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January 12, 2015

Drones in the UK, where you can and can’t fly them

draganflyDrones are (pardon the pun) ‘flying off the shelves’ and  becoming big business in the UK, and judging by the sales of them you could have received your very own for Christmas this year,  and you can’t wait to go out and fly it around. Taking pictures with — if you’re lucky — a camera on board.

The cost of components has reduced considerably and the ease of buying remote controlled aircraft off the Internet has sky-rocketed the use of consumer drones. Even buying individual components and building your custom made drones. You can have bigger motors or cameras that can be controlled from the ground to change from still images or videos if using a app on your smartphone.

Every day, we’ve seen headlines from around the world with, drones almost hitting passenger jets, or drones spying on unassuming victims and new drones at CES.

But can and can’t fly drones in your local area?

The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) has already prosecuted two drone operators in the UK for breaching safety regulations, with numerous other investigations ongoing.


Civil Aviation Authority

But what are the rules for drone flights when it comes to the UK. In the UK, drones fall under the authority of the Civil Aviation Authority CAA. The body’s rules on drones are:

  • It must be kept within line of sight at all times by the pilot – this is usually considered to be 500 metres horizontally and 400 feet vertically. You’re also not allowed to work around the line of sight rule by having spotters or relying on someone not in control of the drone relaying messages about its position. Operation beyond the distances stated need special approval from the CAA.
  • The pilot must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.
  • Drones must not be flown within 150 metres of any congested area, within 150 metres of an outdoor assembly of more than 1,000 people, or within 50 metres of any individual except during take-off and landing. You’re also not allowed to fly drones within 50 metres of any other vehicle, structure or property that’s not under your control.
  • Unmanned aircraft with a camera attached or built-in are classified as an unmanned surveillance aircraft, and are also subject to stricter rules regarding the operation. For example, if there’s a camera on-board, you’re not allowed to fly the drone within 30 metres of any individual, rather than 50 metres.

If you are recording people with a film or still camera loaded onto the drone, you will also have to abide to the Data Protection Act.

A handy website, called, has been set up to help drone pilots in the UK see where they can fly, legally.

No Fly Drones offers further nuggets of advice to drone pilots.

The website says:

“Unless flying in accordance with the current CAA general exemption for FPV flight, Small unmanned aircraft should be flown in accordance with the following:
  • <400ft vertically
  • Within line of sight (typically <500m horizontally)
  • CAP393 Air Navigation Order (including by not limited to Article 166 and 167)

Only those airspace restrictions that extend below 400ft are shown on the map above.”

If you are thinking of buying a Drone and don’t want to spend too much, one of the many Drones out there is the SYMA X11C 2.4G 4CH 6 Axis RC Quadcopter with 2.0MP Camera 360 Degree Stunt Function. At present the cost is £26.67 (was £37.99) inc delivery.
Below are two video’s showing you just what they can do. The first with a HD Camera and the second with a HD aerial video

Source: BBC News

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Dave Thornton

Senior Editor

Senior Editor
Been involved in technology for many years, more than I care to remember. Live in Dundee, Scotland. I like Android, Windows Phone OS, BlackBerry OS and iOS, and love writing about all things techie. Currently have a Honor 6+, Elephone P6000, Nexus 5, Chrombook C720, HTC One M7, Nokia Lumina 625, Microsoft Lumia 435, Blackberry Q10, HTC Hero and iPad mini