UK Drone Laws – What You Need to Know

Quadcopters and drones are undoubtedly awesome. These are small devices that can be flown anywhere and then used to get aerial photography, to perform stunts, or to annoy the neighbours and your pets.  Here’s some easy to follow notes on UK Drone laws you need to know to enjoy your craft and stay out of trouble.  Do watch out for dropping squirrels though.

What makes quadcopters really awesome though, is the fact that they let us do things that have never before been possible. With a quadcopter you can go places you’d never be able to reach on your own (such as the Whitehouse Lawns) and film anything. They feel like the future and as more and more of them start filling up the skies, the law is going to need to adapt and catch-up to keep them under control.

As it happens though, there are actually already a few laws in place that we can look to for guidance when flying drones in the UK. Here we’ll look at some of them and at what you need to know.

Where Can You Fly?

Recently, a TV-repair shop owner from Cumbria was the first man in the UK to be convicted for ‘dangerous flying’ of a drone in the UK. Specifically, he was fined £800 and ordered to pay £3,500 at the Furness District Magistrate Court after being prosecuted by the CAA. His crime? Flying over a nuclear installation and near the Jubilee Bridge. You can learn more here.
So are you in danger of receiving similar fines? Any laws pertaining to where you can and cannot fly are governed by the CAA – Civil Aviation Authority. Article 166 of the Air Navigation Order states that a person cannot fly within towns or near objects where collisions may be possible, causing injury. It also states that in general, the drone should remain within view of the pilot.

However, seeing as a lot of drones are FPV (First Person View) these days thanks to mounted cameras, there are exceptions for those devices that weigh less than 2.5kg.
That’s likely to apply to the vast majority of the drones you buy for fun, so you can most likely fly free without worry. What you can’t do though, is to fly within Class A, C or D airspace (among other areas). This includes airspace where air traffic control is needed for obvious reasons.
The video explains in more detail…

Again, this largely comes down to common sense and shouldn’t be an issue for most hobbyists. What’s more, is that a large number of drones include GPS fencing – meaning they won’t allow you to fly them in restricted airspace. Clever!
Another element of the Air Navigation Order states that you must not drop any live animals from your drone. So no stealing the neighbour’s cat! (Seriously, who does this apply to?)


With a device that can fly anywhere and film anything, privacy is also an issue. Here the rule is simple: you must not film or photograph people unless they are in public spaces where they might reasonably expect to be seen.
So if Cheryl Cole gets her bra off on a beach and your drone is passing by, you can sell that picture to the Sun and retire. But if you fly the drone up to the window in the hotel she’s staying at… then you’re breaking the law. Again, you probably knew that already!
Overall then, the laws here are pretty straightforward and most people don’t need to worry. If you have a toy drone and you’re flying it around the garden and maybe over a field, you can rest assured that no SWAT team will come crashing through your window…

A Quick Summary Infographic

UK Drone LawsInfographic Credit : Drone Guide UK


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