10. Make sure you know what your drone or model aircraft can and cannot do
Make sure you have read any instructions before you fly.
Key points to know are:
- how far your drone or model aircraft can fly from you before it loses signal
- how long your drone or model aircraft can fly before running low on power or fuel
If your drone or model aircraft has any of the following functions, you should know how to set and update them:
- Maximum flying height.
- A lost connection or ‘return-to-home’ function, which means your drone or model aircraft can fly back to you if there’s a problem.
- Geo-awareness software to help you avoid flying in certain restricted areas. Do not alter or disable this software if your drone or model aircraft has it.
11. Make sure your drone or model aircraft is fit to fly
Check fuel and battery levels
Take special care to check that fuel and battery levels will last through your flight. This includes any extra fuel you might need in an emergency or for flying in difficult weather, such as windy conditions.
Remember to check the battery power in the controller too.
Check any built-in software is up to date
The built-in software (called firmware) controls important navigation and flying controls. Depending on the type of drone or model aircraft you have, this could include:
- how your drone uses its power
- how your drone knows its position
- how your drone lands if there’s a problem
- in some cases, the latest information on flight restriction zones and other airspace restrictions
Keeping this software up to date will also help to protect against cyber attacks.
Follow the instructions to update the built-in software (firmware). Always check that the software has updated correctly before going flying.
12. Never drop, lower or fire anything from your drone or model aircraft while it’s flying
13. Never carry any dangerous cargo on your drone or model aircraft
You must never carry any cargo on your drone or model aircraft that could be dangerous to people, property or the environment if there was an accident.
For example, never carry:
- poisonous or corrosive cargo, such as acid or bleach
- flammable cargo, such as petrol or oil, apart from what the engine needs for that flight
14. Make sure any equipment is secure
If you plan to carry any equipment on your drone or model aircraft, you must not go over the maximum take-off mass (MTOM). This is the maximum safe weight your drone or model aircraft can take-off and fly with. It includes fuel and any items or equipment attached to it.
You can find the maximum take-off mass in your drone or model aircraft instructions.
15. Do not fly if the weather could affect your flight
Some of the things to look out for:
- strong winds could blow your drone or model aircraft off course or make it difficult to fly safely
- wind on the ground is often very different to the wind at height
- rain or other water, snow and cold weather could stop parts of your drone or model aircraft from working
- fog could mean you lose sight of your drone or model aircraft
- glare from the sun could mean you lose sight of your drone or model aircraft
- cold or wet weather could affect your ability to control your drone or model aircraft safely
- standing out in the sun could affect your ability to concentrate
Make sure your drone or model aircraft will work if the temperature is low
Follow the manufacturer’s guidance on the safe temperatures to fly at.
Some types of battery do not hold their charge as long in cold weather and this may reduce the amount of time you can fly.
16. Make sure you’re fit and safe to fly
Do not drink and fly
You must not fly when under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol will seriously affect your judgement and ability.
Do not fly under the influence of drugs or medicine
Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking medicines that may affect your ability to operate your drone or model aircraft safely. Do not fly if they advise that your ability to drive a car or operate machinery may be affected.
Do not fly if you’re tired or unwell
Your judgement and ability could be affected if you are tired or unwell.
Do not fly while you could be distracted by another activity
- do not fly while driving, riding or operating a vehicle or bicycle
- do not fly while messaging or making a phone call
- do not fly more than one drone or model aircraft at a time
17. Take action quickly and safely if the situation in the air or on the ground changes
Always be ready to land your drone or model aircraft or reduce your flying height and wait until it is safe to fly again. For example, you may need to land if a group of people or animals turn up in the area where you’re flying.
Low flying aircraft
Reduce your flying height or land as soon as you hear or see a low flying aircraft that may be affected by your drone or model aircraft.
Land your drone or model aircraft, or hover at a low level well out of the way, and wait until it’s safe to continue with your flight. If it appears the aircraft is attempting to land, you should land your drone or model aircraft immediately.
18. Report any dangerous incidents, near misses or suspicious activity
If you witness or are involved in a serious incident or near miss involving a drone or model aircraft, you must report the incident to the Civil Aviation Authority (opens the ECCAIRS SRIS service in new tab). You can choose to do this anonymously or you can give your details.
A serious incident includes anything that did, or could have, put any of the following in danger
- property, buildings, or equipment
The Civil Aviation Authority will use this information to monitor potential hazards and risks to help keep flying safe for everyone.
The Civil Aviation Authority website has more guidance on what must be reported (opens in a new tab).
Suspicious activity and mis-use
If you see anybody using a drone or model aircraft in a suspicious or dangerous way, call your local police on 101. If it’s at an airport, call airport security.
Retrieving your drone or model aircraft after a forced landing
If you make a forced landing or crash on private property, you must get the property owner’s permission before retrieving your drone or model aircraft.
This is especially important at sites where security services are likely to respond if you enter without permission.
19. Make sure you have the appropriate insurance
The insurance you need depends on the size of your drone or model aircraft and what you use it for.
Insurance for drones and model aircraft below 20kg
If you fly a drone or model aircraft that weighs less than 20kg for fun, recreation, sport, or as a hobby, you can choose whether or not to have insurance.
If you fly for any other reason, you must have third party liability insurance. For example, you must have insurance if you:
- get paid to take pictures or record video or carry out surveys
- use your drone for work, such as on a farm, park or estate
Although insurance is optional if you only fly for fun, recreation, sport, or as a hobby, remember you’re responsible for your actions. You could be held personally liable for any injury or damage you cause, so you may want to consider getting third party liability insurance.
Insurance for drones and model aircraft 20kg and above
If your drone or model aircraft is 20kg or more, you must always have third party insurance, no matter what you use your aircraft for.