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Drones and the police
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Before you use a drone, it is vital that you make themselves aware of their responsibilities and the rules to make sure these devices are operated in a safe way. You should not take this lightly – if you break any of these you could face criminal charges.

Police officers will use all available powers to investigate reports of drones being misused and seek the appropriate penalty. Make sure you know the rules for using a drone because it is always your responsibility to ensure that you are acting within the law and in line with the Civil Aviation Authority’s Drone Code. You can find all of the information you need online at

Can I use my drone recreationally in the UK?

Yes you can, The Civil Aviation authority have produced basic guidance of drone use. It can be found at Drone Safe.

You will have to comply with legislation and local bylaws. The Civil Aviation Authortiy lists the current legal position for the use of drones recreationally

Please check the local authority website for local bylaws covering local public parks.

Other national organisations have bylaws and policy that control drone use from their land, including the National Trust. All the national Parks have areas on their websites to indicate where you can and cannot fly from.

You can fly from private land with the owner’s permission and long as you comply with legislation and do so responsibly. Please consider your surroundings when near livestock. Flying near livestock may start a stamped causing injury and damage.

Where can I not fly my drone.

Drones (of any weight) are not allowed to fly within the Flight Restriction Zone of a protected airport without an appropriate permission.

The drone Flight Restriction Zone consists of the following three elements:

  • The Aerodrome Traffic Zone: A 2 nautical mile (3.7km) or 2.5 nautical mile (4.63km) radius ‘cylinder’ around the airport, extending 2000 ft above the aerodrome, centred on the longest runway.
  • Runway Protection Zones: A rectangle extending 5Km from the end of a runway away from the airport, along the extended runway centreline, and 500m either side- also to a height of 2000 ft above the aerodrome.
  • Additional Zones: In the case where a line that is 1Km beyond the boundary of an airport extends beyond the aerodrome traffic zone or a runway protection zone, and so would not be protected by it, the flight restriction zone will include a ‘bump’ (the airfield boundary + 1KM) to protect this part of the aerodrome.

drone code.jpg

The exact shape of the Flight Restriction Zone varies depending on the specific airport that it protects. Prior to flight, the pilot should check to ensure that they are operating well outside these areas. This may be obtained from official sources:

  • Civil aviation Authority (CAA) and National Air Traffic Control Service (NATS) owned website:
  • The UK Aeronautical Information Publication
  • The UK Military Aeronautical Information Publication

Other drone mapping and planning websites exist, which contain this information as well. Please use this link to any apps that meet the CAA criteria.

It should be noted however, that flying outside a flight protection zone does not guarantee separation from other aircraft, the drone pilot is reminded that the Air Navigation Order requires that any person in charge of a small drone:

  • may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made and;
  • that they must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft …for the purpose of avoiding collisions.

It should be noted that the entire Flight Restriction Zone exists and remains active at all times regardless of whether the airport is open or not.

The latest changes, including the restricted area around an airport, can be found online.

Other areas such as power stations and military bases also have restrictions of drone use in their vicinities.

I am worried about a drone that I have seen flying over my house/in a busy urban area/at an open air gathering. I believe it may be unsafe; who should I report it to?

As a general rule, unless the drone pilot has permission from the CAA, he or she should not be flying within 150m of a ‘congested area’ (e.g. town or city) or at a public event. The definition of a congested area is:

‘Congested Area’ in relation to a city, town or settlement, means any area which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes’

When the pilot does have permission from the CAA, such flights are usually restricted to flight distances no closer than 50m from persons, vessels, vehicles and structures that are not ‘under the control’ of the pilot.

These restrictions mean that the use of a drone in public places is limited and often not suitable or legal unless the operator has received the appropriate permission from the CAA. To this end, our enforcement strategy reflects the balance of capabilities between the CAA and local Police services. The Police often have greater resources, response times and powers of investigation than the CAA. To support this, the police have agreed with the CAA, in a signed Memorandum of Understanding, that the Police will take the lead in dealing with drone misuse incidents, particularly at public events, that may contravene aviation safety legislation or other relevant criminal legislation.

We recommend that any such incidents are reported directly to your local Police.

Emergency calls

In an emergency please telephone 999.

If you are deaf, deafened, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment, a text phone is available on 18000.

You should use these numbers if:

  • A crime is happening right now.
  • Someone is in immediate danger, or there is a risk of serious damage to property.
  • A suspect for a serious crime is nearby.
  • There is a traffic collision involving injury or danger to other road users.

