• Specific regulations that relate to drones (small unmanned aircraft)

    The safety regulations are mainly contained in Articles 94 and 95 of the Air Navigation Order (ANO) which is referenced in CAP 393.  

    These are safety regulations and do not encompass matters relating to privacy and security.  The ANO articles set limits on where drones may fly and whether they can be used for commercial purposes (commercial operations). The key ANO articles of relevance are: 

  • 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) If a small unmanned aircraft 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, the SUA operator must not cause or permit the aircraft to be flown, and the remote pilot in charge of the aircraft must not fly it-

    (a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic control unit has been obtained; or

    (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; 

    (4A) Paragraph (4) does not apply to any flight within the flight restriction zone of a protected aerodrome (within the meaning given in article 94B).

    (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) The SUA operator must not cause or permit a small unmanned aircraft to be flown at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface, and the remote pilot of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly it at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface, unless the permission of the CAA has been obtained.

    (2) This article does not apply to any flight within the flight restriction zone of a protected aerodrome (within the meaning given in article 94B).

    (1) This article applies to a flight by a small unmanned aircraft within the flight restriction zone of a protected aerodrome. 

    (2) The “flight restriction zone” of a protected aerodrome consists of the following two zones- 

    (a) the “Inner Zone”, which is the area within, and including, the boundary of the

     

    aerodrome; 

    (b)  the “Outer Zone”, which is the area between-

    (i) the boundary of the aerodrome, and

     

    (ii) a line that is 1 km from the boundary of the aerodrome (the “1 km line”).

    (3) In the circumstances set out in an entry in column 1 of the following table- 

    (a) the SUA operator must not cause or permit the small unmanned aircraft to be flown in the Inner Zone or the Outer Zone, and

    (b) the remote pilot of the small unmanned aircraft must not fly it in the Inner Zone or the Outer Zone, if the flight breaches a flight restriction set out in the entry in column 3 of the table which relates to that zone in those circumstances.

    Circumstances     Zone Flight restriction(s)
    There is an air traffic control unit or a flight information service unit (or both) at the protected aerodrome, and the flight takes place during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic control unit or flight information service unit.  

    Inner Zone or

    Outer Zone

      A flight at any height is prohibited unless the permission of the air traffic control unit or flight information service unit has been obtained.

    (a)   There is neither an air traffic control unit nor a flight information service unit at the protected aerodrome; or

    (b)   there is either an air traffic control unit or a flight information service unit at the protected aerodrome, and the flight takes place outside the notified hours of watch of the air traffic control unit or flight information service unit; or

    (c)   there are both an air traffic control unit and a flight information service unit at the protected aerodrome, and the flight takes place outside the notified hours of watch of the air traffic control unit and outside the notified hours of watch of the flight information service unit.

    Inner Zone

    (1) A flight at a height up to and including 400 feet above the surface is prohibited unless the permission of the operator of the aerodrome has been obtained.

     

    (2) A flight at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface is prohibited unless both-

    (a) the permission of the operator of the aerodrome has been obtained, and

     

    (b) the permission of the CAA has been obtained.

     
    Outer Zone     A flight at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface is prohibited unless the permission of the CAA has been obtained.

     

    (4) 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. 

    (5) In this article, “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 prescribed description.

     

    (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.


  • The difference between a drone and a model aircraft

    Before describing the differences, it is important to note that both can be classified as small unmanned aircraft and that the aviation regulations above, covering how and where they can be used, apply equally to both. 

    In terms of these regulations (the Air Navigation Order), a small unmanned aircraft 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.  When an unmanned aircraft weights more than 20kg, additional regulations come into play and recreational aircraft in this category are usually classified as large model aircraft.

    Recent technological advances mean that a much greater variety of small 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 regulatory terms, the only real distinctions made are that small unmanned aircraft used for commercial purposes, or those that are fitted with a camera (i.e. equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition), have additional requirements or limitations that restrict their use in certain circumstances.

    In practice, the vast majority of small 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.

    Police use of drones

    The Police use of drones comes under civil aviation legislation and their operators work under the same safety criteria applied to commercial permission holders. 

    ANO Article 266 allows the CAA to exempt operators from, or to change, the normally applicable limitations. Exemptions may on occasion be granted in exceptional circumstances in the public interest and when there is no major departure from the normally-accepted level of risk.  Due to their existing statutory powers, the Police already have the means to limit and control access at certain sites and events (accidents, cordons etc).

    Indoor use

    The applicability of the regulations with regard to flights within buildings has been clarified recently.  Under the CAA Act 1982, the Air Navigation Order is made for the purposes of regulating air navigation.  Flights inside buildings have nothing to do with 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 drones indoors should refer to the appropriate Health and Safety At Work regulations.