UK drone regulations

Knowing the law helps you understand your rights while flying drones

Our introductory video below gives a very basic, simplified, version of the rules.

UK air law is governed by ‘The Air Navigation Order 2016’ (ANO) issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).  Unfortunately it is not as simple as reading the ANO 2016 and understanding it because the CAA has issued several amendments to the ANO since 2016.  Some of these amendments are applicable immediately, some become active at future dates.

CAP 1763 – Air Navigation Order 2018 and 2019 Amendments (published 20th February 2019) explains the 2018 and 2019 changes to the ANO 2016.

To understand the law you must take the ANO 2016 and then merge these amendments in (depending on the date) to form one text.  The text below embodies both sets of amendments.

The main items covered by the 2018 and 2019 amendments are:

  • New flight restriction zones for small unmanned aircraft (SUA) near aerodromes that are effective from 13 March 2019 (the 2019 amendment). The new ‘no-fly zone’ areas now apply to all small unmanned aircraft of any mass, and are active at all times.
  • A requirement for SUA operators to register and do a competency test. This will be effective from 30 November 2019 (the 2018 amendment).

 

Watch our unmanned aircraft safety video Watch our unmanned aircraft safety video

RC models and drones fall under “Small Unmanned Aircraft” and in some cases “Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft” and as such are exempt from the vast majority of the Air Navigation Order. The articles that do apply are: 2, 91, 92, 93, 94, 94A, 94B, 94C, 94D, 94E, 94F, 94G, 95, 239, 241 and 257 (except 257(2)(a)).

Articles 253 (Revocation, suspension and variation of certificates, licences and other documents), 265 (Offences and penalties), 266 (Exemption from Order) and 269 (Certificates, authorisations, approvals and permissions) also apply to the article mentioned above. This is all specified in article 23 of the ANO.

The following five articles are not usually relevant to radio control operations and paraphrased descriptions are included here only for completeness – please review the ANO document if you would like to read them in full.

  • 2

    Schedule 1 (interpretation) has effect.

  • 91

    Dropping for the purposes of agriculture

  • 92

    A glider must not be winched or ground towed above 60 metres

  • 93

    Release of small balloons.

  • 239

    Power to prohibit or restrict flying

  • 257*

    CAA’s power to stop flying
    * Except 257(2)(a)

Meaning of “commercial operation”

  • 7

    For the purposes of this Order, “commercial operation” means any flight by a small unmanned aircraft except a flight for public transport, or any operation of any other aircraft except an operation for public transport—

    • (a)

      which is available to the public—

      • (i)

        in the case of a flight by a small unmanned aircraft, is performed under a contract between the SUA operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the remote pilot; or

      • (ii)

        in any other case; or

    • (b)

      which, when not made available to the public, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator, in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.

Small Unmanned Aircraft: requirements

  • 94(1)

    A person must not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons or property.

  • (2)

    The remote pilot of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.

  • (3)

    The remote pilot of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.

  • (4)

    Intentionally blank (articles removed)

  • (5)

    The SUA operator must not cause or permit a small unmanned aircraft to be flown for the purposes of commercial operations, and the remote pilot of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly it for the purposes of commercial operations, except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.

Small unmanned aircraft: permission for certain flights

  • 94A(1)

    If the permission or permissions that are required under this article for a flight, or a part of a flight, by a small unmanned aircraft have not been obtained—

    • (a)

      the SUA operator must not cause or permit the small unmanned aircraft to be flown on that flight or that part of the flight; and

    • (b)

      the remote pilot must not fly the small unmanned aircraft on that flight or that part of the flight.

  • (2)

    Permission from the CAA is required for a flight, or a part of a flight, by a small unmanned aircraft at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface

  • (3)

    But permission from the CAA is not required under paragraph (2) if—

    • (a)

      the flight, or the part of the flight, takes place in a flight restriction zone at a protected aerodrome, and

    • (b)

      permission for the flight, or the part of the flight, is required under paragraph (4) from an air traffic control unit or a flight information service unit.

  • (4)

    Permission for a flight, or a part of a flight, by a small unmanned aircraft in the flight restriction zone of a protected aerodrome is required—

    • (a)

      from any air traffic control unit at the protected aerodrome, if the flight, or the part of the flight, takes place during the operational hours of the air traffic control unit;

    • (b)

      from any flight information service unit at the protected aerodrome, if the flight, or the part of the flight, takes place during the operational hours of the flight information service unit and either—

      • (i)

        there is no air traffic control unit at the protected aerodrome, or

      • (ii)

        the flight, or the part of the flight, takes place outside the operational hours of the air traffic control unit at the protected aerodrome;

    • (c)

      from the operator of the protected aerodrome, if—

      • (i)

        there is neither an air traffic control unit nor a flight information service unit at the protected aerodrome; or

      • (ii)

        the flight, or the part of the flight, takes place outside the operational hours of any such unit or units at the protected aerodrome.

  • (5)

    In this article, “operational hours”, in relation to an air traffic control unit or flight information service unit, means the operational hours—

    • (a)

      notified in relation to the unit, or

    • (b)

      set out in the UK military AIP in relation to the unit.

