These regulations are designed to promote the safe, responsible, and lawful operation of drones across the United Kingdom, encompassing various types of drone usage, from recreational to commercial applications.
The CAA continually reviews and updates these regulations to keep pace with the rapidly evolving drone industry, ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of drone technology advancements while prioritising public safety and privacy concerns.
[UK Drone Laws Updated – July 4th 2023]
The United Kingdom’s 2023 Drone Laws are:
- Drone operators must be at least 12 years old to fly independently
- Drones are not permitted to fly higher than 400 feet (120 meters)
- Operators must maintain a line of sight with their drone at all times
- Permission is required before flying in restricted airspace
- Do not fly your drone within a 5-kilometer radius of airports.
- A minimum distance of 50 meters must be maintained from uninvolved persons
- Drones below 250 grams are permitted to fly closer and over people
- Drones weighing 250 grams or more must be operated at least 150 meters away from parks, industrial areas, residential zones, and other built-up locations.
- If a drone is equipped with a camera, the operator must register for an Operator ID with the CAA.
- Insurance is mandatory for commercial drone use.
- Compliance with these regulations is required during both daytime and nighttime operations.
These drone rules and regulations are current as of 2023 and apply to all drone operators in the United Kingdom. Adherence to these laws is essential to ensure the safe and responsible operation of drones within the country.
As of 2023, the UK has implemented a comprehensive set of drone laws regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to ensure the safe and responsible operation of drones. Drone operations are divided into three categories:
- Open Category: Low-risk flights that do not require special CAA approval.
- Specific Category: Higher risk flights that require operational authorization from the CAA.
- Certified Category: Even higher risk flights involving larger aircraft, subject to similar regulation and authorization as manned flights.
Foreign drone pilots must adhere to UK regulations and obtain a UK flyer ID and operator ID before flying their drones in the UK. Local authorities may have specific requirements and regulations for drone flights within their jurisdiction, so it is essential to check with them before flying. Additionally, there may be local bylaws regulating flights over crowded areas, sensitive sites, and restricted airspace.
UK drone laws regarding flying near vehicles, vessels, and structures focus on ensuring the safety of uninvolved people. While there are no specific minimum distances set for separation from these objects, pilots are responsible for ensuring that they do not endanger others. Failure to comply with the regulations may result in penalties, fines, or imprisonment in the most serious cases.
To assist you in complying with applicable rules and regulations, we provide a series of fact sheets outlining the requirements for your flying operations.
- CAP2003: Engaging in recreational flying.
- CAP2004: Pursuing flying as a hobby and being part of a club.
- CAP2005: Utilizing a drone for professional purposes.
- CAP2006: Flying in rural areas or the countryside.
- CAP2007: Flying in urban areas or cities.
- CAP2008: Contrasting the changes introduced by the 2020 regulations.
UK Legal ID and Registration Requirements 2023
When it comes to operating drones and model aircraft in the UK, there are legal ID and registration requirements that you need to be aware of. These requirements are based on factors like drone weight and camera presence, and they apply to all drones regardless of their size.
All drones, regardless of weight, require a Flyer and Operator ID to legally operate in the UK. Make sure to obtain both IDs and label your drone with the Operator ID for visibility.
A Flyer ID is necessary for flying drones or model aircraft weighing over 250 grams (8.8 ounces) or have a camera.
Issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), it permits individuals to operate such drones in the UK.
To obtain a flyer ID:
- You must be at least 12 years old and pass the CAA’s official 40 questions theory test.
- You can register for a flyer ID online through the CAA’s website.
- The registration process requires an email address.
- The cost of a flyer ID is FREE and it is valid for 5 years.
An Operator ID is required for all camera-equipped drones and is issued by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to permit individuals to manage drones or model aircraft for commercial purposes in the UK.
Operators are responsible for drone maintenance and ensuring pilots have valid Flyer IDs.
To obtain an operator ID:
- You must be at least 18 years old
- Pass the CAA’s official theory test.
- The registration process requires an email address and a credit or debit card for payment.
- The cost of an operator ID is £10 and it is valid for 1 year.
If you are younger than 18 and own a drone or model aircraft, your parent or guardian must register for an operator ID on your behalf.
Taking The UK Operator & Flyer ID Test In 2023
Here’s a concise guide to the CAA’s official flyer and operator ID theory test:
- The test is free.
- It consists of 40 multiple-choice questions, with a passing score of 30.
- The Drone and Model Aircraft Code can be referenced during the test.
- Allocate a minimum of 30 minutes for the test, but be aware of a 90-minute inactivity limit.
- Unlimited test attempts are permitted.
- Questions may appear in random order.
The theory test is crucial for responsible and safe drone or model aircraft operation.
How Much Does UK Drone Test Cost?
|Operator ID||£10||1 year|
|Flyer ID||£0||5 years|
Before you start
- an email address that you can check when registering
- a debit or credit card if you’re registering for an operator ID
- details of any insurance required
Legal Drone Label Identification
To ensure legal compliance, label your drones and model aircraft with your operator ID. This unique number identifies you as the drone code, aircraft operator and aids in accountability.
To label your drones and model aircraft, you should make sure that the operator ID is visible from the outside of the aircraft, or within a compartment that can easily be accessed without using a tool.
Labelling Your Drone:
- Write your Operator ID in clear, block letters at least 3mm tall.
- Attach the label securely to the aircraft’s main body, ensuring visibility from the outside or easy accessibility within a compartment.
- Protect the label from damage and maintain legibility throughout the drone’s lifespan.
- Repeat this process for each drone or model aircraft under your responsibility, using the same Operator ID.
Remember to use your operator ID, not your flyer ID, when labeling your drones and model aircraft. The operator ID identifies you as the responsible party, while the flyer ID pertains to the pilot.
Police Powers under UK Drone Laws 2023
Under the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021, the UK police have been granted powers to regulate the use of drones.
These police drone powers include:
- Taking action if they believe a drone is being used in connection with an offense.
- Landing, inspecting, and seizing drones if an offense has been committed and a warrant is secured.
- Making drone operators land their drones.
