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All Drone Laws in the UK for 2023 (Complete Guide)

Updated in 2023 by Paul Posea
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height flight limit 1

122m max height

cant fly over crowds of people 1

150m away from crowds 

plane icon white 1 1

4.8km from airports

line of sight law 1

50m away from people

This is a guide for the United Kingdom drone laws in 2023 (updated every year) where you'll get a clue about what you can or shouldn't do while flying a quadcopter anywhere in this country.

Can I fly a drone in the United Kingdom?

Yes, you could fly a drone in the UK, provided that you will follow all the rules set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which acts as the governing agency regulating the flight of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) drones. 

There are different rules for both commercial and recreational drones that you need to follow whenever you are going to fly your drone in the UK.

Who to contact? 

CAA is the go-to agency for all your concerns about flying drones in the UK. 

You may reach them through 

email: uavenquiries@caa.co.uk 

phone: (+44) 0330 022 1500 

How can I register my drone in the UK?

There are two types of registration given by the CAA of UK—registering for yourself and an organization.

Flyer ID

  • online theory test
  • no minimum age
  •  3-year registration validity 
  • free

Operator ID 

  • minimum age 18
  • 1-year registration validity
  • annual update of registration
  • certificate of registration
  • a fee of L9 annually

Before you fly a drone weighing 250 g to 20 kg, you need to secure two registrations too—one as a flyer and the other as the operator.

Flyer ID drone license

There is no minimum age but children under 13, they will be asked to register with a guardian or a parent. 

You will be asked to take an online theory test on flying safely and legally which has 20 multiple-choice questions. The passing mark is 16 and you can take the test as many times as you can.

But you could ace the test if you brush up on the new Drone and Model Aircraft Code. Once you pass, you’d receive a Flyer ID along with the competency as a remote pilot of the CAA.

Operator ID drone license

The next step is securing an Operator ID. Unlike in getting a Flyer ID, this one requires you to be at least 18 years old. The validity period of this only lasts for a year, that means you have to renew it from CAA annually for the rate of L9.

There is no age requirement in flying but in operating, there is one. So if you happen to fly a drone of your relative or a friend, you just need a Flyer ID.

But operating, or owning, is a different story. For that, you need to secure two IDs, one for flying and the other for owning one. 

However, if you’re just a parent who owns a drone but it’s your son who flies it? For that you have to register as a non-flying operator. 

image 36

What are the Drone Laws in UK?

For those who have drones heavier than 250 g, the CAA requires you to take an online safety test and to undergo registration before taking off. Failing to do so could lead you to paying fines as much as L1,000. 

  • Maximum altitude of 122 m (400 ft) above the surface
  • The drone weighs less than 20 kg
  • Keep your done within the visual line-of-sight of an observer who is next to you or in direct communication with you
  • Fly only during day time and good, permitting weather
  • Maintain 4.8-km distance away from airports (any airport, whether seaplane base or those used for aircraft, and helicopters)
  • Do not fly a drone within 150 m (492 ft) of any congested area or an organized open-air assembly of more than 1,000 people
  • Maintain a distance of 50 m away from people, vehicles, and private property and 150 m away from large crowds and built-up areas
  • Do not fly within the Flight Restriction Zone of a protected aerodrome
  • Insurance is required for all commercial drone operators
  • Do not drop any article or animal from your UAS that may endanger persons or property

Commercial Drone use in the UK

In the UK, rules have been specifically defined by the Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO 2016), from operating the drone for recreational to commercial purposes. But between the two, using drones for commercial purposes poses more risk as it could be used more often in public places.

  • Under the ANO 2016, “commercial operation” is defined as 
  • flight by a small unmanned aircraft (SUA) except a flight for public transport available to the public 
  • performed under the contract between the SUA operator and a customer in return for remuneration 

Understanding commercial operation can be defined by the phrases “available to the public” and “remuneration.” These tell us that operating drones commercially are used for purposes of giving service or commodity to any member of the public in exchange for money. 

How to get a commercial drone license in UK

The greater the amount of ‘freedom of operation’ you require--in terms of locations, and duration of the permission--the greater the amount of information you need to provide in proving that you could actually operate a drone safely. 

But first, you need to familiarize yourself first with the permissions and exemptions provided by the CAA in pursuant to the ANO 2016 regulations. These documents are valid up to 12 months and are subject for annual renewal. 

Permissions 

  • height of more than 400 ft above the surface 
  • within 150 m of either a congested area or an organized open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons 
  • within 50 m of people or properties/objects that are not under your control 

There are two types of permission--the standard and the non-standard. 