  • (6)

    In this article and article 94B, “protected aerodrome” means—

    • (a)

      an EASA certified aerodrome,

    • (b)

      a Government aerodrome,

    • (c)

      a national licensed aerodrome, or

    • (d)

      an aerodrome that is prescribed, or of a description prescribed, for the purposes of this paragraph.

  • (7)

    The “flight restriction zone” of a protected aerodrome is to be determined for the purposes of this article in accordance with the following table—

Type of protected aerodrome The ‘flight restriction zone’
A protected aerodrome which is—
(a) an EASA certified aerodrome,
(b) a Government aerodrome, or
(c) a national licensed aerodrome,
and which has an aerodrome traffic zone.
The flight restriction zone consists of—
(a) the aerodrome traffic zone at the aerodrome,
(b) any runway protection zones at the aerodrome,
and
(c) any additional boundary zones at the
aerodrome.
A protected aerodrome which is—
(a) an EASA certified aerodrome,
(b) a Government aerodrome, or
(c) a national licensed aerodrome,
but which does not have an aerodrome traffic zone.
The flight restriction zone consists of the airspace
extending from the surface to a height of 2,000
feet above the level of the aerodrome within the
area bounded by a circle centred on the notified
mid-point of the longest runway and having a radius
of two nautical miles.
But if the longest runway does not have a notified
mid-point, the mid-point of that runway is to be
used instead for the purposes of determining the
flight restriction zone.
A protected aerodrome that is prescribed, or of a
description prescribed, under paragraph (6)(d).
The flight restriction zone consists of the zone that
is prescribed for the purposes of this paragraph.

 

Interpretation of expressions used in the definition of “flight restriction zone”

  • 94B(1)

    This article makes provision about the meaning of expressions used in the definition of “flight restriction zone” in article 94A that applies in relation to a protected aerodrome which is—

    • (a)

      an EASA certified aerodrome,

    • (b)

      a Government aerodrome, or

    • (c)

      a national licensed aerodrome, and which has an aerodrome traffic zone.

  • (2)

    Subject to paragraph (4), there is one runway protection zone for each runway threshold of each runway at the aerodrome.

  • (3)

    A “runway protection zone”, in relation to a runway threshold at the aerodrome, is the airspace extending from the surface to a height of 2,000 feet above the level of the aerodrome within the area bounded by a rectangle—

    • (a)

      whose longer sides measure 5 km;

    • (b)

      whose shorter sides measure—

      • (i)

        1 km (except in the case of Heathrow Airport);

      • (ii)

        1.5 km, in the case of Heathrow Airport; and

    • (c)

      which is positioned so that—

      • (i)

        one of the shorter sides of the rectangle (“side A”) runs across the runway threshold, and

      • (ii)

        the two longer sides of the rectangle are parallel to, and equidistant
        from, the extended runway centre line as it extends from side A out to, and beyond, the runway end to which the runway threshold relates.

  • (4)

    There is no runway protection zone—

    • (a)

      for any runway threshold at the London Heliport;

    • (b)

      for any runway threshold that is prescribed, or of a description prescribed, for the purposes of this paragraph.

  • (5)

    The “runway threshold” of a runway at the aerodrome is the location that, for the purpose of demarcating the start of the portion of the runway that is useable for landing, is—

    • (a)

      notified as the threshold of the runway, or

    • (b)

      set out as the threshold of the runway in the UK military AIP

  • (6)

    The “extended runway centre line”, in relation to a runway at the aerodrome, is an imaginary straight line which runs for the length of the runway along its centre and then extends beyond both ends of the runway.

  • (7)

    An “additional boundary zone” is the airspace extending from the surface to a height of 2,000 feet above the level of the aerodrome within any part of the area between—
    (a) the boundary of the aerodrome, and
    (b) a line that is 1 km from the boundary of the aerodrome (the “1 km

    • (a)

      the boundary of the aerodrome, and

    • (b)

      a line that is 1 km from the boundary of the aerodrome (the “1 km line”), that is neither within the aerodrome traffic zone nor within any runway protection zone at the aerodrome.

  • (8)

    The 1 km line is to be drawn so that the area which is bounded by it includes every location that is 1 km from the boundary of the aerodrome, measured in any direction from any point on the boundary.

Certain small unmanned aircraft: registration of SUA operator

  • 94C(1)

    Subject to the following provisions of this article, the CAA must issue a certificate of registration as an SUA operator to a person, or renew that person’s certificate of registration as an SUA operator, if the person—

    • (a)

      has applied to the CAA, in such manner as the CAA may require, to be registered as an SUA operator,

    • (b)

      has supplied such information and evidence as the CAA may require, and

    • (c)

      has, in the case of an individual, attained the age (if any) that is prescribed.

  • (2)

    Subject to paragraph (3), a certificate of registration may relate—

    • (a)

      to a particular description of small unmanned aircraft;

    • (b)

      to a particular description of flights by small unmanned aircraft.

  • (3)

    No certificate of registration is to be issued in relation to—

    • (a)

      small unmanned aircraft with a mass of less than 250 grams without their fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of their flight, or

    • (b)

      flights by small unmanned aircraft of that description.