- Stopping and searching people or vehicles to find drones or drone equipment.
- Confiscating and keeping drones or drone equipment.
If you have concerns about drones being used in your area, you can contact your local police. They can investigate and take appropriate action if necessary to ensure that drones are being used safely and responsibly, in compliance with the UK drone laws.
If you do not comply with UK drone laws and the regulations set by the police, you may face consequences such as:
- Fines and penalties
- Confiscation of your drone and equipment
- Criminal charges, which can result in a criminal record and potentially imprisonment
- Liability for any damages or injuries caused by your drone
It is important to comply with UK drone laws to ensure the safety of the public and the airspace. Always fly your drone responsibly and follow the regulations set by the authorities.
UK Drone Flying Categories 2023
In 2023, UK drone pilots must adhere to specific categories of drone operations, dividing drone operations into three categories:
- Low-risk flights
- No special CAA approval required
- Higher risk flights
- Requires operational authorisation from the CAA
- Even higher risk flights
- Involves larger aircraft
- Subject to similar regulation and authorisation as manned flights
These categories were established by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the regulatory body for drone usage in the UK, to differentiate between drone flights based on risk factors such as proximity to people and drone weight.
Most drone pilots in the UK operate within the Open Category, which encompasses low-risk flights and promotes responsible drone usage. Drone pilots can operate most drones in the A1 and A3 subcategories if they have a Flyer ID.
These categories provide a structured approach to regulating drone usage in the UK, ensuring that drone pilots adhere to appropriate safety measures and risk assessments based on the nature of their flights.
Flying Drones in the Open Category
The Open Category is designed for low-risk drone flights in the United Kingdom and does not require any special approval from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Most drone pilots in the UK operate within the Open Category, which encompasses low-risk flights and promotes responsible drone usage.
The open category is divided into three subcategories based on drone weight and proximity to people:
- A1 – “Fly over people”: This subcategory is for very lightweight drones that pose minimal risk, allowing them to fly directly over people.
- A2 – “Fly close to people”: This subcategory involves lightweight drones that can fly near people, presenting slightly more risk than A1 drones.
- A3 – “Fly far from people”: This subcategory is meant for heavier drones and requires pilots to maintain a safe distance from people to minimize potential hazards.
Most UK drone pilots can operate within the A1 and A3 subcategories without any additional training, as long as they have a Operator ID and have passed the drone code test.
The Open Category ensures that pilots follow responsible drone usage guidelines while minimising risks associated with flying drones in various environments.
How to operate drones in the Open Category
|Drone Weight||Subcategory||Operational restrictions||Drone operator registration||Remote pilot competence||Remote pilot minimum age|
|Under 250 Grams||A1 (can also fly in subcategory A3)||May fly over uninvolved people (should be avoided when possible)|
No flight over assemblies of people
|No, unless camera / sensor on board and a drone is not a toy||Read carefully the user manual||16*, no minimum age if drone is a toy|
|Under 900 Grams||A1 (can also fly in subcategory A3)||No flight expected over uninvolved people (if it happens, overflight should be minimised)|
No flight over assemblies of people
|Yes||Read carefully the user manual|
Obtain a ‘Proof of completion for online training’ for A1/A3 ‘open’ subcategory by:Completing the online training
Passing the online theoretical exam
|Under 4kg||A2 (can also fly in subcategory A3)||No flight over uninvolved people|
Keep a horizontal distance of 30 m from uninvolved people (can be reduced to 5 m if the low-speed function is activated)
|Yes||A2 CofC License||16*|
|Under 25kg||A3||Do not fly near people|
Fly outside urban areas (150 m distance)
|Yes||A2 CofC License||16*|
Drone operations fall under the Open Category if they meet the following requirements:
- The drone belongs to a class outlined in Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945, is privately built, or meets the conditions defined in Article 20.
- The drone has a maximum take-off mass of less than 25 kg.
- The remote pilot maintains a safe distance from people, avoids flying over assemblies of people, and keeps the drone in Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) except when flying in follow-me mode or using an unmanned aircraft observer.
- The drone is flown no higher than 120 meters from the surface of the earth and does not carry dangerous goods or drop any material.
The Open Category is further divided into three subcategories (A1, A2, and A3), each with its own set of requirements as detailed in Part A of the Annex.
As an average drone pilot flying in the Open Category, you must adhere to the following key points:
- Safety First: Always take reasonable, proportionate, and common-sense steps to manage the risks of your flight. Ensure that you never endanger anyone or anything with your drone.
- Registration and Flyer ID: In most cases, you must register as an operator and obtain a Flyer ID. For drones under 250g with a camera, only operator registration is required, although completing the Flyer ID test is strongly recommended.
- Distance from People: If your drone weighs less than 250g, you can fly closer than 50m to people and fly over them, but not over crowds. Always prioritize people’s safety and avoid causing injury.
- Adhere to Safety Rules: Regardless of your drone’s weight, you must follow all safety rules, including maintaining visual line of sight, not flying over 400ft / 120m, and respecting flight restriction zones around airfields.
- Local Restrictions and Permissions: Be aware of other restrictions and legitimate interests imposed by statutory bodies such as Local Authorities, who may have local byelaws restricting drone take-off/landing from council land. Always obtain necessary permissions before flying, as airspace and land permissions are separate.
Flying Drones In The Specific Category
This category is for higher risk flights that don’t fit the Open Category’s low-risk criteria. Drone pilots operating in the Specific Category need to obtain operational authorization from the CAA.
The Specific Category is often used for flights with more complex or specialized requirements, such as industrial inspections, agricultural monitoring, or aerial photography in congested areas.
This typically involves submitting a risk assessment and operational safety case to demonstrate that the pilot can safely conduct the planned drone operation.
To apply, the operator must perform a risk assessment and submit it alongside the application, including adequate mitigating measures.
The CAA will issue an Operational Authorisation if it considers the operational risks to be adequately mitigated.
An Operational Authorisation may cover a single operation or multiple operations specified by time or location. The CAA may also approve a Light UAS Certificate (LUC) in accordance with Part C of the Annex.
