Drones have risen to stardom as the ultimate gadget in recent years. As a result, they’re incredibly easy to buy and the choices are almost limitless. But as they’ve grown more popular, we’ve seen increases in disruptive and potentially dangerous drone-related incidents.
Subsequently, UK drone laws have had to continue evolving to ensure the safety of both drone users and the public. These regular changes, although well intended, can make it hard to keep up with what you can and can’t do with your drone. That’s why we’ve created this handy guide to the UK drone laws, so you know exactly where you can fly your drone.
Keep clear of airports and runways
Following the recent Gatwick Airport drone chaos, which disrupted around 1,000 flights to and from Gatwick in the run-up to Christmas, this law has never been more relevant. For obvious reasons, you can’t fly your drone anywhere near an airport.
Due to recent airport disruption caused by drones, it’s unsurprising that the government has decided to extend the area around airports and runways in which drones are banned from being flown. It is now illegal to fly a drone within 5km of an airport – a big increase from 1km.
These rules not only apply to large international airports, but also to small and military airfields, and it can be difficult to know where these are. If you’re unsure, refer to NoFlyDrones.co.uk, where you can view a map that details the exclusion areas around airports and airfields across the UK.
It’s not just airports that are off limits
Unfortunately, reading up on the UK drone laws doesn’t just stop at avoiding airfields and airports – there are other areas that need to be avoided at all costs too. The law instructs drone pilots to keep at least 50 metres away from people, vehicles and buildings, and at least 150 metres from congested areas and large gatherings of people. You can see why these rules make it tricky to fly anywhere at all in most cities, as there are people and vehicles everywhere you look.
So, where can you fly? You’re best looking for big, open areas such as parks and fields, although this isn’t necessarily foolproof either – even public parks can be limited by council bylaws. In London, for example, all of the Royal Parks are no-drone zones because of terrorism concerns.
If you’re ever unsure whether you’re allowed to fly your drone in a particular park or not, it’s best to err on the side of caution and not fly until you’ve checked the park’s bylaws with the local council.
Another no-fly zone to avoid is anywhere near a prison, after incidences where gangs used drones to supply contraband to the inmates.
Other rules to bear in mind
Now you’ve got the no-fly zones firmly in your mind, there are also some other rules and general safety tips to be aware of:
Flying your drone for personal use:
- If your drone weighs more than 250g, it must be registered.
- You can’t fly above 120 metres in altitude or 500 metres away from you.
- Ensure your drone is always in sight.
- Always keep away from aircraft and helicopters.
- If you intend to record in an area where people are, you must inform them before you start.
- It’s illegal to fly your drone at night.
If you use your drone for commercial purposes:
- No matter what the drone’s weight is, you need to register it with the CAA. You might think this doesn’t apply to you, but it even applies if you’re monetising your YouTube channel or personal blog.
- If you need to use your commercial drone at night time you need to get special permission from the CAA.
From 30th November 2019, pilots of personal drones that weigh 250 grams or more will have to take an online safety test as well to prove they’re responsible flyers. It will cover topics such as safety, security and privacy, so mark that date in your calendar!
If you use a drone for commercial reasons and you’ve brushed up on the rules that apply to you in this guide, the last thing to do is make sure you have commercial drone insurance in order to comply with CAA regulations. Get an instant quote with Insure4Drones today.
*Information correct at the time of writing.