The outline of the CAA guidelines:
The regulations for recreational drone flights are contained within the Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) which is the primary document for all aviation regulations within the UK. In order to keep the regulations at a proportionate level for these small drones, a set of specific, simpler, regulations apply to aircraft that have a mass of 20kg or less (which are termed ‘small unmanned aircraft’ within the ANO).
In simple terms, these regulations state that:
- you are responsible for flying your drone in a safe manner
- you must keep the drone in your direct sight at all times while it is flying so that you can ensure that it does not collide with anything, especially other aircraft
- you must not endanger anyone, or anything with your drone, including any articles that you drop from it
- if your drone weighs more than 7kg, additional rules apply if you fly in certain types of airspace and you must not fly above 400ft above the surface
If your drone is fitted with a camera, there are also a number of additional limitations surrounding where you can fly it, and how close you can fly it to other uninvolved people or objects. In order to be able to fly within these areas, or closer than the minimum distances that are in the regulations, you must obtain prior permission from the CAA to do so.
Article 241 – endangering safety of any person or property
A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.
Article 94 – small unmanned aircraft
(1) A person must not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons or property.
(2) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
(3) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.
(4) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more than 7kg excluding its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly the aircraft:
(a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic control unit has been obtained;
(b) within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless the permission of any such air traffic control unit has been obtained;
(c) at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in airspace described in subparagraph (a) or (b) and in accordance with the requirements for that airspace.
(5) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly the aircraft for the purposes of commercial operations except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.
Article 95 – small unmanned surveillance aircraft
(1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.
(2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are:
(a) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
(b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
(c) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft;
(d) subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person (doesn’t apply to the person in control of the aircraft, see paragraph 4)
(3) Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person (doesn’t apply to the person in control of the aircraft, see paragraph 4)
(4) Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.
(5) In this article ‘a small unmanned surveillance aircraft’ means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.
First Person View
Drones that are fitted with video cameras often provide an opportunity to downlink ‘live’ video to the person flying the drone either via a mobile phone, tablet computer or other screens, or even through video goggles – this capability provides the operator with a pseudo ‘pilots eye view’ from the drone itself and is generally given the term ‘First Person view’ (FPV).
However, the law [at ANO article 94(3)] requires that the person in charge of a drone must maintain direct unaided visual contact with the aircraft which is sufficient to monitor its flight path so that collisions may be avoided. This is obviously not possible if that person is wearing video goggles or otherwise constantly monitoring a display. Therefore, FPV flight is only permitted if the activity has been approved by the CAA. A General Exemption has been issued which allows an element of ‘First Person View’ (FPV) flight to be conducted.
Guidance on the exemption and the conditions that must be observed whilst employing this privilege.
If you wish to conduct an FPV flight which cannot be accommodated within the terms of this General Exemption, then you will need to apply to the CAA for an exemption to do so.
Note: Images captured by a camera and displayed on a flat screen afford the pilot little by way of depth perception and no peripheral vision. This can make it difficult for the pilot to accurately judge speed and distance and to maintain sufficient awareness of the area surrounding the aircraft to effectively ‘see and avoid’ obstacles and other aircraft.
The use of FPV equipment is not an acceptable mitigation for Beyond Visual Line of Sight flight unless the relevant operator has received a specific approval to do so from the CAA.