We examine the most recent laws for drones in the UK, so you know all of the legal issues and rules surrounding flying your drone.
Be warned, we’re about to ‘drone on’ in depth about UK rules and regulations for drone flying. Fair warning, we also may make another bad pun in the process. But it’s worth reading on so you know just when it’s acceptable to fly your drone here in Britain, and when it’s not. That will mean you can avoid drifting onto the wrong patch of land and outside the realms of legal flying.
Here’s everything you need to know about drone flying in the UK. So if you’re a drone owner, a pro user or somebody who’s thinking of investing in one of these cool flying gadgets, this guide will help you stay right. Be warned, ignorance isn’t an excuse that’ll get you off for illegal flying, as it can be genuinely dangerous.
Drones laws UK: What drones are legal to fly?
As long as you’re flying a recreational drone, you’re abiding by the law in the UK. That means a drone that’s being flown for fun rather than one for work purposes.
If you are flying a drone for financial reasons, then you will need to obtain a licence to legally use it in the UK.
Drones laws UK: How do I fly legally in the UK?
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK has laid out some basic rules that make it pretty simple to know if you’re flying within the law. This breaks down into five simple points that conveniently spell out DRONE. Admittedly a couple are quite tenuous, but there you have it.
- Don’t fly near airports or airfields
- Remember to stay below 400 feet (120m)
- Observe your drone at all times – stay 150 feet (50m) away from people and property
- Never fly near aircraft
- Enjoy responsibly
That’s the basic overview, although in classic legal style, the rules are not quite that simple. You can check out the in-depth rules on the CAA’s website.
Drones laws UK: Where can and can’t I fly my drone?
The drone rules pretty clearly explain the no-go areas, although these are a little greater in number than they might, at first glance, appear.
As listed above, you can’t fly near airfields, airports or anywhere that aircraft are flying, as well as military bases or power stations. That’s not all, however.
Cities are an area where it’s tougher to find a spot to fly, with London particularly tight on rules these days. All eight of London’s Royal Parks, for example, are no-fly zones. Several Commons also don’t allow flights; for instance, Putney Common, Wimbledon Common and Clapham Common have banned drones entirely, although Hampstead Heath and Blackheath are fine with public drone flights.
Meanwhile certain districts don’t allow drone use at all, including Chelsea, Lewisham, Dagenham, Barking and Redbridge.
Some areas like Hackney allow drone use, although any users have to compelte a form first. Ilsington and Sutton also allow drone flights, although Lambeth allows it only if you have a commercial licence, even if you’re just flying for fun.
Going further afield, these rules can stick. The Peak District, for example, doesn’t allow flight and this extends to other National Trust lands.
So as you can see, drone rules and regulations are pretty complex here in the UK. The general rule is that on any private, or more accurately ‘owned’ land, you need to obtain the permission of the landowner to fly your drone. It’s even advised to check with your neighbour before flying your gadget in your garden, especially if your drone has a camera. Otherwise they may make an official complaint to the police.
Thankfully you don’t need to learn every spot you can and can’t fly off by heart, as there’s a handy app for that called the NATS Drone Assist. This shows all of the no-fly zones in the UK and even offers up ground hazard areas like schools, petrol stations, railway lines and more. This is available on iPhone and Android phones right now.
Drones laws UK: When do I need a licence?
Generally if you’re flying a recreational drone in the UK you won’t need to get a commercial licence to fly.
As previously mentioned however, some areas require a commercial licence even if you’re just a hobbyist. When it comes to camera drones this rule can be even more of an issue. Check out where you need a licence to fly your drone on the Permission for Aerial Work part of the CAA.
What you will be required to do in the UK is register your drone if it weighs more than 250g. While this rule has been announced by the UK government, it has not yet been put into force. Geo-fencing of your drone, so it physically can’t fly into no fly zones, may also be enforced in the near future according to UK government plans.