• The regulations for recreational drone flights are contained within the Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) which is the primary document for all aviation regulations within the UK.  In order to keep the regulations at a proportionate level for these small drones, 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 drone in a safe manner
    • you must keep the drone 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 drone, including any articles that you drop from it
    • if your drone 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
    • If your drone is fitted with a camera, there are also a number of additional limitations surrounding where you can fly it, and how close you can fly it to other uninvolved people or objects. In order to be able to fly within these areas, or closer than the minimum distances that are in the regulations, you must obtain prior Permission from the CAA to do so.  

    How to apply for a Permission.

    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.

  • First Person View

    Drones that are fitted with video cameras often provide an opportunity to downlink ‘live’ video to the person flying the drone either via a mobile phone, tablet computer or other screen, or even through video goggles - this capability provides the operator with a pseudo ‘pilots eye view’ from the drone itself and is generally given the term ‘First Person view’ (FPV). 

    However, the law [at ANO article 94(3)] requires that the person in charge of a drone must maintain direct unaided visual contact with the aircraft which is sufficient to monitor its flight path so that collisions may be avoided.  This is obviously not possible if that person is wearing video goggles or otherwise constantly monitoring a display.  Therefore, FPV flight is only permitted if the activity has been approved by the CAA.  A General Exemption has been issued which allows an element of ‘First Person View’ (FPV) flight to be conducted.  

    Guidance on the exemption and the conditions that must be observed whilst employing this privilege.

    If you wish to conduct an FPV flight which cannot be accommodated within the terms of this General Exemption, then you will need to apply to the CAA for an exemption to do so.

    Note: Images captured by a camera and displayed on a flat screen afford the pilot little by way of depth perception and no peripheral vision. This can make it difficult for the pilot to accurately judge speed and distance and to maintain sufficient awareness of the area surrounding the aircraft to effectively ‘see and avoid’ obstacles and other aircraft.

    The use of FPV equipment is not an acceptable mitigation for Beyond Visual Line of Sight flight unless the relevant operator has received a specific approval to do so from the CAA.

    Indoor use

    The regulations make no distinction between flights made indoors or in the open; the whole safety criteria continue to apply.  Notwithstanding this, certain hazard factors are heavily mitigated by the fact that the aircraft is flying in an enclosed environment and access to the venue can be controlled.  People within the building, and who may be exposed to a hazard by the flight, should meet the criteria for ‘persons under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft’ or else have safety precautions taken on their account (e.g. safety netting, tethered drone, etc).  

    Minor indoor recreational use of a very small and light ‘toy’ drones is not generally regarded as having the same safety implications as for larger drones used outdoors.