Standard Permission: 
  • permits operations within a congested area 
  • requires evidence of pilot competence 
  • requires evidence of competence in Operations Manual 
Non-Standard Permission 
  • requirements for Standard Permission also apply, with the addition that applicants are required to submit an Operating Safety Case (OSC) to the CAA
  • covers all other types of flight and addresses operations containing greater operating risk 

Additionally, any individual who wants to fly a drone for commercial purposes would need a Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO). One of the ways to obtain this is thorugh Heliguy, a CAA-approved National Qualified Entry. 

Exemption: 

But if you want to seek release from any other requirement mandated by the ANO 2016 regulations, this is when you’ll need to secure an exemption. However, you need to demonstrate your competence too in operating a drone whether in front of the CAA or when challenged by the police. 

One example is conducting the ‘first-person view’ flight, which can only be conducted if approved by the CAA. If the CAA is impressed with your demonstration, it will issue you a formal exemption. But bear in mind that these exemptions can only be allowed only until June 30, 2020, when a new set of regulations are set to be in place. 

Any operator who have not secured permissions, exemptions, or does not hold a recognized association competency from the CAA will be required to complete a free online course.

For operators flying commercial drones under 20kg, they a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) is granted to them by the CAA to conduct paid work using their small unmanned aircraft (SUA). To get your PfCO, you need to attend and pass a CAA Drone Training Course.

Is it legal to shoot a commercial drone that hovers above your property?

This complicated question cannot be solved by one answer—it is both a yes and a no. 

Let me begin by carefully explaining how this could be legal. But do take note that this topic must be dealt with much precaution, as one misconception could alter your lives forever.

So when does this become legal? Speaking about privacy and territorial concerns, yes you can shoot a weapon, but only if:

  • You have a gun license
  • It is safe to do so
  • It is within your territorial boundary; and most importantly,
  • If the drone you’re shooting is yours

Otherwise, any other condition not specified above wouldn’t qualify you to legally shoot a drone. Let’s put an emphasis on why you should only shoot a drone that belongs to you. Yes, there are serious privacy and safety concerns that could be violated, but in the UK law, it is illegal to shoot a drone, unless you’re from the police or military. 

Restricted Areas and Geofencing (drone flying map)

As mentioned above in the guidelines for flying drones in UK, there are certain Flight Restriction Zones in aerodromes, or the areas where aircraft operations take place. 

Here are some of the zones you must avoid: 

  • Aerodrome Traffic Zone - 2 or 2.5 nautical mile extending 2,000 ft above ground level 
  • Runway Protection Zone - 5 km from the threshold of the runway, extending up to a height of 2,000 ft above ground level 
  • Additional Zones - 1 km boundary of an aerodrome extending beyond the traffic zone 

For more info, you could check this map of that show’s all the restricted airfields in UK. There is also an app that you could download for Android and Apple devices that gives you access to this map, check it here

The best way to figure out what areas you can fly in, is by consulting DJI official map. They do a great job mapping the places that one should avoid while flying in every country:

  • airports
  • military bases
  • prisons
  • power plants
  • any high-risk areas
image 24

What drones can I fly without registration in UK?

My following two recommendations are 2 great compact drones that are quite silent and also small enough to travel with and not stand out as annoying.

1. DJI Mini 2- The best international travel drone (under 250g)

camera-icon-spec

4k

battery-icon-spec

31 min

range-icon-spec

10 km

drone-icon-spec

No follow-me

image 25

DJI has surprised us with this incredible camera drone under 250g, which is legal to fly in most countries without registration.

It comes at a very cheap price for its incredible specs.I have covered it much more in-depth in my article review and even compared it with the Mavic Air 2.

2. DJI Mavic Air 2 - My favorite drone overall

camera-icon-spec

4k 60p

battery-icon-spec

34 min

range-icon-spec

10 km

drone-icon-spec

Follow me

image 26

If you want more control over things like shutter speed, iso, and such, the best professional drone that still falls under the 500g category is the DJI Mavic Air.

It's made mostly for people who want to play around with settings and enter into the pro category.

DJI lowered its price since it was first released.

Restricted Areas and Geofencing (Drone Flying map)

The best way to figure out what areas you can fly in, while you're here is by consulting DJI's official map.

They do a great job mapping the places that one should avoid while flying in every country:

  • airports
  • military bases
  • prisons
  • power plants
  • any high-risk areas

These would be the current updated drone laws for UK. I suggest checking my full map with all the countries' drone laws to see where it's best to travel.

Conclusion 

If you are going to visit UK, make sure you’ve learned all the dos and don’ts of flying drones in this region. This will help you have a safe journey and enjoy flying your drone without getting yourself into trouble. 

Also, keep in mind that, commercial and recreational drones are treated differently in most countries therefore you will need to prepare yourself accordingly. Last but not least, always follow rules and regulations and make sure to respect the laws of every country.

author-paul-posea-picture
Hi, I'm Paul.
A big drone enthusiast, reviewing, comparing and writing about drones since 2015. I'm all about helping people enjoy and even monetize their hobby.
paul posea
Paul Posea
Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.

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