United kingdom drone-laws
height flight limit

122m(400ft) max height

can't fly over crowds of people

 150m away from crowds 

plane icon white

4.8km from airports

50m away from people

All Drone Laws in UK for 2020 (Complete Guide)

This is a guide for the United Kingdom drone laws in 2020 (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.

 

Table of Contents

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) like drones. 

Who to contact? 

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

You may reach them through 

email: uavenquiries@caa.co.uk 

phone: (+44) 0330 022 1500 

What are the Drone Laws in UK?

drone laws by country updated map

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. 

  • height icon
    Height limit of 122m (400ft)
    maximum altitude of 122 m (400 ft) above the surface
  • weight icon 500g
    Drone weighs less than 20 kg
  • line of sight icon
    Line of sight
    Keep your done within the visual line-of-sight of an observer who is next to you or in direct communication with you
  • moon day icon night flying
    No night flying
    fly only during day time and good, permitting weather
  • plane icon
    No flying near airports
    maintain 4.8-km distance away from airports (any airport, whether seaplane base or those used for aircraft, helicopters)
  • crowd icon
    Don't fly over crowds
    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
  • ambulance icon
    50m away from 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
  • plane icon
    do not fly within the Flight Restriction Zone of a protected aerodrome
  • historical museum icon
    Insurance if you're a commercial drone operator
    insurance is required for all commercial drone operators
  • crowd icon
    Don't drop objects
    do not drop any article or animal from your UAS that may endanger persons or property

How can I register my drone in UK?

Anyone responsible for owning and operating any unmanned aerial vehicle, like a drone weighing between 250g to 20kg, outdoors is required to pass this three-fold stringent procedure:

  1.         Pass an online test
  2.         Register for an operator ID
  3.         Label any drone or model aircraft with your operator ID

Visit the website of Drone Registration UK. Here, they could assist you with all the necessary procedures on how to be a responsible drone pilot, operator, and owner.

What type of drone licenses are there?

There are two types of registration given by the CAA of UK—registering for yourself and for 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
  • 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 licese

There is no minimum age but for children under 13, they will be asked to register witha 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 you can. But you could really 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 licese

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. 

How 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

Commercial Drone use in UK

drone commercial use graphic

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.

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, 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 offilicial 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
romania flying map dji

What drones can I fly without registration in UK?

My following recommendation is a great compact drone that is quite silent and also small enough to travel with and not stand out as annoying.

1.Dji Mavic Mini - The best international travel drone (under 250g)

camera-icon-small

2.7k

small battery-life-icon

30min

drone distance icon

4km

No follow me

DJI has surprised us with this incredible camera drone under 250g, which is half of the weight required for registering in Austria in the first place.

 

I have covered it much more in depth in my article review and even compared it with the DJI Spark and Mavic Air.

Frequently asked questions

faq-what-should-you-look-for-in-a-drone

At this price, every dollar counts in getting yourself a better or worse drone and the differences can be significant.

 I'm going to cover the main features of basic camera drones, not FPV or otherwise niche quadcopters. 

Is drone insurance mandatory?

Only if you're using the drone with commercial purposes

What's the max height you can fly a drone at?

For recreational purposes, the max height you can fly at is 400ft(122m)

What's the max distance you can fly?

You can fly at a maximum of 500m from you.

Can you fly drones at night?

No, you need to fly only in good daylight and permitting weather.