UK Drone Rules
So you have a new drone and you need to understand the new UK Drone Rules – You’re confident to fly but you’re not sure what to do before you go out to have fun – You may have questions such as can I fly this drone, can I fly here and do I need any permission?
Believe it or not, you’ve just done a risk assessment and have the natural instinct to realise that you’re about to do something that could be dangerous – Good Job! All the more to make each flight enjoyable.
New rules from 31st December 2020 are designed to standardise drone legislation across Europe – They can seem complex at first so before you take your new drone out for a spin, let us explain what you do/don’t need to consider next. Please remember that this is a guide and that the CAA website should always be referred to for the latest detailed legislation and updates.
It’s a Toy!
For the aspiring dronesters amongst you who have a drone that weighs less than 250g WITHOUT A CAMERA essentially have a cool toy – You don’t need to do anything immediately other than follow the drone code and manufacturers instructions to go flying. When we talk about drones being less than 250g, this would generally cover DJI Mavic Mini / Mini 2 and smaller. The basics of the Drone Code are depicted below;
Do you need one ? This is obtained through the CAA website and is your proof of completing an online theory test of multiple choice questions – This is not needed if your drone weighs less than 250g – If you intend to fly a drone over 250g however, you are now required by law to complete the online test to obtain a Flyer ID. There’s a link a little further down..
Do you need one? As above, this is not needed if your drone weighs less than 250g UNLESS it weights less than 250kg and has a camera! An operator ID is then required by law – This is in essence a registration process for the drone and person responsible for it – Note that the responsible person who is making an application needs to be over 18 years old (mum or dad for example) – Individuals under 18 can fly providing that they have the flyer ID where necessary – The responsible person will be given an operator ID which must be labelled clearly on the drone for identification. All operators of drones weighing more than 250g, regardless of having a camera or not must obtain an operator ID by law – Further information can be found on the CAA website here Getting what you need to fly | UK Civil Aviation Authority (caa.co.uk)
Where Can I Fly – What’s the Category thing all about?
Ok so by now you may be realising that the lighter the drone, the lesser the risk and as such means you can fly in more places – Drones weighing above 250g start to introduce more rules – Specific to drone weight, specification and the associated level of risk , there are now three categories of operation that dictate where you can and cannot fly
The Three Categories
These are the Open Category, Specific Category and Certified Category – In this blog, we will only cover the Open Category as for anything else, you would likely be operating outside of general activity while wanting to use heavier drones and/or in places that you clearly should not be flying without further permission – perhaps for flights that would in general be deemed for commercial purposes or within No fly zones – If you do have any questions about Specific or Certified Categories, please get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to help if we can.
Within the open category there are three main laws that the operator is bound by during flight. The drone should not weigh more than 25kg, should be kept within sight (max 500m) and kept below 400ft (120m) – Further details can be found here Where you can fly drones | UK Civil Aviation Authority (caa.co.uk)
The open category is then sub divided into 3 further categories around where in relation you want to fly to people (or congested areas). These are A1 – flying “over” people, A2 – Flying “close to” people, A3 – Flying “far from” people. The weight (or class) of the drone dictates which of these scenarios you can fly.
Drone Classification – What?
Yes, from January 2021 drones will need to be sold and stamped with one of the following classifications – Each drone should have a detailed explanation of what you need to do in the box.
Class 0 – Drones weighing less than 250g – Can be flown in all scenarios, A1, A2 and A3
Class 1 – Drones weighing less than 900g – Can be flown in scenarios A1, A2 and A3 providing that the operator has successfully attended an A2 CofC training course to fly in A2 – There are “transitional” exceptions to the rules to allow continued use of your “legacy aircraft” (i.e. drones bought without a specific class marking) until 31st December 2022 – Providing that you have taken the A2 CofC training course, you can fly in A1 “above people” with drones up to 500g and A2 “close to people” (but no closer than 50m) with drones up to 2kg.
Class 2 – Drones weighing less than 4kg – Can be flown in A2 and A3 only (operator must have A2 CofC to fly in A2)
Class 3 and 4 – Drones weighing less than 25kg with specific manufacturer specification – Can be flown in A3 only “Far from people” and must be flown at a minimum distance of 150m from uninvolved people and congested areas.
Please visit the CAA website for further detailed information on drone classifications
This can understandably seem quite confusing and is mainly due to the transitional rules and the introduction of the new class of unmanned aircraft while recognising that many people have recently purchased drones that could otherwise be forced to throw them in the bin. Our advice in summary would be towards two audiences:
Audience 1 – The toy with no camera – A drone under 250g with no camera – Follow the drone code – No specific requirements or action – unbox, read manufacture instructions and go fly!
Audience 2 – The enthusiast with a drone weighing over 250g – By law, you should obtain Flyer ID and Operator ID from the CAA website and label your drone – In general, if you intend on flying closer than 150m to uninvolved people or congested areas you should enquire and attend an A2 CofC training course – For those who will remain greater than 150m from uninvolved people and congested areas, A2 CofC is not needed.
Pay specific attention to the laws of flying over people (A1) – There are some exceptions for both legacy drones and new class of drones to fly over people (A1) that weigh up to 500g and 900g respectively – Operators of legacy drones up to 500g would need A2 CofC, whereas operators of new class C1 drones to 900g would not. Those with drones weighing in excess of 900g (Mavic 2 pro for example) can not fly over people within the Open Category under any circumstance and would enter the terms of Specific Category requiring permission to fly from the CAA.
For further information on A2 CofC, our preferred Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE) where you can seek the best advice and training packages at great prices is 3iC – www.3ic.co.uk – Please mention Mission Drones.
We hope this helps – Please reach out if you have any questions or if you notice any anomalies in the above.