• General airspace restrictions

    A number of airspace restrictions exist within the UK and these apply equally to both unmanned and manned aircraft. These areas are referred to as either: Prohibited Areas, Restricted Areas or Danger Areas. 

    Most of these areas are ‘permanent’, in that their restrictions apply at all times and they are marked on aviation charts but other portions of airspace may become temporarily restricted, either as a result of a longer term pre-planned event, or in reaction to a short notice occurrence, such as an emergency incident.

    Further details can be found in the UK Aeronautical Information Package (UK AIP) at the NATS Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) website.  General airspace rules and procedures can be found at section ENR 1.1, and specific ‘Navigation Warnings’ can be found at section and ENR 5. The table below describes which airspace restrictions apply to UAS. Some restrictions may be established at short notice, so UAS operators and remote pilots must check for any restrictions, every time they fly.  A number of  apps are available, such as ‘Drone Assist’ which can be accessed through the Dronesafe website.

    Although controlled airspace requirements (Class A,B,C,D,E) do not apply to UAS operating within the Open category (i.e. below 400ft/120m), any UAS operating above this height will, within the terms of the authorisation, be required to obtain permission from the relevant air traffic service provider. 

    Flight restrictions around aerodromes

    Flights of unmanned aircraft around aerodromes that are designated as ‘protected aerodromes’ are restricted. Unmanned aircraft of any size must not be flown within the Flight Restriction Zone (FRZ) of a protected aerodrome, without appropriate permission. 

    The Flight Restriction Zone consists of the following three elements:

    - A zone with the same dimensions as the Aerodrome Traffic Zone: A 2 or 2.5 nautical mile radius ‘cylinder’ around the aerodrome, extending 2000 ft above ground level, centred on the longest runway.

    - Runway Protection Zones: A rectangle extending 5Km from the threshold of each runway away from the aerodrome, along the extended runway centreline, and 500m either side - also to a height of 2000 ft above ground level.

    - Additional Zones: In the case where a line that is drawn 1Km beyond the boundary of an aerodrome extends beyond the Aerodrome traffic zone, and so would not be protected by it, the flight restriction zone will include a ‘bump’ (the airfield boundary + 1KM) to protect this part of the aerodrome.

    imageforuav page

    The exact shape of the Flight Restriction Zone varies depending on the specific aerodrome that it protects. Prior to flight, remote pilots should check to ensure that they are operating well outside these areas from the official sources:

    The interactive map below shows the all the aerodrome FRZs. 


    Other UAS mapping and planning websites exist, which also contain this information.

    The list of protected aerodromes also includes heliports, these only comprise the circular (ATZ) portion of the FRZ (and additional zones where applicable), and do not include runway protection zones. 

    In the case of a protected aerodrome without an ATZ, the FRZ includes an ATZ shaped FRZ, with a 2nm radius (regardless of the runway length).  

    Permission must be obtained from the relevant person before an unmanned aircraft may fly within a Flight Restriction Zone. This person is usually whoever is ‘in the Tower’ (i.e. an Air Traffic Controller or Airfield Flight Information Service Officer’. If neither of these are available, because the airfield has closed or there was no ATC/AFIS provision in the first place, then permission must be sought from the Aerodrome Operator. 

    Permission requirement: 

    Type of Air Traffic Control Service Within Aerodrome Operating Hours Outside Aerodrome Operating Hours

    Air Traffic Control (ATC)/

     Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS)

     

    Air Traffic Control or the Aerodrome Flight Information Service 


    (i.e. the person in the tower)

    The Aerodrome Operator

    (i.e. the aerodrome operations office)

    Air Ground Radio Service (AG)

    No form of Air Traffic provision at all

     

    The Aerodrome Operator

    (i.e. the aerodrome operations office)

     

    Airspace Access Reporting

    If you have been denied access to a portion of airspace, and feel that your request was not considered appropriately, you can report this to the CAA.

    Other considerations to take into account before operating

    The aviation regulations only address the flight safety aspects of the flight and they do not constitute permission to disregard the legitimate interests of other statutory bodies such as the Police and Emergency Services, the Highway Agency, local authorities or any other statutory body.  As the range and scale of unmanned aircraft operations continues to grow, statutory bodies are increasingly aware of how unmanned aircraft operations will affect their areas of responsibility and are developing specific policy, guidelines and byelaws.

    In many circumstances, the operation of UAS falls within the remit of non-aviation national legislation, and local byelaws, for example   public-order offences, ensuring pedestrian and vehicle rights-of-way, security and safety in public places and at schools, limits on recreational activities in public parks etc. 

    Unmanned aircraft operators should also be mindful of the requirements of Section 76(1) of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 in relation to trespass and nuisance, noting that they must comply, at all times, with the relevant UAS operating regulations. 

    Unmanned aircraft should be flown at a height over the property of another person which is ‘reasonable’ in all circumstances. Failure to do so could amount to trespass if the flight interferes with another person’s ordinary use and enjoyment of land and the structures upon it.