Drone Laws – What Are the Rules?

With new rules governing drone usage coming into force, we take an updated look at the relevant laws surrounding this exciting new technology.

drone laws

What Are Drones?

‘Drone’ refers to any object that can be flown without a human pilot. Originally developed for use by the military, in recent years they have become available to the public in the form of smaller gadgets that can be used for educational, professional and leisure purposes.

A wide range of domestic and commercial drones are available, varying in size, speed, range and price, and often including a camera with the ability to provide a live feed to the controller.

Drones are becoming increasingly popular, with the number of active commercial drone licences in the UK increasing from 2,500 to 3,800 in 2017.

When Are Drones a Problem?

Drones become a problem when they interfere with other objects using the same airspace – including both military and civilian aircraft. This is more likely when drones are flown too high or too close to areas where aircraft are taking off and landing frequently.

The increased popularity of both domestic and commercial drones in the UK has led to a rise in the number of incidents involving aircraft and drones, with 89 such incidents in 2017 – a 25% increase on the previous year.

Despite the relatively small size of most drones, the speed at which other aircraft travel means that a collision could have disastrous consequences.

What Are the Laws About Drones?

There have been laws in place surrounding both domestic and commercial drone use for some time. However, following the increase in near-misses between drones and other aircraft, the legislation is now being updated.

Domestic Drones

If you have bought a drone for personal use, then you have some responsibilities relating to your use of that drone, many of which are common sense:

  • Know how to fly your drone safely, and do so within the law
  • Understand that the operator is legally responsible for every flight
  • Always keep your drone in sight – you must stay below 400ft
  • Don’t fly your drone over a congested area
  • Never fly within 50 metres of a person, vehicle or building not under your control
  • Ensure any images you obtain using the drone do not break privacy laws
  • Avoid collisions – you should never fly a drone within 1 kilometre of an airport or close to aircraft.

It is a criminal offence to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight. If you break the rules, you could threaten life and face prosecution, in some cases resulting in up to 5 years’ imprisonment or a substantial fine.

It is also important to note that as of the end of November 2019, if you own a drone you will need to complete an online safety test before you are able to fly it. You will also be required to register your drone with the Civil Aviation Authority if your drone weighs 250g or more.

For more detail on the relevant laws covering domestic drone usage, it is advisable to consult the Civilian Aviation Authority Air Navigation (Amendment) Order 2018.

You can also download the ‘Drone Code’, a simple summary of the rules from the Civilian Aviation Authority, at dronesafe.uk.

Commercial Drone Laws

To use a drone for commercial purposes, for example as an estate agent to take aerial video of properties for sale, then permission must be sought from the Civilian Aviation Authority. It is also expected that you will attend an accredited course which will test your knowledge of and competence with drones.

Military Drone Laws

The Civilian Aviation Authority only regulates domestic and commercial drone use. The use of drones relating to the Ministry of Defence is regulated by the Military Aviation Authority. Tasks such as surveys at height, photography and multimedia activities are covered by these provisions, with specific requirements detailed in Regulatory Articles 1600, 2320 and 2321.

For more information, please contact Regan or Gemma at info@reganpeggs.com or 0121 201 3765.