As the UAV pilot it is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with the national and local drone law and any byelaws pertaining to the flying of remote controlled aircraft or drones, whether you do so for recreation or for commercial reasons. In April 2014 the CAA successfully prosecuted an individual for flying a UAV in restricted airspace and too close to certain structures. This follows another case in which someone was given a caution for operating a drone for commercial purposes without possessing the necessary licences. Details of these cases can be obtained here on the CAA website. Subsequent to those cases there have been several others since proving that the enforcement of Aviation Law is very much a reality.
Compliance with all the laws, byelaws, rules, regulations, and guidelines for UAV pilots can seem complex and daunting at first, so they are best tackled in small pieces until you have managed to build up a clear picture of what is allowed and more importantly, what is not allowed. Talk to the BMFA (www.bmfa.org) and consider joining a local BMFA affiliated club where you can not only learn a lot from experienced flyers but you will also find somewhere safe in which to practice. Many clubs offer an insurance option as well for new members.
The Basic Essentials of Done Law in the UK
If you do nothing else, read and absorb the following leaflet published by the CAA. It’s official title title is CAP 1202 UAV Safety Rules. Check the CAA site for updates every few months or better still sign up for their mailing list. Once you’ve learned these rules you will at least be confident that you know the basics and these alone can keep you both safe and legal.
Compliance with Air Law
Member states of the ICAO each have their own ANO (Air Navigation Order) and in the UK this is published by the CAA under the reference CAP (Civil Aviation Publication) 393. The regulations governing small unmanned aircraft (sUAV) are described in article 166 of the ANO. You should familiarise yourself with the contents of this section and that of the following section (167) which covers sUAV used for surveillance. As well as these two articles you should also be familiar with the contents of CAP 722: Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace.
As a rule of thumb you should adhere to the following guidelines published by the CAA:
- An unmanned aircraft must never be flown beyond the normal unaided ‘line of sight’ of the person operating it. This is generally measured as 500m horizontally or 400ft vertically.
- An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must always be flown at least 50m distance away from a person, vehicle, building or structure.
- An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must not be flown over or within 150m of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert.
Here the same rules again, copied verbatim from CAP 722, section 6.7:
The aircraft (UAV) shall not be flown
- in controlled airspace, except with the permission of the appropriate ATC unit;
- in any aerodrome traffic zone except with the permission of either the appropriate ATC unit or the person in charge of the aerodrome;
at a height exceeding 400 feet above the surface;
- at a distance beyond the visual range of the Remote Pilot/RPA observer of the said aircraft, or a maximum range of 500 metres, whichever is less;
- over or within 150 metres of any congested area of a city, town or settlement;
- or within 50 metres of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure not under the control of the Remote Pilot; during take-off or landing, however, the aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres unless that person is under the control of the Remote Pilot.
So that’s pretty clear then. We advise our customer to use the Phantom Assistant Software to set their height and distance limits accordingly.
Temporary Airspace Restrictions
As well as permanent rules affecting the flying of UAV in UK Airspace there may be additional temporary airspace restrictions designed to protect sporting events, outdoor concerts, festivals etc. Before reaching for your Phantom to photograph or film one of these events please check the AIC Mauve – Airspace Restrictions (UK Airspace Restrictions Imposed in Accordance with the Temporary Restriction of Flying Regulations)
Keeping up to date with the CAA
The CAA operates a free subscription service that provides information about changes to Air Law, new regulations, crew licensing etc that effect all aspects of aviation, from commercial aviation to private flying and including updates about unmanned aviation. To subscribe to these updates please visit the CAA Subscriptions page.
FPV First Person View Flying
Pilots who are considering FPV flying should at least consult the guidelines published on the BMFA website.
Compliance with other laws
Remember that you cannot fly your drone over anyone’s land without the landowner’s permission. Even if you have the landowner’s permission, you may not be then entitled to fly your drone over land adjacent to the take off and landing point. This is why joining a club that provides a designated flying site is often a good idea. Alternatively, make arrangements with local landowners, or ask your local council for advice on where you are allowed to fly remote controlled aircraft.
If your drone is used for aerial photography and filming then you may also need to register yourself with the Data Protection Act if you intend to film people and store that film or images.
Insurance for Quadcopters and other sUAV
There are several insurance options for UAV pilots. For example, you could take out insurance as a member of a BMFA affiliated club, or as and individual direct with an insurance company. If you intend to operate a drone commercially you will need to obtain a recognised qualification (BNUC-s, RPQ-s, etc) and the relevant Public Liability insurance.
For more information visit the CAA’s website.