  • (4)

    A certificate of registration issued, or renewed, under this article is valid for the period shown on the certificate, subject to—

    • (a)

      article 253, or

    • (b)

      the SUA operator notifying the CAA, in such manner as the CAA may require, that the SUA operator surrenders the certificate.

  • (5)

    The CAA is not required to accept applications for certificates of registration under this article before 1st October 2019.

Certain small unmanned aircraft: requirement for registration as SUA operator (effective 30 November 2019)

  • 94D(1)

    This article applies to a flight by a small unmanned aircraft only if it has a mass of 250 grams or more without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight.

  • (2)

    The SUA operator must not cause or permit the small unmanned aircraft to be flown unless—

    • (a)

      the CAA has issued the SUA operator with a certificate of registration which is valid for that flight at the time of the flight, and

    • (b)

      the SUA operator’s registration number is displayed on the aircraft in the manner (if any) that is prescribed.

  • (3)

    The remote pilot of the small unmanned aircraft must not fly it unless the remote pilot has reasonably formed the view that the SUA operator complies with the requirements in paragraph (2) in relation to that flight.

  • (4)

    In this article—

  • “certificate of registration” means a certificate issued under article 94C;

  • “registration number” means the ten digit registration number assigned by the CAA in relation to an SUA operator’s registration under article 94C.

Certain small unmanned aircraft: competency of remote pilots

  • 94E(1)

    Subject to the following provisions of this article, the CAA must issue an acknowledgement of competency to an individual, or renew that individual’s acknowledgement of competency, if the individual—

    • (a)

      has applied to the CAA, in such manner as the CAA may require, for an acknowledgement of competency,

    • (b)

      has supplied such information and evidence as the CAA may require,

    • (c)

      has undertaken such training as the CAA may require, and

    • (d)

      has undergone such tests as the CAA may require.

  • (2)

    That training or those tests may relate to matters which include—

    • (a)

      the practical operation of small unmanned aircraft;

    • (b)

      matters connected with the operation of small unmanned aircraft (such as respect for privacy, data protection, safety, security and environmental protection).

  • (3)

    Subject to paragraph (4), an acknowledgement of competency may relate—

    • (a)

      to a particular description of small unmanned aircraft;

    • (b)

      to a particular description of flights by small unmanned aircraft.

  • (4)

    No acknowledgement of competency is to be issued in relation to—

    • (a)

      small unmanned aircraft with a mass of less than 250 grams without their fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of their flight, or

    • (b)

      flights by small unmanned aircraft of that description.

  • (5)

    An acknowledgement of competency issued, or renewed, under this article is valid for the period shown on the acknowledgement, subject to article 253.

  • (6)

    The CAA may issue an acknowledgement of competency subject to such conditions as it deems appropriate.

  • (7)

    The CAA is not required to accept applications for acknowledgements of competency under this article before 1st October 2019.

Certain small unmanned aircraft: requirement for acknowledgement of competency (effective 30 November 2019)

  • 94F(1)

    This article applies to a flight by a small unmanned aircraft only if it has a mass of 250 grams or more without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight.

  • (2)

    The remote pilot of the small unmanned aircraft must not fly it unless the CAA has issued the remote pilot with an acknowledgement of competency which is valid for that flight at
    the time of the flight.

  • (3)

    The SUA operator must not cause or permit the small unmanned aircraft to be flown unless the SUA operator has reasonably formed the view that the remote pilot of the aircraft complies with the requirements in paragraph (2) in relation to that flight.

  • (4)

    In this article “acknowledgement of competency” means an acknowledgement issued under article 94E.

Meaning of “remote pilot” and “SUA operator”

  • 94G

    In this Order—

    • (a)

      the “remote pilot”, in relation to a small unmanned aircraft, is an individual who—

      • (i)

        operates the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft by manual use of remote controls, or

      • (ii)

        when the small unmanned aircraft is flying automatically, monitors its course and is able to intervene and change its course by operating its flight controls;

    • (b)

      the “SUA operator”, in relation to a small unmanned aircraft, is the person who has the management of the small unmanned aircraft.”.

Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft

  • 95(1)

    The SUA operator must not cause or permit a small unmanned surveillance aircraft to be flown in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2), and the remote pilot of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly it in any of those circumstances, except in accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.

  • (2)

    The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are:

    • (a)

      over or within 150 metres of any congested area;

    • (b)

      over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;

    • (c)

      within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or

    • (d)

      subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.

  • (3)

    Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.

  • (4)

    Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the remote pilot of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the remote pilot of the aircraft.

  • (5)

    In this article ‘a small unmanned surveillance aircraft’ means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.

Endangering the safety of any person or property

  • 241A

    A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.

Schedule 1

“Level”, of an aerodrome, means the notified elevation of the aerodrome;” (2019 amendment)

“Remote pilot” has the meaning assigned to it by article 94G(a);”; (2018 amendment)

“SUA operator” has the meaning assigned to it by article 94G(b);”. (2019 amendment)

“UK military AIP” means the document published by or on behalf of the Secretary of State entitled “United Kingdom Military Aeronautical Information Publication” and for the time being in force;”. (2019 amendment)

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