Operational Authorisations are not required for operators holding an LUC with appropriate privileges or for operations conducted within model aircraft clubs and associations with proper authorisations.
The Certified Category is reserved for even higher risk flights, often involving larger drones or aircraft. The regulations and authorization requirements for this category are similar to those for manned flights. Pilots must obtain the necessary certifications, permits, and approvals to operate drones in the Certified Category.
This category may include activities such as package delivery, drone taxi services, or flights in highly controlled airspace.
Drone operations are classified under the Certified Category if the following requirements are met:
- The drone is certified according to Article 40 of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945.
- The operation involves any of the following conditions:
- flying over assemblies of people
- Transporting people
- Carrying dangerous goods that may result in high risk for third parties in case of an accident.
Additionally, drone operations may be classified as Certified Category operations if the CAA, based on the risk assessment, determines that the risk of the operation cannot be adequately mitigated without certification of the drone and the operator and, where applicable, the licensing of the remote pilot.
In summary, UK drone pilots in 2023 must understand and adhere to the requirements of the Open, Specific, and Certified categories to ensure safe and legal drone operations.
UK Drone Classification System
As of January 1, 2023, the UK will have new rules for drones. These rules will require all new drones to meet certain standards and be classified into one of four categories: C0, C1, C2, or C3. The classification will be based on the weight and capabilities of the drone and will determine how and where it can be flown.
The classes and their corresponding subcategories are as follows:
- Class C0: May be flown in all subcategories.
- Class C1: May be flown in all subcategories.
- Class C2: May only be flown in subcategories A2 (with an A2 Certificate of Competence [CofC]) or A3.
- Class C3: May be flown in subcategory A3 only.
- Class C4: May be flown in subcategory A3 only.
5 Drone Classes and Their Corresponding Rules
The classifications will range from C0 to C4 and will determine where and how the drones can be flown. Here is a table summarising the differences between the C classes:
|Drone Class||Drone Class Mark Legal Guidelines|
|C0||C0 drones are very small unmanned aircraft, including toys, that weigh less than 250 grams, have a maximum speed of 42.5 mph, and must stay within 400 feet of the control device.|
|C1||C1 drones must weigh less than 900 grams, have a maximum speed of 42.5 mph, and be designed to minimise injury if they collide with a person. These drones also have noise and height limits and must meet certain requirements for remote identification and awareness of their surroundings.|
|C2||C2 drones must weigh less than 4 kilograms, be designed to minimise injury if they collide with a person, and have a low-speed mode that limits their maximum speed to 6.7 mph when selected by the operator. These drones also have noise and height limits and must meet certain requirements for remote identification and awareness of their surroundings, as well as additional requirements if they are used while tethered to the ground.|
|C3||C3 drones are unmanned aircraft that have automatic control modes and weigh less than 25 kilograms. These drones also have height limits and must meet certain requirements for remote identification and awareness of their surroundings, as well as additional requirements if they are used while tethered to the ground.|
|C4||C4 drones are unmanned aircraft that do not have any automation besides basic flight stabilisation and weigh less than 25 kilograms. These drones also have height limits and must meet certain requirements for remote identification and awareness of their surroundings, as well as additional requirements if they are used while tethered to the ground.|
UK Drone License Types
It is essential for pilots to obtain the necessary certifications to ensure they can operate their drones safely and legally. There are various drone license types designed to cater to different operational needs and requirements.
There are 3 types of Drone Licences
- A2 Certificate of Competency Drone License
- General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) Drone License
- Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) Drone License [No Longer Valid]
|Drone License Type||Description||Validity||Applicable Operations||Renewal Process|
|A2 CofC||A qualification that allows drone pilots to operate legally in more demanding locations and closer to uninvolved people.||5 years||A2 subcategory of the Open category, both commercial and recreational drone pilots.||Complete a training course and pass a qualification exam.|
|GVC||A remote pilot competency qualification for flying drones weighing up to 25 kg in built-up areas.||5 years||Most VLOS operations within the Specific category.||Complete a refresher course with a training provider every 5 years.|
|PfCO (No Longer Valid)||A certification previously required for commercial drone operations in the UK. Replaced by the GVC in January 2021.||N/A||N/A||N/A|
A2 Certificate of Competency Drone License
The A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC) is a qualification that drone pilots need in order to legally operate certain drones in more demanding locations and closer to uninvolved people. This certification is essential for ensuring that drone pilots have the necessary knowledge and skills to safely navigate their drones in various environments.
To obtain an A2 CofC drone license, you must complete a training course and pass a qualification exam. The course is comprised of four theory modules, which can be accessed online. Although there is no formal practical requirement, you are expected to self-declare your drone flying experience to demonstrate your competency.
The A2 Certificate of Competency allows drone pilots to navigate safely in challenging environments and closer to uninvolved people. It caters to both commercial and recreational pilots, requiring online theory modules and a qualification exam for certification.
The A2 CofC allows pilots of small drones to fly near people within the A2 subcategory of the Open category. This certification is applicable for both commercial and recreational drone pilots. Once obtained, the certificate is valid for five years, after which it needs to be renewed to maintain your legal standing as a drone pilot.
General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) Drone License
The General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) is a drone license that serves as a remote pilot competency qualification, enabling pilots to fly drones weighing up to 25 kg safely and legally in built-up areas. It is necessary for obtaining Operational Authorisation from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The GVC is valid for five years and is applicable for most Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) operations within the Specific category. Introduced in 2020, the GVC is the required training and qualification for flying drones in the UK and is offered by various training providers.
The General Visual Line of Sight Certificate is designed for pilots operating drones up to 25 kg in built-up areas, providing a comprehensive qualification for most VLOS operations. Valid for five years, the GVC requires a refresher course to ensure continuous competency and adherence to regulations.
To maintain a valid GVC license, pilots must complete a refresher course with a training provider every five years. Once the refresher course is completed, the training provider will issue a renewed GVC certificate, which the pilot can then use to apply for an Operational Authorisation from the CAA.
The cost of obtaining a GVC license varies depending on the training provider, with course fees covering all GVC courses, training, and materials. However, insurance and additional application fees to the CAA are separate and payable by the individual.
