Drone Laws UK – Drone Safety, Regulations and Rules UK
January 23rd 2019
Drone filming is a core part of the video production industry in this day and age and they are a key part of the projects we produce. Because of this it is important for us to keep up to date with the latest drone law UK and regulation changes and to be seen as a safe and considerate operator, especially in these uncertain times.
I’m sure you have heard about the chaos at Gatwick and Heathrow in the last couple of months that was caused by drone sightings. These events are very frustrating for professional drone pilots because every time it happens the drone laws UK will get tighter and that then makes our job that little bit harder or in some cases not possible at all.r
If used safely and considerately drones are a fantastic production tool and add a new level of creativity and a very unique viewpoint. They don’t have to be seen as an invasion of privacy and a danger to the public and in order to make people aware of this it’s important for users such as ourselves to follow the law and to not take any risks.
Drone Laws UK
First of all I will look at the current drone laws UK that all licensed drone pilots must follow. I’ll then look at the latest changes to the legislation and finally take you through some of the safety steps we follow before any drone shoot.
In order to stay on the right side of the law and to fly considerately, drone operators must adhere to the following –
- If a pilot is flying a drone for commercial purposes they must have a CAA license and specialist drone insurance in place.
- A risk assessment must be carried out ahead of each drone shoot.
- The weather must be taken into account.
- Drones must not exceed an altitude of 120 metres. This is because 120 metres is the lower limit for planes and other man-driven aircraft.
- Drones must remain in sight of the pilot at all times. This is to ensure that it doesn’t collide with any objects, such as planes.
- Drones must not fly within 1km of the perimeter fence of a protected aerodrome, without prior permission from the aerodrome.
- Drones must stay at least 50 metres away from any person, property, vessel, vehicle, or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the drone and 150 metres away from congested areas and organised groups of more than 1,000 people.
- Ensure any captured images and/or video do not break privacy laws.
- Seek permission from landowner if you need to take-off and land from their property. If not this would be trespassing.
Since the havoc at Gatwick and Heathrow we can expect the following to happen over the next year or so –
- The exclusion zone around aerodromes will most likely be extended to the current Air Traffic Zone, which is an area extending 5km (3.1 miles) from the perimeter fence, with additional extensions from runway ends.
- Police are going to be given extra powers. Officers will be able to “enter and/or search premises with a warrant, where there is reasonable suspicion that there is a drone and/or its associated components which may have been involved in an offence.
- They’ll also be able to issue fixed penalty notices (FPN) up to £100 for minor drone-related offences.
A drone user could be slapped with an FPN for committing any of the following offences –
- Unable to show registration documentation, and/or proof of registration for drones between 250g and 20kg in mass, at the request of a police officer.
- Not producing evidence of any other relevant permissions required by legislation.
- Not complying with a police officer when instructed to land a drone.
- Flying a drone without a valid acknowledgement of competency, or failure to provide evidence of meeting this competency requirement when requested.
How Echo Video ensures safe drone operation
When we receive an enquiry for a drone shoot the first thing we do is to check that the location isn’t within a restricted airspace or near any hazards outside of our control. There is an app called NATS Drone Assist which can tell us everything we need to know about no fly zones or areas that may present a danger. The map to the right shows Brighton City Airport and the different zones that help protect the light aircraft and helicopters that the airfield services. The zones include –
Flight restriction zone (inner red area) – this area is the airfield itself. In order to fly a drone in this area you would need permission from Air Traffic Control or the Flight Information Service at the aerodrome. If permission is granted it will most likely come with a lot of stipulations.
Flight restriction zone (outer red area) – This is the 1km exclusion zone around the perimeter of Brighton City Airport. To fly here will require the same permissions as the inner flight restriction zone.
Area of increased risk (yellow area) – This area marks an increased risk to flying a drone and may raise security, privacy or safety concerns. If this area intersects a red area (one or both of the above) then they take priority. The yellow circle to the north east of Brighton City Airport appears to be over no obvious threats but in fact Devil’s Dyke is one of the most popular areas for hand and para gliding. This is a great example of how important research is when planning a drone shoot.
Airspace – Aerodrome traffic zone (large red circled area) – This area is regulated high-risk and it is advised that you do not fly here. You will need to check with the aerodrome in question as sometimes it is prohibited to fly. If you are able to fly then extreme caution must be taken and the drone code must be followed and the drone must never leave the pilots line of sight.
Once we have confirmed that the location is safe to fly from or we have gained the required permissions we then draw a take-off/landing map with flight paths. This helps us work out what shots we will be able to capture and it gives our client a good idea of what they can expect. It would be a real shame if a client had a shot in mind that couldn’t be captured due to circumstances outside of our control and we hadn’t made them aware of this.
If permissions are required it can take a bit of time to organise so it’s important for us to work this in to our schedule. It may be something quite simple such as ringing a farmer to ask if we can use one of their fields, they are generally very happy to grant permission but on occasion they do ask for payment! The more complicated ones are when aerodromes are involved. Gatwick has a drone division which are contactable by email, so permission can be granted if a shoot is required near the airport. Other airports such as Brighton City Airport have a document that needs to be submitted, this sets out the flight plan so the airport can grant or refuse permission.
Once we finally arrive at the location for the shoot we first have to fill out a risk assessment and site survey before we can take-off and start filming. The site survey includes details such as the weather and local emergency services contact numbers so in the event of an emergency all the required information is in one place.
During the shoot I think it’s important to be friendly to anyone who might have concerns and to spend some time putting their minds at rest.
If you would like to read more about aerial filming please take a look at our Guide to Aerial Filming.