A Beginner’s Guide to Drones

Drones have undergone rapid developments in recent years and with drones being bought for private use, more and more people in the UK are taking to the skies for their very own drone flight. Here’s what you need to know if you are going to be buying, flying, or racing a drone.


Are drones legal in the UK?

Currently the purchase of drones is legal in the UK, but there are some laws that you’ll need to abide by. Firstly, if you were to buy a drone to fly in public spaces, it must weigh less than 20kg and not be for commercial use. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who set out the rules and regulations, stress that drones are a type of aircraft and not toys due to a growing concern over the use of drones by private individuals with little knowledge of aviation rules. But don’t let this put you off buying a drone. Whilst the guidelines to drone use are still evolving, just make sure you fly your drone carefully and follow all the safety precautions.

To use a drone for commercial use, you are required to seek permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for a licence and will need to prove that you are “sufficiently competent” to fly the drone.


How do I protect my drone?

Most importantly, ensure your drone is being operated in a safe environment, away from people and airspace. As long as you operate your drone safely and adhere to the CAA rules you will be safe to fly.

For when your drone is not in flight, the best way to protect and transport your drone is with a protective bag or hard case. Whist drones are built to survive crashes, they are made up of many delicate parts that will need protecting during transportation. Rather than customising an everyday back pack, it is worth investing in a bag specifically for drones. The bags in the DroneGuard series are designed to carry all the essentials needed for a drone flight, whilst protecting the drone.

If you still have concerns you may want to consider taking out insurance for your drone. This would be to protect the device itself from accidental damage and also to protect you in case of any injury to yourself or others.

The UK drone regulations you need to know:

The regulations from the CAA refer to drones weighing less than 20kg as ‘small unmanned aircraft’. The current regulations for small drones state:

  • Fly your drone safely.
    When flying your drone, fly safely and avoid collisions. It is also important that articles are not dropped from the drones that could endanger a person or property. Keep away from aircraft, helicopters, airports and airfields, vessels and structures. For drones with cameras, keep 50 metres away from people, vehicles, buildings and structures, and do not fly over congested areas or large gatherings.
  • Keep an eye on your drone.
    Your drone needs be kept within eyesight at all times. The CAA sets the limit to be within 500 metres of the pilot and below an aerial height of 400 feet. Flying your drone beyond these distances must be approved prior to the flight by the CAA.
  • Using drones for commercial aerial work.
    If you are being paid to fly a drone and take aerial pictures or video, then you must apply for a permit from the CAA prior to the flight.
  • Be responsible.
    The pilot is responsible at all times for ensuing the flight is conducted safely. Only make the flight if you are satisfied that the flight can be made safely.

If your drone is fitted with a camera, make sure that it is not within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings and structures, and be sure not to fly over congested areas and large gatherings such as sporting events.

Another thing to be aware of when using a drone with a camera is recording images of other people without their consent. This may be a breach of the Data Protection Act, or of the CCTV code of practice, which has been recently updated to include public use of drones.

Is registration of drones compulsory?

The rules for the use of drones are still evolving, and in December 2015 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a new system in the US for all small unmanned aircrafts to be registered as a legal requirement. In March 2015, the House of Lords called on the EU to introduce a similar compulsory system of registration for all commercial and civilian drones, due to growing concern over the use of drones by private individuals. However, plans have stalled and currently drone owners in the UK do not have to register their devices with any authorities.

Is it legal to fly a drone over 20kg in weight?

In public areas, it is only legal to fly drones weighing less than 20kg. If your drone weighs over 20kg then it is only legal to use it in certified "danger areas" such as Parc Aberporth aerodrome in West Wales.

Just remember that drone technology is still rapidly evolving and the laws surrounding drone use are still being developed. It’s best to check the CAA website and rules regularly to ensure no rules are being broken and you can enjoy flying your drone safely.