Currently, the initial issue of an Operational Authorisation costs £253, and the annual renewal fee is £190 with the CAA.
Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) Drone License [No Longer Valid]
The Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) was a certification previously required by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK for commercial drone operations. It was not an actual license but rather a permission to operate a drone for commercial purposes.
In January 2021, the PfCO was replaced by the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) as part of the new UK drone laws.
While the PfCO was a qualification and permission issued by the CAA until the end of 2020, the GVC is a personal certification held by the remote pilot.
Unlike the PfCO, the GVC applies to all types of operations, whether for commercial purposes or not, and is based on the category of the aircraft.
The GVC is equivalent to the PfCO training and offers the same permissions, allowing pilots to operate any aircraft with a maximum takeoff mass of less than 25 kg.
Tethered drones and remotely piloted aircraft
UK drone laws apply to tethered drones and remotely piloted aircraft just as they do to untethered drones. These aircraft are securely attached via a physical link, such as a flexible wire or cable, to a person, the ground, or an object while flying.
Tethered drone flying is often employed in situations with restricted operating areas or when extended flight times are necessary.
Although tethered drones are subject to the same basic operating regulations and authorization processes as their free-flying counterparts, the tethered nature of their operation can serve as a significant mitigating factor when seeking operational authorization.
This simplifies the overall process and ensures compliance with UK drone laws.
Drones Operating within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS)
In the UK, drone laws require that drones be operated within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) when flying within the Open category or under the terms of an operational authorization for the Specific category.
VLOS operations, as defined by UK Regulation (EU) 2019/947, involve the remote pilot maintaining continuous unaided visual contact with the drone to control its flight path and avoid collisions with other aircraft, people, or obstacles.
Maintaining VLOS ensures that the remote pilot can monitor the drone’s position, orientation, and the surrounding airspace at all times. While corrective lenses are allowed, binoculars, telescopes, or any other forms of image-enhancing devices are not permitted.
The maximum VLOS distance varies for each operation and depends on factors such as the drone’s size, onboard lighting, weather conditions, the remote pilot’s eyesight, and terrain and obstacles that may obstruct the view.
It is the remote pilot’s responsibility to determine the maximum safe distance while maintaining unaided visual contact with the drone.
Beyond Visual Line Of Sight Drone Flying Regulations
Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) refers to drone operations where the remote pilot cannot maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the drone during flight.
In other words, the drone flies beyond the range where the pilot can visually observe it. BVLOS operations enable drones to cover larger distances and perform tasks that would be challenging or impossible within the restrictions of visual line of sight (VLOS) operations.
These tasks may include aerial mapping, infrastructure inspection, and delivery services. However, BVLOS operations require a higher level of safety and risk mitigation measures to ensure the protection of other airspace users, as well as people and property on the ground.
Drone laws around Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations are being developed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to enable authorized operators to fly BVLOS in a scalable and sustainable manner while ensuring safety for other airspace users and minimizing risk to people and property on the ground.
The CAA’s plan consists of four primary areas of work, referred to as “the four-pillars”:
- Pilot Competency: The CAA is working with industry partners to create a standardized mechanism for demonstrating the competence of pilots when flying BVLOS, going beyond the current General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC).
- Flightworthiness: The CAA aims to establish a formal, nationally recognized mechanism for assessing the robustness of aircraft when applying for an Operational Authorization. This involves developing a set of requirements for certain unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), which will be assessed by a network of Flightworthiness Recognized Assessment Entities.
- Risk Assessment: To authorize more complex UAS operations, a suitable mechanism to assess and mitigate risk is needed. The UK will adopt a slightly amended version of the JARUS 2.5 Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA), with primary amendments relating to the Air Risk Class to account for exemptions to the UK Standardized European Rules of the Air.
- Airspace: Safely integrating BVLOS operations into the UK’s busy and compact airspace is a key challenge. Initially, the CAA will explore the use of an atypical air environment to address the mid-air-collision risk in non-segregated airspace. In the medium to long term, the focus will shift toward enabling a regulatory landscape that supports the adoption of detect and avoid technologies and electronic conspicuity.
Specific Operating Risk Assessment (SORA)
The Specific Operating Risk Assessment (SORA) is a risk assessment methodology designed to classify and mitigate risks posed by Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operations. It enables drone operators to identify operational limitations, technical requirements for the aircraft, training objectives for personnel involved in flights, and develop appropriate operational procedures.
Although announced in 2023, SORA is still under development in the UK.
Current Guidance and Future Implementation of SORA in the UK
Until the UK SORA is fully implemented, drone operators applying for the Specific category should continue to use the methodology and templates provided in the CAP 722A publication. The UK SORA, once introduced, may have differences from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) SORA to accommodate national requirements.
Regulatory Status and Timeline for UK SORA
The UK SORA will be considered as an Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) to Article 11 of Regulation (EU) No 2019/947, retained and amended in UK domestic law under the European Union (Withdrawal Act 2018). It will not require regulatory change for implementation as it is a set of recommendations and guidelines, rather than a regulation.
The UK SORA is expected to be ready for consultation in Q1 2024, with plans for implementation in Q3/4 2024. The implementation project will be comprehensive, considering all aspects of how the UK will adopt SORA, including the potential impact on Recognised Assessment Entities (RAEs) and the development of training courses for drone operators.
Operational Authorisations and Operating Safety Cases
Valid Operational Authorisations (OAs) will not be cancelled once SORA is implemented and will remain valid for the stated period. However, Operating Safety Cases (OSCs) will need revision to accommodate SORA, with a transitional period to allow drone operators to update them.
SORA Methodology and Comparison to CAP 722A
The SORA methodology is more quantitative compared to the current CAP 722A methodology, which is primarily qualitative. Developed internationally with consensus from multiple National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) and industry experts, SORA establishes an acceptable target level of safety for proposed operations in the Specific category.
Guidance for UK Drone Operators in the Interim Period
Until the UK SORA is released, applicants should use the guidance provided in CAP 722A when conducting the Specific category risk assessment and planning applications. Mixing SORA elements with the CAP 722A methodology is not recommended, as it may increase assessment time and require additional evaluation for compliance with Article 11 of UK Regulation (EU) 2019/947.
