Drones will be literally flying off the shelves this Christmas

Given the increase in drone ownership, and as people are considering their seasonal gift shopping, we set out in this article how you can ensure that you can avoid falling foul of the law. You can be prosecuted and fined for improper use or even face a custodial sentence if guilty of endangering aircraft.

Drones & The Law – UK


What are drones?

‘Drone’ refers to any object that can be flown without a human pilot. They can range from armed technologies used in military operations to smaller gadgets that can be purchased by members of the public. The latter category is the focus of this article. These items can be controlled remotely and may also be attached to a camera which provides a live-feed to the controller. They allow for educational, professional and leisure purposes. Various models are available which vary in size, speed, range and price.


When are drones a problem?

Drones become a problem when they interfere with other objects using the same airspace. They can present a problem for both military and civilian aircraft. Despite their relatively small size a collision could have disastrous consequences. Such incidents are more likely to happen when drones are flown too high or too close to areas where aircraft are taking off and landing frequently.


What are the rules?

If you have bought a drone for personal use, then you have some responsibilities relating to your use of that drone. Breaching these duties can result in prosecution. It is advisable to consult the Civilian Aviation Authority Air Navigation Order 2016, specifically Articles 94, 95 and 241. You can download the ‘Drone Code’ from the website dronesafe.uk. You must understand your essential duties as a drone owner, many of which are common sense:

–    don’t fly your drone over a congested area

–    keep your drone in sight at all times – stay below 400ft

–    know how to fly your drone safely, and do so within the law

–    understand that the operator is legally responsible for every flight

–    ensure any images you obtain using the drone do not break privacy laws

–    avoid collisions – you should never fly a drone near an airport or close to aircraft

–    never fly within 50 metres of a person, vehicle or building not under your control

Most of these offences are punishable by a fine.  It is a more serious offence to endanger the safety of an aircraft in flight which is punishable in more serious cases by a term of imprisonment.


Are there extra rules when using drones for commercial purposes?

If you want 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.


What about cross-overs into the military’s use of drones?

Any drone use completed for 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, and one should look at Regulatory Articles 1600, 2320 and 2321 for specific requirements.


The bottom line

So, drones can be fun and useful but come with their fair share of responsibilities. If you follow the principles highlighted above, you will be much less likely to fall foul of the rules and regulations governing this exciting new technology.