, for the purpose of demarcating the start of the portion of the runway that is useable for landing, is-
(a) notified as the threshold of the runway, or
(b) set out as the threshold of the runway in the UK military AIP.
(6) The “extended runway centre line”, in relation to a runway at the aerodrome, is an imaginary straight line which runs for the length of the runway along its centre and then extends beyond both ends of the runway.
(7) An “additional boundary zone” is the airspace extending from the surface to a height of 2,000 feet above the level of the aerodrome within any part of the area between-
(a) the boundary of the aerodrome, and
(b) a line that is 1 km from the boundary of the aerodrome (the “1 km line”),
that is neither within the aerodrome traffic zone nor within any runway protection zone at the aerodrome.
(8) The 1 km line is to be drawn so that the area which is bounded by it includes every location that is 1 km from the boundary of the aerodrome, measured in any direction from any point on the boundary.
(1) The SUA operator must not cause or permit a small unmanned surveillance aircraft to be flown in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2), and the remote pilot of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly it in any of those circumstances, 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 SUA operator or the remote pilot 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 remote pilot of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the remote pilot 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.
Before describing the
differences, it is important to note that both can be classified as unmanned
aircraft and that the aviation regulations above, covering how and where they
can be used, apply equally to both.
Recent technological advances
mean that a much greater variety of unmanned aircraft are now available.
These vary from the ready-to-fly multi-rotor types that represent the
popular conception of a ‘drone’, through to the traditional kit or plans-built
model aeroplane or helicopter. A typical multi-rotor drone is heavily
gyro-stabilised and can use GPS for guidance in addition to acting on Radio
Frequency (RF) commands from the pilot. The traditional model aircraft
usually uses only an RF signal for commands from the pilot, requires much
greater pilot training and skill, and is flown only at specific recreational
sites away from persons and property.
In practice, the vast majority of
unmanned aircraft used for commercial work are of the camera-equipped multi-rotor
drone type. These vary in size and capability and, unlike traditional model
aircraft, are increasingly being used for specific purposes including
photographic flights in urban areas. This type of use can be unsafe and
present a conflict with other activities; the drone pilot must understand that
flight close to other aircraft, people or habitation and at outdoor events can
pose a real risk to public safety.
The Police use of unmanned
aircraft comes under civil aviation legislation and their operators work under
the same safety criteria applied to all other civilian operators.
Flights inside buildings have no
impact on Air Navigation because they can have no effect on flights by aircraft
in the open air. As a result, flights within buildings, or within areas
where there is no possibility for the unmanned aircraft to ‘escape’ into the
open air (such as a ‘closed’ netted structure) are not subject to air
navigation legislation. Persons intending to operate Unmanned Aircraft
indoors should refer to the appropriate Health and Safety at Work
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