The Specific Operating Risk Assessment (SORA) is an important development for drone pilots in the UK, providing a more quantitative approach to risk assessment and mitigation. Although announced in 2023, the full implementation of SORA is still underway, with uk drone operators advised to continue using CAP 722A guidance until further updates are provided.
UK Drone Law Changes In May 2023
From January 1, 2023, drones with an EU class mark will not be recognised in the UK, meaning they will need to be flown under Transitional provisions. The Transitional period, which was due to end in 2022, has been extended to January 1, 2026. This means that current drones with no class mark (or a class mark not recognised in the UK) can be operated in accordance with Transitional provisions for longer.
Until January 2023, if a drone does not have a class marking, it can be flown in certain categories based on its weight.
Drones under 250 grams are allowed to be flown in subcategory A1, as well as A2 and A3. Drones weighing less than 2 kilograms can be flown in subcategory A2 and A3, but the operator must keep a distance of 50 meters from people and pass a theory exam called the A2 Certificate of Competency.
Drones weighing 2 kilograms or more can only be flown in subcategory A3.
Starting in January 2023, drones that were built privately and weigh 250 grams or less can still be flown in subcategory A1.
All other drones are only allowed to be used in subcategory A3.
Authorised Areas for Drone Operations 2023
In this section, we’ll cover the regulations surrounding where you can fly your drone. This includes legal height limits, distances you must keep from people, and areas where you are not permitted to fly.
We’ll also discuss restrictions on flying near airports and spaceports. It’s important to familiarise yourself with these rules to ensure that you are flying safely and responsibly.
Let’s dive in!
Always Fly Your Drone Below 400ft
It is important to fly your drone below a certain height in order to reduce the risk of coming into contact with other aircraft. In the UK, the legal drone height limit for drone flying is 120m (400ft). This means that you should not fly your drone higher than 120m (400ft) in order to avoid potential collisions with other aircraft.
It’s also important to keep an eye out for other aircraft that may be flying below this height, such as air ambulances, police helicopters, and military aircraft. These types of aircraft may need to fly at lower altitudes for various reasons, such as responding to an emergency or conducting surveillance.
By staying aware of your surroundings and maintaining a safe distance from these aircraft, you can help to ensure the safety of everyone in the sky.
Adjust Your Flight Ceiling in Mountainous or Hilly Terrain
If you are flying in an area where the ground falls or rises, such as over hills, mountains, or cliffs, you may need to adjust your flight path to ensure that you are always within the legal height limit.
For example, if you are flying your drone over a mountain, you may need to fly at a lower altitude in order to stay within the 120m (400ft) height limit.
This is because the mountain itself is higher than the surrounding area, and you need to take into account the height of the mountain in relation to the height of your drone.
Do not fly closer to people than 50m
When flying a drone or model aircraft, it is important to maintain a safe distance from people. This means that you should not fly closer to people than 50 meters (164 feet). This rule applies to people on the ground as well as people in buildings or other vehicles, such as cars, trucks, trains, and boats.
To help you remember this rule, it can be helpful to think of a 50 meter (164 foot) zone around people as a “no fly zone”. This zone extends all the way up to the legal height limit for drone flight, which is usually around 120 meters (400 feet). This means that you should not fly over people, even if you are flying at a higher altitude.
Do Not Fly Closer to People Than 50m
When flying a drone or model aircraft, it is important to maintain a safe distance from people to avoid any potential accidents or injuries. However, the rule on minimum distances is different for people who are involved in the activity you are doing with your drone.
For example, if you are flying a drone with friends, family, or colleagues who are also participating in the activity, you can fly closer to them than the general rule of 50 meters (164 feet). However, if you’re flying a drone that’s below 250g, you can fly closer to people than 50m and you can fly over them.
Official UK Drone Distancing Laws
In addition to the general rule of keeping a minimum distance of 50 meters (164 feet) from people, there are certain situations where it may be necessary to increase this distance to ensure the safety of your flight.
Here are some general rules to follow when determining the safe distance to maintain from people:
If you are flying at a higher altitude, maintain the same distance horizontally from people. For example, if you are flying at an altitude of 80 meters (262 feet), keep a distance of 80 meters (262 feet) from people.
If the weather conditions are poor, such as high winds, fly further away from people to reduce the risk of accidents or injuries.
If you are flying at high speeds, increase the distance from people to give yourself more time to react to any potential hazards.
Examples of places where people are often crowded together include:
- Shopping areas
- Sports events
- Religious gatherings
- Political gatherings
- Music festivals and concerts
- Marches and rallies
- Crowded beach or park
- Parties, carnivals and fêtes
UK Drone Laws for Foreign Operators 2023
Foreign drone pilots who wish to operate their drones in the UK need to adhere to UK regulations for flying drones or model aircraft. The regulations apply to all drone pilots, regardless of their nationality. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that drones are being flown safely and responsibly in the UK airspace.
In most cases, foreign drone pilots will need to obtain a UK flyer ID and operator ID before they can fly their drones in the UK.
The flyer ID is a unique code that identifies the pilot and must be displayed on the drone. The operator ID, on the other hand, is a code that identifies the person or company responsible for the drone.
Additionally, if the type of flight requires a valid UK permission, foreign drone pilots must possess one. The type of flight that requires a UK permission depends on various factors such as the size and weight of the drone, the purpose of the flight, and the location where the flight will take place.
If foreign drone pilots have completed the necessary online training, passed a drone pilot exam, and obtained a remote pilot competency certificate in any EASA Member State, they can travel with their drone to the UK. However, the requirements for obtaining a valid UK permission to fly a drone depend on the type of flight being conducted. Each application is considered on its own merits.
If the type of flight requires a valid UK permission, the operator must obtain one. The process for obtaining a permission can be complex and time-consuming, depending on the type of flight being conducted.
Therefore, it is advisable for foreign drone pilots to consult with a UK-based drone operator or seek guidance from the CAA before applying for a permission.