112 is the common European emergency telephone number that can be dialled free of charge from most mobile telephones and, in some countries, fixed telephones in order to reach emergency services.

Non-emergency calls

For all other calls to the police in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland please telephone 101.

Calls cost 15p from mobiles and landlines, regardless of duration. They are free of charge from payphones. This will become free of charge from April 2020.

If you are deaf, deafened, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment, a text phone is available on 18001 101.

You should use these non-emergency numbers to:

  • Report a crime not currently in progress - for example a stolen car, burglary, or damaged property.
  • Give information to the police about crime in your area.
  • Speak to the police about a general enquiry.
  • Contact a specific police officer or member of staff.

If you wish to remain anonymous Contact Crime Stoppers 0800 555 111

  • The CAA’s remit is limited to safety.
  • Police remit will cover criminal and negligent use.
  • Privacy issues and broadcast rights are covered by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

What is the difference between a Drone and model aircraft?

Within the law, there is no difference between a drone and a model aircraft. Both are classified as ‘small unmanned aircraft’ and that there are civil aviation regulations covering how and where they can be used. In terms of these regulations (the Air Navigation Order), a ‘small unmanned aircraft’ means any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20kg without its fuel, but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight. When a drone weights more than 20kg, additional regulations become applicable and drones in this category are usually classified as ‘large model aircraft’.

Recent technological advances mean that a much greater variety of drones are now available. These vary from the ready-to-fly multi-rotor types that represent the popular conception of a ‘drone’, through to the traditional kit or plans-built model aeroplane or helicopter. A typical multi-rotor drone is capable of automatic stabilisation and navigation, in addition to being controlled from the pilot over a radio link. The traditional model aircraft is usually only controlled by the pilot over a radio link, requires much greater pilot training and skill, and is flown only at specific recreational sites away from persons and property.

In regulatory terms, the only real distinctions made are that drones used for commercial purposes, or that are fitted with a camera have additional requirements or limitations that restrict their use in certain circumstances.

In practice, the vast majority of drones used for commercial work are of the camera-equipped multi-rotor drone type. These vary in size and capability and, unlike traditional model aircraft, are increasingly being used for specific purposes including photographic flights in urban areas. This type of use poses a higher risk and could present a conflict with other activities; the drone pilot must understand that flight close to other aircraft, people or habitation and at outdoor events can pose a real risk to public safety.

How safe are Drones?

Small civil drones are not yet subject to the same level of design, manufacturing and continuing airworthiness requirements that apply to most full-sized manned aircraft. This means that there are no specific aviation standards to be met regarding structural integrity, reliability, stability and control, capability and performance, or any other measurable characteristics of the aircraft. For example, the popular electric multi-rotor type of drone relies solely on its motors for lift and flight-control, unlike full-size certified aircraft, and most traditional model aircraft, multi-rotor drones have no glide or autorotative (helicopter) capability if they suffer a major power failure.

Although some of these aircraft may well be built to general retail/consumer standards, these standards do not directly translate into quantifiable levels of aviation safety assurance. To mitigate for this shortfall and to protect the uninvolved general public, restrictions have been placed on where commercial drones can be used (minimum distances from people, not within urban areas, not flown beyond the visual line of sight of the pilot etc).

If a person flying a drone has demonstrated a sufficient level of pilot competency, through training and assessment on an approved National Qualified Entity (NQE) course, some of these restrictions can be lifted in order to undertake a greater variety of commercial work. Details of this process, and when the lesser restrictions can be applied.

Are there any specific regulations for Drones (Small Unmanned Aircraft)?

Yes. The safety regulations are contained in specific articles within the Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO). These are safety regulations and do not encompass matters relating to privacy and security. The ANO articles set limits on where drones may fly and whether they can be used for commercial purposes (“Commercial Operations”). The main ANO articles that apply are articles 94, 95 and 241. Full details of these can be found on the CAA’s website.

Where can I find detailed guidance on the whole subject of flying drones/unmanned aircraft in the UK?

The CAA primary policy guidance for all types of unmanned aircraft is contained in Civil Aviation Publication (CAP) 722 – ‘Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance’ available via the CAA website.

The CAA also publishes further information about unmanned aircraft and drones, which includes details on certain specific subject areas, on the CAA website.

Can I post my on board drone footage online?

The legislation that controls the uploading of media will be determined by the following points.

  • Social media hits attracting sponsorship – this may now contravene the regulations for commercial use and requires a CAA permission for you to operate.
  • The posting of such material is an offence in itself
  • The imagery does not breach the terms and conditions of the platform the media has been uploaded too