Drones or Small Unmanned Aircraft

Anyone using a drone has to follow the Drone Code  to ensure that members of the public are protected. The regulations for recreational drone flights are contained within the Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO). For small unmanned aircraft (20kg or less) to be used lawfully:

  • The operator must ensure the drone is flown in a safe manner.
  • The operator must keep the drone in their direct sight at all times. The drone must not be flown further than 500m away from the operator. This rule applies even if the drone is able to relay live footage to the operator. It must never be beyond the operator’s unaided visual line of sight.
  • The drone may not be flown above 400 feet.
  • The operator must not endanger anyone, or anything with the drone, including any articles that may be dropped from it.
  • The operator must not fly their drone within 1km of an airport or airfield boundary. Anyone who flouts the rules could be charged with “recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft”, and face a fine of up to £2500 or up to five years in prison.
  • If a drone is fitted with a camera, there are additional limitations surrounding where it can be flown and how close it can be flown to other uninvolved people or objects.
  1. It must not be flown within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or vessels
  2. It must not be flown within 150 metres of a congested area or any large group of people such as a concert or sporting event as you may be prosecuted.
  3. If you intend to record in an area where people are, you should inform them before you start
  • From 30 November 2019, all those using drones weighing at least 250g (0.25 Kg) will have to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and take an online safety test. Anyone who fails to register or sit the competency test could face fines of up to £1,000.
  • If a drone is fitted with a camera its use has the potential to be covered by the Data Protection Act 1998 (the DPA). The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) advises that:
  1. Where images or other personal data are transmitted from the vehicle back to the pilot then the data should be appropriately protected against interception.
  2. Where images or other personal data are stored on the vehicle (e.g. an on-board memory card) then the data should be appropriately protected in the event of loss or theft (e.g. following a crash).
  3. Additional legal requirements or best practice will include, retaining a log of usage, copying data to a secure location and securely destroying data on the device as soon as practical.
  4. The data controller must also consider the security of footage once transferred from the device for longer-term storage. 
  • Other laws that protect individuals from harassment may apply when using drones and drone operators should check which laws to be aware of before flying a drone.

If you have any concerns about drones being used in your area, either from a safety or privacy perspective, contact your local police on 101.

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