The CAA will normally be able to grant permissions to foreign operators who want to carry out work in the UK, provided that they are able to satisfy the same basic safety requirements that are required for UK-based operators.
However, the CAA may also impose additional requirements or restrictions depending on the nature of the flight being conducted.
It is important to note that other countries’ drone approvals and qualifications are not automatically accepted as valid in the UK. Therefore, foreign operators must ensure that they comply with UK drone laws and regulations before flying their drones in the UK.
Failure to comply with the regulations may result in penalties or legal consequences, including fines or imprisonment.
UK Drone Laws For Residential, Recreational, Commercial and Industrial Sites
You must keep a minimum distance of 150 meters away from certain types of locations, such as residential areas, recreational areas, commercial areas, and industrial sites. The purpose of this distance is to ensure the safety of people and property on the ground. It is important to note that you should be prepared to increase this distance if necessary for the safe operation of the drone or model aircraft.
You can fly small drones that are lighter than 250g at residential, recreational, commercial and industrial sites
It is important to note that the minimum distance of 150 meters is just that – a minimum. If you need to fly your drone or model aircraft further away in order to do so safely, you should do so.
While small drones and model aircraft weighing less than 250 grams can be flown at these types of locations, it is always crucial to prioritise safety in your flying practices.
Residential sites include:
- Individual residential buildings
- Small groups of residential buildings
- Housing estates
- Cities and towns
Recreational sites include:
Commercial sites include:
- Shopping centres
- Business parks
Industrial sites include:
Understanding Airport Restricted Zones and Other No-Fly Drone Laws 2023
There are certain areas around airports, airfields, and spaceports where it is not safe to fly drones or model aircraft. These areas are called “flight restriction zones” (FRZs) and they are put in place to prevent collisions with aircraft or spacecraft. If you want to fly in or near one of these zones, you must get permission from the airport, airfield, or spaceport before doing so.
It is important to note that even if an airport, airfield, or spaceport does not have an FRZ, you should still avoid flying in or near these locations if it could pose a danger to the safety of aircraft. In general, it is a good idea to stay at least 5 kilometers away from an airport unless you have permission to fly closer.
There are several resources available to help you find out about flight restriction zones and other airspace restrictions. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has a map of these restrictions that you can access online, and some drone apps may also provide information about these zones.
However, it is important to be aware that not all small airfields may be listed on these resources, so you should always be on the lookout for any signs that there may be an airfield nearby, such as light aircraft, equipment, or facilities.
In summary, it is important to avoid flying in or near airports, airfields, and spaceports unless you have permission to do so, and to always be aware of any potential dangers to aircraft.
Legal UK Insurance Requirements for Drones
When it comes to flying drones or model aircraft, it is important to make sure you have the appropriate insurance coverage to protect yourself and others in case of an accident or other incident.
The insurance you need will depend on the size of your drone or model aircraft and how you plan to use it.
Drones and Model Aircraft Below 20kg
If your drone or model aircraft weighs less than 20kg and you plan to use it for recreational purposes such as fun, sport, or as a hobby, you have the option of whether or not to get insurance.
However, if you plan to use your drone or model aircraft for any other purpose, such as getting paid to take pictures or videos or using it for work, you must have third party liability insurance per UK Drone law.
This type of drone insurance covers you if you accidentally cause injury or damage to someone else or their property while flying your drone or model aircraft.
Although it is optional to get insurance if you only fly your drone or model aircraft for recreational purposes, it is important to remember that you are responsible for your actions while flying.
If you cause injury or damage, you could be held personally liable. It may be a good idea to consider getting third party liability insurance to protect yourself in case of an accident.
How to Obtain the Necessary Permissions for Your Flight
When it comes to flying a drone legally, obtaining the necessary permissions is crucial to ensure that your flight is legal, safe and does not cause any disturbance or damage to the environment or people.
There are several types of permissions that you may need to consider before taking off in the UK:
Securing Landowner Permission
Before you take off or land on any private property, it’s essential to have the permission of the landowner. If the property is owned by the local council or government, you may need to seek permission from them as well.
Obtaining Local Authority Permission
Obtaining permission from the local authorities is an essential step when planning a drone flight in the UK.
Each local authority may have specific requirements and regulations for drone flights within their jurisdiction, so it’s important to check with them before carrying out a flight to ensure that you are abiding by their requirements.
In addition to the Drone Code, which lays out the general guidelines for flying drones in the UK, there may also be local bylaws that regulate your flight, such as flying over crowded areas, sensitive sites, and restricted airspace.
Informing the Local Police
Informing the local police of your intended flight is another important step when planning a drone flight in the UK. It’s always a good idea to inform the local police in advance of the location, date, and time of your flight. This helps to ensure the safety of the public and avoid any disturbance or disruption.
The police may ask you for additional information or issue you with a Log Number for your records, this log number is a reference number which you should keep for your records and in case the police need to contact you again.
This step is essential to ensure the safety of the public and avoid any disturbance or disruption, and it also helps to avoid any potential legal issues.
Obtaining Permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
When it comes to flying a drone in the UK, obtaining permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is an important step to ensure compliance with regulations and maintain safety.
The CAA sets guidelines for flying drones, including the Open category and Operational Authorisation, which outline the requirements for general flying.
However, if your flight plan requires different permissions, such as reducing the distance to buildings, you may need to apply for an Operational Safety Case (OSC) with the CAA.
This application process requires providing evidence that the flight can be carried out safely and without compromising safety. By obtaining the proper permissions from the CAA, you can ensure that your flight is legal and safe for all involved.
Notifying Network Rail if flying near the railway
When flying a drone near a railway in the UK, it’s important to notify Network Rail of your intended flight path. This step is crucial for safety as flights within 50m of the railway are not permitted. Network Rail maintains a list of companies that are authorised to carry out this type of work and can put you in touch with them if required.
By informing Network Rail and obtaining the necessary permissions, you can ensure the safety of passengers and train operations and avoid any potential legal issues.
It’s also important to note that regulations and permissions may vary depending on the country and location, so it’s important to research and understand the laws and regulations in the area where you plan to fly.
