UK drone laws – safe zones, maximum altitudes and speeds and how to avoid a £1,000 fine

BOUGHT a drone and not sure what the laws are? We've put together a simple guide on the UK drone rules.

Here's what every drone owner needs to know to avoid getting in trouble – and potentially being fined.

What are the drone laws in the UK?

New rules came in for drone flying last year – and they're about to get that much more punitive.

From November 30, 2019, anyone wanting to fly the gadgets will have to take an online theory test to show they can do so "safely and legally".

If they don't, they can face a fine of up to £1,000 under new regulations from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The registration scheme opened on November 5, 2019, and applies to anyone responsible for a drone or unmanned aircraft such as a model plane weighing at least 250g.

Registrants are given a unique ID which must be displayed on their devices.

Any drone that weighs over 250g – pretty much anything but the smallest toys – is covered by the scheme.

What are the other rules?

Once you're registered or have a licence, there are still a host of rules to follow, as follows:

  • Drones must fly below an altitude of 400ft
  • Drones that weigh more than 250g will need to be formally registered with the CAA
  • Drone pilots must be able to present their registration documents when asked to do so by police
  • Make sure your drone is within 500m of you horizontally.
  • Always fly well away from aircraft, helicopters, airports, and airfields.
  • If it is fitted with a camera, make sure it is at least 50m away from a person, vehicle, building or structure not owned or controlled by the pilot.
  • Camera-equipped drones must not be flown within 150m of a congested area of a large group of people.

What happened at Gatwick Airport in 2019?

On April 28, 2019, at least four flights into Gatwick were diverted to Stansted airport following reports of a drone in the area.

Passengers travelling from Amsterdam and Barcelona into the West Sussex airport were diverted.

A flight from Heraklion in Greece that was due to land at 4.23pm was also diverted to Stansted.

The captain told those onboard the easyJet flight from Amsterdam that a plane had been in "close proximity" to a drone.

Another easyJet flight from Berlin was diverted to the Essex airport before refuelling and heading back to Gatwick.

A representative for Gatwick said the pilot of one of the disrupted flights reported a sighting of a drone.

But nothing was picked up on radar or on the airport's anti-drone systems.

A full assessment took place around 4.05pm and all the diverted flights began returning to Gatwick.

The UK's drone code – how should you fly?

Here's the official advice from the CAA…

  • Always keep your drone in sight. This means you can see and avoid other things while flying
  • Stay below 400 feet (120 metres) to comply with the drone code. This reduces the likelihood of a conflict with manned aircraft
  • Every time you fly your drone, you must follow the manufacturer's instructions. Keep your drone, and the people around you, safe
  • Keep the right distance from people and property. People and properties, 150 feet (50 metres) / Crowds and built-up areas, 500 feet (150 metres)
  • You are responsible for each flight. Legal responsibility lies with you. Failure to fly responsibly could result in criminal prosecution
  • Stay well away from aircraft, airports and airfields when flying any drone. It is illegal to fly them inside the airport's flight restriction zone without permission. If your drone endangers the safety of an aircraft, it is a criminal offence and you could go to prison for five years

Have there been other drone sightings at airports?

Drones nearly hit passenger planes 18 times in just three months, including a 70ft miss as a jet flew into Heathrow.

The terrifying incident — 3,000ft above West London ­— saw “a large commercial drone” skim close to an 850-seater Airbus A380 as it came into land, it was revealed.

The Gatwick Grinch drone operator who ruined Christmas plans for thousands of Brits could have been an airport worker, it has been revealed.

Cops are probing a line of inquiry the huge disruption caused at the airport was an inside job, Whitehall sources told the Times.

On April 1, 2019, there was chaos at Milan airport over reports of drone sightings resulting in grounded planes and delays.

The news comes as it was revealed Britain will slap a three-mile “drone exclusion zone” around major airports from March 13, 2019.

And the Home Office confirms a new Bill will be laid later in 2019 to give police powers to stop and search drone users – and access electronic data stored on the hi-tech device.

Can police use drones to fight crime?

In November 2019, Police Scotland revealed it would be using artificially intelligent drones as part of a new system to search for missing and vulnerable people.

The remotely-piloted aircraft system (RPAS) is said to use advanced cameras and neural computer networks.

These features allow the drones to spot people from up to 150 metres away, even if they just look like a speck in the distance.

Inspector Nicholas Whyte from Police Scotland's air support unit told the BBC: "The drone itself has very special sensors on it.

"There's a very highly-powered optical camera which can allow us to see things quite clearly from a good height. Also, there's a thermal imaging sensor which detects heat."

In other news, the new DJI Mavic Air 2 drone is finally official.

A self-taught genius has created a "flying motorcycle".

Singer Jess Glynn recently set a world record with a 160-strong drone performancecreated by coder kids.

And, Google plans to build a ‘smart city’ with self-driving shuttles, heated pavements and underground post tubes.

Are you a drone owner? Do you think UK drone rules are too strict, or do they not go far enough? Let us know in the comments!

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