Drone laws in the United Kingdom have gotten tighter than before. Due to several drone sightings near airports and runways, the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) amended its drone laws which were announced in 2018. Moreover, with improving technology drones keep getting more affordable and accessible by almost anyone. This puts drone safety at a crucial standpoint. Thus, tourists and residents alike, the new drone laws will be implemented by this year’s end.

Height Cap

Drones can not exceed the altitude of 400ft (120m) anywhere in the UK. This height ceiling is critical for the safety of aircraft. Drones above this limit may interfere with incoming air traffic, thereby posing as a major threat.

Additionally, drones must strictly fly 5Km away from all airports. Earlier this limit was set to 1Km but has now been raised to 5Km. Most commercial drones come with GPS and Geofencing which send an alert if these boundaries are breached. However, DIY or malicious drones which break the airport proximity are liable to an unlimited fine or five years imprisonment or both.

Also, flying drones near people and property also have certain restrictions. Drones must stay at least 50m (150ft) away from any person or property, with this increasing to 150m (500ft) near built-up areas and crowds.

Geofencing in the UK
A section of the Geofencing map of the UK encompassing the ‘No-Fly-Zones’ in red.

Drone Pilot License

Earlier only commercially flown drones required to be registered with CAA and pilots underwent training at a certified center to obtain a license. While drones owned by hobbyists required no such protocols to be followed.

However, the House of Commons passed a new law stating that every drone above 250g must be registered with the CAA. Also, drone pilots of this category must undergo training and obtain a valid license to fly drones commercially or for a hobby. This bill is set to come into effect from November 2019.

Along with this, the Drone Regulation Bill will also come into effect. This will give police the authority to seize drones and fine pilots (up to £300) if deemed hazardous.

General Rules

Apart from the amendments, some common instructions to be adhered to are:

  • Always keep your drone in the line of sight.
  • Keep ample distance from people, property, and airports.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Ensure that images captured by the drone do not break any privacy laws.
Drone flying in London
A medical drone flying in London.

In the past year, there have been as many as 117 near misses between drones and aircraft. A study found that a 2Kg drone could easily break through the windscreen of a passenger plane while a 400g one could do the same for a helicopter. Either could lead to catastrophic accidents endangering the lives of hundreds. Thus, it is essential to abide by the drone laws and fly drones responsibly.