Contacting Local Air Traffic Control (ATC) if flying near an airport
When it comes to flying a drone in the vicinity of an airport, it’s important to seek permission from the local Air Traffic Control (ATC). Flying a drone in the airspace controlled by an airport is strictly prohibited without permission from the ATC. If your flight plan takes you within the airspace controlled by an airport, it’s important to contact the ATC and request permission to fly.
They will evaluate your request, ensure your flight is safe and put in place any necessary mitigation measures. If deemed safe, you may still be able to carry out your flight. It’s important to note that not obtaining permission from the ATC could lead to legal issues and safety risks.
It’s always best to check with the relevant authorities and obtain the necessary permissions before conducting any drone flight near an airport.
Obtaining Permission from Nuclear Facilities
When it comes to flying a drone near Nuclear Facilities, it’s important to understand and abide by the Flight Restriction Zones (FRZ) in place. These FRZs are put in place to ensure the safety and security of the facilities and the public. Flying a drone within these zones without permission is illegal and could result in legal consequences.
To legally fly a drone near a Nuclear Facility, you must first obtain permission from an authorized person at the facility.
Once you have obtained this permission, you must then pass it to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who will grant you temporary permission to conduct the flight.
It’s important to note that the rules and regulations for flying a drone near Nuclear Facilities can vary depending on the country and location, so it’s important to research and understand the laws and regulations in the area where you plan to fly.
Obtaining Permission from Prisons, Military Bases, Sport Stadiums, etc.
When planning a drone flight, it’s important to check for any restriction zones that may be in place around the site you plan to fly. These zones are put in place to ensure the safety and security of the public, and flying within them without permission is illegal. Some examples of sites that may have restriction zones include: Prisons, Military Bases, Sport Stadiums etc.
It’s always recommended to check the airspace around the site as soon as possible in your planning process, to ensure you have enough time to gain all the necessary permissions.
This will help you avoid any potential legal issues and ensure the safety of the public and the site. It’s important to note that rules and regulations for flying a drone near these types of sites can vary depending on the location, so it’s important to research and understand the laws and regulations in the area where you plan to fly.
Obtaining Permission from National Trust
National Trust locations refer to the properties, gardens, and parks that are owned and managed by the National Trust in the United Kingdom. These can include historic houses, castles, gardens, parks, beaches, and countryside landscapes. Some of the most famous National Trust locations include Stonehenge, Hadrian’s Wall, Giant’s Causeway, and many more.
These places are protected and conserved by the National Trust for the benefit of the nation, they are open to the public and offer a wide range of activities, events and experiences throughout the year. The National Trust’s website provides a list of all their locations across the UK, which you can filter by location, type of property, and interest.
The National Trust may grant permission for commercial drone filming in certain circumstances. To be considered, the production company must follow the same competency and insurance rules as those required for contractors.
Additionally, the filming must be commercial in nature and must have been agreed with the National Trust’s filming office.
The National Trust usually considers applications from recognised production companies who are using drone footage as part of a broader production, which includes filming on the ground with actors and presenters.
The footage obtained can only be used for the named project, and further use, including image libraries, is prohibited. The National Trust does not grant permission for amateur or student filming and does not approve requests from any fliers who seek permission in return for access and use of the footage obtained.
UK Drone Privacy Laws 2023
Privacy is an important issue when it comes to using drones or model aircraft. It’s important to respect the privacy of others and to make sure that you don’t invade their privacy when you’re out flying your drone.
There are certain things that you can and can’t do with photos and videos taken with your drone. For example, you should not use a camera or listening device on your drone to invade someone’s privacy, such as by taking pictures or recordings inside their home or garden. This is likely to be a violation of data protection laws.
It’s also important to remember that it’s against the law to take photographs or record video or sound for criminal purposes. If you do take photos or recordings with your drone, they may be covered by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is a set of rules that protect the personal data of individuals.
In general, it’s a good idea to be mindful of other people’s privacy when using your drone, and to make sure that you are not invading their privacy or breaking any laws.
Ensuring Visibility and Accountability
It’s important to be visible and accountable when operating a drone or model aircraft. This means letting others know that you are responsible for the device. Additionally, it’s important to respect people’s privacy by letting them know before you start recording or taking pictures with your drone.
It’s not always practical to do this in every situation, but it’s important to try to do so whenever possible. It’s also important to never fly over groups of people or crowds without their permission. This will help ensure that you are following safety guidelines and respecting others’ rights.
Ethical and Lawful Drone Photography
It’s important to think carefully before sharing photos and videos taken with your drone. Avoid sharing anything that could be unfair or harmful to anyone. Consider who might be able to see the images and apply the same common-sense approach that you would with other types of photos or videos.
It’s also important to keep your photos and videos secure by storing them safely and deleting anything you no longer need.
If you plan to use your drone images for commercial purposes, you will need to meet additional requirements as a data controller.
This may include obtaining consent from individuals who are featured in the images and ensuring that the images are used in a responsible and ethical manner.
Unique UK Drone Law Scenarios
According to UK drone laws, there are certain less common flying activities that you may need to be aware of as a drone operator.
These points are not included in the theory test, but are important to understand if you are planning to carry out these types of activities.
UK drone laws allow for flying over very tall structures in certain circumstances. If the person or organisation responsible for a very tall structure over 105 meters asks you to carry out a task related to their structure, you are allowed to fly higher than 120 meters.
However, you must never fly more than 15 meters above the structure, and your drone or model aircraft must be within 50 meters of the structure horizontally when flying over 120 meters.
When there is an emergency incident, such as a car accident, fire, flood, or rescue operation, it is important to stay out of the way and not fly in a way that could obstruct the emergency services. If you are flying near an emergency incident when it occurs, you must stop flying immediately unless the emergency services give you permission to continue.
You should also follow any temporary restrictions that are put in place and be mindful not to interfere with any aerial support provided to the emergency services.
Additionally, it is important to respect the privacy of those involved in the emergency.
