Category Archives: Law

Drones – the Key Legal Issues

Since the weather is absolute crap over here in the UK I decided to do a bit of research when it comes to using drones in the UK.

Flying in congested areas

There are restrictions on operating drones in congested areas, at certain heights or directly over people and vehicles. UK rules say that drones of specific weights must not be flown within 50m of people, structures or vehicles. Additionally, drones cannot fly within 150m of a congested area. Certain permissions must be obtained before the drone can be flown commercially.

What they fail to say is that the restriction is only 30 metres when the drone takes off or lands and doesn’t include the operator of the drone or the person under drone operator’s control (i.e. the person helping you out)

Insurance

European law requires certain operators of drones to purchase third party liability insurance. Insurance like this will need to be sought from specialist brokers. Failure to obtain suitable insurance cover may prove costly in the event of an accident.

I will go further than that and say just get a drone third party liability insurance. This will not only protect you in case you cause a damage with your drone, but will help present you as a responsible drone operator. The police might ask what would you do if your drone damages something your drone is flying over, showing them that you have an insurance would be a very good answer and the police will have very little to go on.

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DJI limit drones’ range if you are not in the US!

On DJI drones the GPS location is used by the aircraft/remote control to adjust the power output of the signal transmission to meet the local regulations. In the US, the governing body is FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in Europe it’s CE (Conformité Européenne). Doing that allows DJI to sell the same device in both markets.

In case of Phantom 3 Standard, when I say “power output” I mean both the 2.4GHz link – the bi-directional communication between the aircraft through the remote control, and the 5.8GHz control signal – one-way link to the aircraft.

FCC seem to be far more generous and allow for higher levels of power output by consumer devices. CE, on the other hand, are more strict in that regard. What this means is that, if a DJI drone detects that it’s outside of the US, it automatically applies the CE standards, even though you might not be in Europe. It either goes by FCC or by CE regulations. How and when exactly this limitation is applied is somewhat of a mystery to me (I’m still researching this topic, so please do let me know in the comments if you know the specifics). This lowers the power output of the transmission on both, the aircraft and the the remote control from 27 dBm to 17 dBm – almost by 40%! Inevitably that results in reduced range for those of us operating our drones outside of the US.

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A Practical Guide to Drone Law

I ordered this book today. It seems that the guides published by the CAA make flying drones, while adhering to all the rules,  an almost impossible task. In addition the government plans to make it even more difficult in the future. They also plan on giving the police more powers when dealing with the operators of the drones. Hopefully this book will cover all the legalities so I’m better educated if I ever have to deal with law enforcement.

Guidance on drones issued to Police Officers

I found a document online intended to instruct police officers on how to deal with drone offenders (pretty much of all the drone users). Here is the list of few interesting extracts:

The ownership and use of drones are not of themselves unlawful but in certain circumstances, their use may contravene air safety legislation or other statutes, commonly used to manage other types of offending. The intention of this guidance is to address the negligent, reckless or malicious use of this technology.

It is not the intention of the Police Service to criminalise innocent misuse and the criminal justice system provides options for non-recordable disposal. However, some innocent misuse might also be reckless and therefore Appendix Two to the SOP provides a gravity factor matrix that users of this SOP may use to help them in decision making. Continue reading Guidance on drones issued to Police Officers

Civil Aviation Authority – Drones

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.

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