Drone Laws In The UK

The use of drones is rapidly increasing in popularity, and the laws relating to the flying of unmanned aircraft are having to evolve quickly to keep up.  Currently anyone can fly a drone, as long as it weighs less than 20kgs and they are not using it for commercial purposes, but there are laws drawn up by the Civil Aviation Authority which must be adhered to when using unmanned aircraft.  However, these laws are being flouted either because people don't know what they are, or they are just ignoring them.  Four near misses between drones and civil aircraft were reported in October 2016 alone, and there are numerous videos on YouTube of people flying drones over towns, cities and football games.

In the USA it is now a legal requirement that all drones are registered with the Federal Aviation Administration, and it is likely that the UK government will follow suit, although when this will happen is not known.

The law currently states that drones must be kept within the pilot's line of sight, and must not be flown above 400 feet.  Drones must be kept away from aircraft, airports, airfields and all No Fly Zones. Drones should also be kept away from animals and livestock, as they can scare them and cause fatal consequences.  It was reported recently that a police horse bolted and crashed through a fence and died of its injuries after a drone was flown into its field.

It gets more complicated if the drone is fitted with a camera, as these are subject to privacy laws and even possibly the Data Protection Act if you are filming other people in public places.  Drones fitted with cameras must not be flown within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or structures, or within 150 of congested areas or large gatherings such as concerts and sports events.

UK Drone Laws can be summarised by the infographic below.



Alternatively there is a mnemonic spelling DRONE which may make the drone flying code easier to remember:

  • Don't fly near airports or airfields
  • Remember to stay below 120m (400ft) and at least 50m (150ft) away from people
  • Observe your drone at all times
  • Never fly near aircraft
  • Enjoy responsibly