Drone regulation in the UK - a quick guide

What are the laws for drones and do you need a licence to fly one?

Are you thinking about getting yourself or someone else one of the latest must-have photography gadgets? Drone photography has really taken off (excuse the pun), but there are a number of factors that you need to take into consideration before you even take that drone out of its box. This is not only to ensure that your drone is legal, but that you are confident and trained in how to operate your drone safely.

Below we look more closely at everything you need to know about drone regulation in the UK, including if you need a license to fly a drone, where you are not permitted to fly your drone and the latest drone regulations.

What is a drone?

In the beginning, the drone was used exclusively by the military to obtain views of a building or environment that was not deemed safe for humans to enter. A drone is sometimes referred to as a UAV, or Unnamed Aerial Vehicle and it is controlled from the ground by a remote handheld device. Today's drones can be used by anyone, for commercial use and by the general public for recreational use.

What drone laws are there in the UK?

On 30th November 2019, the law changed. What this now means is that anyone wishing to fly a drone needs to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Therefore, it is illegal to fly a drone without being registered.

Part of this registration process involves you taking a theory test which you must pass in order to gain a Flyer ID. You will need to register your drone to obtain an Operator ID, which we will go into below. You can access information about the registration process and fill out the form on the CAA website.

Do I need a licence to fly a drone in the UK?

You will need to be registered with both a Flyer ID and Operator ID before you can fly your drone that should weigh 250g through to 20kg. If you wish to fly your drone then you need to obtain a Flyer ID. Anyone who is responsible for the drone, so this could be a responsible adult when a child is involved, needs to obtain an Operator ID. These are two separate registrations.

What is a Flyer ID?

In order to fly a drone, you will need to pass an online theory test which is free. It is also worth noting that you will need to renew this every three years. When it comes to children who are under 13 years of age will also need to take the online theory test, but an adult will need to complete their registration form. The online theory test consists of 20 multiple choice questions and you will need to obtain a pass mark of 16/20 to gain your Flyer ID. You have 20 minutes to complete the test and you are able to sit the test as many times as needed.

What is an Operator ID?

You need to have an Operator ID if you own a drone. It is also your responsibility to ensure that whoever is going to fly the drone has a Flyer ID. Each drone that you own also needs to be clearly labelled with the Operator ID. Only people over the age of 18 can register for an Operator ID. This registration comes at a cost of £9 and is renewed every year.

It's also worth mentioning here that anyone who owns or operates a drone without the appropriate registration can be fined £1000.

Do you need a licence to fly a drone?

You'll need to make sure that you've got the right registration in order to fly a drone / Image: Pexels

Where you can and cannot fly your drone

It is important that you understand where you can and cannot fly your drone and that you know how to do so safely without fear of being fined or prosecuted.

We'll just start by making it clear that you are not allowed to fly your drone near to or inside airfields or airports. This was made law in March 2019, so keep away from these areas at all times. Built-up residential areas are also a no-fly zone.

The golden rule when flying your drone is that you should always keep it in sight. If you can always see your drone then you are far less likely to run into trouble. It's also important that you keep your drone lower than 120m above ground level, or 400 feet.

Additional rules for drones with cameras

If your drone has a camera then you will need to know the following:

There is a 50m restriction when flying your drone near to any people, buildings, vehicles or vessels. If there is a large group of people or the area is congested then this area is increased to 150m, so this means venues such as concerts or an outdoor sporting event.

Failure to comply with this rule could lead to a prosecution. If you plan to record or take images where there are people, then you need to inform these people prior to the event. Additionally, if the filming is for commercial reasons then it is vital that the CAA has granted you permission to do so and that you follow the rules they have stipulated.

Important information about drones

It's important that you know all of the rules when flying or operating your drone and that you do so legally. If your drone is registered and you have your Flyer ID then all is good. You simply need to enjoy the experience.

You just need to use your common sense when out flying your drone. Be mindful of others, keep away from buildings and people. It is often best to find an expanse of land where there are no people or buildings so that you can fly your drone and take those stunning pictures.

We hope that you have found this guide to UK drone regulation helpful. Just remember to apply for registration and to follow the strict rules set out by the Civil Aviation Authority. Most importantly though, remember to have fun with your drone and capture those amazing panoramic images.