Stuff you should know before flying a drone in the UK
Drones have been used by the military for a while to monitor various things and collect intelligence from places it might otherwise be unsafe to send a human being. But it’s no longer just the guys in uniform that get to pilot these airborne contraptions. You could head to Amazon right now and buy yourself one – no questions asked. We did it.
If you’ve recently done that very thing, you should know that there are several rules in place to ensure you remain within the confines of the law.
The guys at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are in charge of keeping the UK airspace a safe zone, so the big question is…
Where can I fly my drone?
The big no-no is operating a drone in built up areas – pretty much anywhere you’re likely to be in contact with other people and buildings. But this hasn’t stopped countless people trying to get some unique views of famous landmarks and even football games.
The CAA outlines that “small unmanned surveillance aircraft” (20kg or less) mustn’t be operated:
• Over or within 150 metres of any congested area
• Over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons
• Within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft
• The aircraft must also be kept within the visual line of sight (normally taken to be within 500m horizontally and 122m vertically) of its remote pilot (ie. the ‘person in charge’ of it) – the CAA must approve operations beyond these distances.
You’re also not allowed to drop anything, including animals (whether they’re attached to a parachute or not), from your aircraft. We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but all those skydiving chinchillas you’ve been training are going to have to go back in their cages, unfortunately. Don’t shoot the messenger.
As you may have heard somewhere once, the captain goes down with the ship. If you’re piloting the drone, it’s your responsibility. You should keep it more than 30m away from people (apart from when taking off) at all times. However this doesn’t apply to people within your control – like your mates that have followed you down to the park.
If you need more information, check out the CAA’s website, where you can request special permission for flights and feast on even more legal mumbo jumbo.