• 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
    • You must not fly at a height greater than 400ft above the surface unless permitted to by the CAA  - see further details below

    • 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 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.

  • 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

  • Article 94A - 400ft height limitation interpretation 

    In aviation terms, ‘height’ means the vertical distance of an object (in this case the small unmanned aircraft) from a specified point of datum (in this case above the surface of the earth). To cater for the few occasions where a small unmanned aircraft is being flown over hilly/undulating terrain or close to a cliff edge, the 400 ft height above the surface requirement may be interpreted as being a requirement to remain within a 400 ft distance from the surface, as shown in the diagram below. For the purposes of Article 94A, this is considered to be an acceptable means of compliance with the legal requirement.

    Remember that the limitation applies to ‘heights above/distances from’ the surface of the earth. It does not automatically apply to heights/distances from tall buildings or other structures: in such cases, an additional permission from the CAA will be required, which will invariably also require permission to operate within a congested area.

    The CAA recognises that a 400ft height limitation can be difficult to achieve for some aspects of model flying and we also acknowledge the good historical safety record that model aircraft flying has when operated under the ‘best practice’ offered through established model flying associations. In recognition of this, permission to operate above 400ft, under certain defined circumstances, has been issued to a number of UK Model Aircraft Associations for use by their members. Please contact your association or further details of the conditions within this permission.

    400ftrule

    Large Model Aircraft

    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 CAP658.