Drones have opened up a whole new world of aerial photography and videography, allowing users to see landscapes and events from angles that were once impossible or prohibitively expensive. However, with this freedom also comes responsibility.
While drones are permitted to fly over most of the UK, there are several areas where you must obtain permission from air traffic control before you can operate your drone within those areas.
Can I Fly My Drone In The UK?
As of 20th May 2022, anyone who flies a drone weighing more than 250g within the UK must first register with The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Fly outside of these guidelines and you could face an unlimited fine.
There are also many Air Traffic Zone (ATZ) restrictions around airports, six ‘Temporary Restrictions’ covering major sporting events, marches, concerts and firework displays, as well as controlled airspace over central London between 8am-11pm.
UK Flight Restriction Zones
Be safe, not sorry! The CAA has designated flight restriction zones across England and Wales to ensure safety at sensitive locations. If you’re thinking of flying within these areas, check out our guide to find out more.
For example, Heathrow Airport is among these restricted zones – and drones are only permitted to fly above it with permission from air traffic control.
So even if one of these seems like an ideal filming location for you, if it’s surrounded by ‘no-fly’ restrictions, don’t take your chance – leave filming to professionals instead.
Flight restrictions around aerodromes and space sites
Commercial drones are also not allowed to be flown within 5km of any aerodrome, which includes major airports and some city heliports.
The UK Airprox Board (UKAB) have also warned that drones must not be flown near space sites in the UK; the reason for this being is because any unmanned aircraft over 350ft in the air could potentially cause disruption to satellite navigation.
Any contravention of these flight restrictions could result in a substantial civil penalty, or even prosecution.
How does a drone FRZ affect me as a professional?
Any professional who works with drones will understand just how confusing it is to ensure that they are not breaking any laws. This confusion has only worsened with recent events, most notably the flight restricted zones implemented by The CAA.
To make matters worse, most authorities have not provided clear guidelines on exactly what is expected of drone operators while they are within these zones, meaning that there’s often room for interpretation.
These FRZs exist to protect us from potentially dangerous situations and we all need to respect them. It’s important to note that even when hovering inside an area-which should be safe according to current guidance, may still be against local laws regarding height restrictions or visibility requirements, so always check before flying.
How to easily see where the FRZs are?
The Drone Safety Map is a fantastic website that provides precise information on restricted flight zones (aka FRZs), including warnings on what altitude to stay below. Drone Safety Map is owned by Altitude Angel and they also have mobile app versions (also known as Drone Assist UK) available to download.
What’s even better is that you can enter any address into their site. It will pinpoint exactly where it is and highlight if there are any flight restrictions near.
This will help new pilots find out if they’re getting close to an FRZ! If a flight zone warning flashes up on screen, then avoid flying around or above it. We don’t want anyone getting into trouble or risking being grounded for life.
Other Drone Laws in the UK
Without a proper license, it is against the law to fly within 150 metres of any vehicle, vessel, building or structure that is not in the public domain. Drones are also forbidden from flying in any congested area or within 50 metres of any people. This includes sporting events, concerts and festivals. Flying above 400 feet (122 metres) is also banned.
If you want to fly nearer to public buildings and uninvolved people be sure to get your A2 CofC license. This will involve some studying and passing a theory exam. Also consider getting some basic 1-2-1 training if you’re a beginner flying for the first time!