FPV Drone Flying Laws
First Person View (FPV) flying involves the use of video cameras on drones that transmit live video feeds to the remote pilot via a screen or video goggles, giving them a drone’s eye view. Under normal circumstances, remote pilots must keep the drone within their unaided visual line of sight.
However, FPV flying is allowed when a spotter assists the remote pilot in maintaining awareness of the drone’s surroundings.The spotter must be situated next to the remote pilot and is not allowed to use any vision-enhancing devices, such as binoculars.
Although the spotter helps the remote pilot maintain awareness of the drone’s surroundings, the remote pilot remains responsible for the safety of the flight.
FPV alone is not considered an acceptable method for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations unless the operator has received specific authorization from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Additionally, FPV pilots who are members of drone or model aircraft clubs may be afforded greater flexibility for FPV flights and drone racing through the Article 16 Operational Authorisation. This authorization allows for certain exemptions to be made for certain types of flights, such as those conducted by experienced pilots in designated areas.
It is important to note that FPV pilots are still subject to the standard regulations of the CAA and must follow the Drone Code, which includes flying below 400ft, keeping the drone in sight, and not flying in restricted airspace.
Follow Me Mode Drone Legality
Follow-me mode, where a drone is set to automatically follow and track a subject, is legal in the UK. However, it is only permitted within certain guidelines and regulations set out by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Follow-me mode can be used for flights in the Open Category, which is the category for most recreational and small commercial drone flights. However, there is a maximum distance of 50m from the remote pilot that the drone can fly in follow-me mode. This is to ensure that the drone remains within the pilot’s line of sight and can be safely flown.
Flying A Drone Indoors
When it comes to flying drones indoors in the UK, there are certain laws and regulations that must be followed to ensure safety. Unlike outdoor drone flights, which are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), indoor drone flights fall under the jurisdiction of Health and Safety regulations.
If you are planning to fly a drone indoors, it’s important to conduct a thorough risk assessment and to ensure that the environment is safe for the drone flight. This includes ensuring that the space is large enough for the drone to fly safely, that there are no obstacles or hazards that could damage the drone or harm people and animals, and that there is proper ventilation to dissipate any fumes or dust generated by the drone.
It’s also important to consider the noise level of the drone, as well as the potential for electromagnetic interference, which could affect other electronic equipment in the area.
It’s worth noting that if there is any possibility of the drone escaping outdoors into general aviation, you will need to follow the regulations of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
When flying a drone indoors, it’s also important to be aware of the privacy laws and regulations that may apply, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is a regulation that applies to all member states of the European Union. This regulation applies to the protection of personal data, and it is important to take the necessary steps to protect the privacy of the people and their personal information.
In summary, while indoor drone flights are not regulated by the CAA, they still require proper planning, risk assessment, and compliance with health and safety regulations to ensure the safety of the people and the drone. It’s always best to consult with the relevant authorities and experts to ensure that you are following all the laws and regulations before conducting any indoor drone flight.
Revised UK Drone Laws After Brexit for 2023: Key Changes and Implications
After Brexit, the UK has introduced significant changes to drone laws that impact both leisure users in the Open Category and those operating under an Operational Authorisation in the Specific Category. Beginning in 2023, UK drone pilots and operators will face new classifications and requirements.
In response to the CAP2367 document and the recommendations made to the Department for Transport (DfT), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced the extension of the Transitional Period until 2026 in December 2022.
As a result, the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Regulation was released, including the Consolidated Regulation, Acceptable Means of Compliance, Guidance Material, and Certification Specifications to amend UK Regulation (EU) 2019/947.
Starting January 1, 2023, the UK will no longer recognise drones with EU class marks, requiring them to operate under Transitional provisions. The Transitional period has been extended to January 1, 2026, allowing current drones without a class mark (or an unrecognised class mark) to operate under Transitional provisions for an extended period.
For UK drone pilots in 2023, this means changes for:
- Drone classification: The CAA opted not to adopt the EU’s C1 classification for the DJI Mavic 3 series, which allows EU operators to fly drones closer to uninvolved persons. Instead, drones with EU C ratings will be considered under the UK’s Transitional period status.
- Legacy drones: To continue operating legacy drones near people beyond the new date, pilots must operate in the Specific Category by obtaining a General VLOS Certificate and an Operational Authorisation from the CAA.
- Class marking system: Although the UK plans to introduce a Class marking system in the long term, it is unlikely to align with EASA’s classification system. Consequently, UK drones will have different classifications than those in the EU.
- Retrospective classification: CAP1789 legislation indicates that legacy drones meeting relevant standards may be eligible for a Class marking. Many drone users hope for retrospective classification for existing drones, but further clarification is required.
In short, UK drone pilots in 2023 will encounter changes in drone classification and regulatory requirements. Staying
Common UK Drone Law FAQ
What happens to my PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) with the new 2023 UK drone laws?
Your valid PfCO will be amended to bring it in line with the new Operational Authorisation. This means that your PfCO will not become null and void on December 31, 2020. Instead, the terms of the operating conditions will be updated to align with the Operational Authorisation. This will ensure that all relevant UAS operators hold the same privileges.
The PfCO will remain valid until its expiration date and when you renew your application, you will receive an Operational Authorisation. Individuals with NQE qualifications may continue to renew their Operational Authorisation until January 1, 2024, before which, they will be required to undertake the PfCO to GVC Conversion course.
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Further Drone Law UK Reading: Acts and regulations
UK Drone Law Guide For Informational Purposes Only
This UK drone law guide is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. The information contained in this guide may not be up to date and may not necessarily reflect the current laws and regulations related to drones in the UK.
Leslie Drones is not liable for any incorrect information contained in this guide. It is the responsibility of the user to check the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website for the most up-to-date information on drone laws and regulations in the UK. The CAA is the official source for information on UK drone laws and regulations.
The images used in this content are from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) drone code and are used for illustrative purposes only. These images are not intended to be used for commercial purposes and remain the property of the CAA. The use of these images does not imply endorsement by the CAA of the content or any products or services mentioned in the content. The CAA accepts no liability for any errors or omissions in the content or for any loss or damage of any kind arising from or in connection with the use of the images or the content.