uk drone regulations

Drones are taking off in a big way and are now being used in a variety of industries from aerial surveying to search and rescue operations.

The rules and regulations for governing drones are still evolving.  At the moment drones are classified as “unmanned aircraft” and the CAA are keen to point out that they are a type of aircraft and not a toy.

If you use a drone weighing less than 20kg and you are using it for commercial purposes then you must apply for permissions from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and you will need to have the appropriate CAA approved commercial drone insurance in place.

What is a drone licence and do I need one?

There is no such thing as a drone licence like there is a driving licence.  However if you are flying for any commercial gain you will need to obtain a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).  The CAA regulates and issues all permissions in the UK.

To apply for a PfCO you will need to complete a course with a qualified National Qualified Entity (NQE) or have an appropriate qualification to apply for one.

If you are flying as a hobby or for fun on a recreational basis there is no current regulations about getting permissions.

What is commercial purposes?

If you gain a “valuable consideration” from flying your UAV you will need permission from the CAA for aerial work. A valuable consideration can be monetary or an exchange of services.

What this means is if someone gives you money or buys you anything for doing the work then it is considered commercial.

There are some instances where you would not have to permissions and full details can be seen on the CAA website.

What are the regulations?

The current drone regulations can be found in the Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO 2016).  Along with this there are some other specifics which you need to consider when operating commercially.

Anyone using a drone needs to be aware of the following regulations

  • Article 241 - endangering safety of any person or property
  • Article 94 - small unmanned aircraft
  • Article 95 - small unmanned surveillance aircraft

General standard permissions will allow the operators to do the following:

  • Fly within Visual Line of Sight
  • Fly no higher than 400 feet
  • Fly no further than 500m horizontally
  • Not fly in congested areas

There are some situations where people will want to expand their permissions or make a variation allowing them to do non-standard work after submitting an Operating Safety Case (OSC).

This could include:

  • Flying in congested areas
  • Take off/Land closer proximity than standard

Full details can be found on the CAA website

How do you become a qualified drone pilot?

You will need to pass a Drone Training Course with a CAA approved training school (National Qualified Entity or NQE as they are known).

The course will educate you in air law and safe operations of your UAV, build an operations manual and at the end you will undertake a flight test.  Courses typically start from £950 plus VAT.

You will require insurance in place to take the flight test and flight test insurance is available with premiums starting at £25.

Once you have passed your flight test you can apply for to the CAA for Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO).

You will require insurance which meets the requirements specified in EU Regulation (EC) 785/2004 when applying for PfCO.  The

The PfCO is valid for up to 12 months and is subject to an annual renewal.  You should apply to renew your PfCO at least 30 days before the Permission period is due to expire.

The whole process from taking the Flight Test to obtaining a PfCO can take up to 2 months and the CAA turnaround for permission to fly can take around 4 weeks.

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