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Popularly known as drones, but also referred to as remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from small handheld types up to large aircraft, potentially a similar size to airliners.

Just like any other aircraft, an unmanned aircraft must always be flown in a safe manner, both with respect to other aircraft in the air and also to people and properties on the ground. The CAA's main aim is to make sure all UAV in operation are used appropriately and safely, so this ensures the whole of the UK is safe



Permission to fly

You will need permission to fly when in congested areas or within 50m of a building.
The Air Navigation Order defines a congested area as being any area of a city, town or a settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes. to operate in these areas you must obtain permission from the CAA and permission may be valid for one flight or a period of 12 months.

In order to ensure that sufficient safety measures have been put in place, we will need you to demonstrate that they have taken the necessary steps to ensure their drone will not endanger people, property or aircraft. This may be as simple as preparing a safety case or a risk assessment for a one-off flight.

An individual or organisation that would like to conduct regular flights with their drone, however, will probably need to submit an operating manual to the CAA for a permanent approval. This will allow greater freedom to operate continuously without the need to seek ad hoc approvals.

This type of Permission could be of use to:

  • emergency services,
  • a local authority that would like to use a drone to carry out maintenance inspections of its property.



Drone code

When flying a drone in the UK it's your responsibility to be aware of the rules that keep everyone safe.

Follow these simple rules to make sure you're flying safely and legally.

  • Make sure you can see your drone at all times and don't fly higher than 400 feet
  • Always keep your drone away from aircraft, helicopters, airports and airfields
  • Use your common sense and fly safely; you could be prosecuted if you don't.

Drones fitted with cameras must not be flown

  • within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or structures
  • over congested areas or large gatherings such as concerts and sports events

Here's a video guide on the rules of flying a drone