Drone Laws In The UK - 2019

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.  These laws have been further updated in 2018, following numerous near misses with civil and commercial aircraft, plus guidance on penalities for breaches of the law.

As of 30th November 2019, all drones above 250kg must be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority, and must not be flown until a series of online tests have been passed by the pilot.  Failure to register the UAV and pass the tests will become a criminal offence carrying a penalty of up to £1000.

Drones weighing more than 250kg must not be flown above 400ft, unless they are using FPV, in which case they may not go above 1000ft.  Drones must not be flown within 1km of airports, airfields and all No Fly Zones.

As guidance, drones should also be kept away from animals and livestock including horses, as they can scare them and cause fatal consequences.  There are increasing numbers of reports of horses being spooked by close flying drones, with riders being injured and horses being killed.

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