Drone Regulations: United Kingdom

Contributor: Ben Graham-Evans


1. Are UAS considered as “aircraft” in your country?

Drones are considered ‘unmanned aircraft’ by the UK CAA; ‘an aircraft that does not carry a human operator’.

2. Which bodies regulate the remotely-piloted and/or unmanned aircraft operations in your country, under what basic laws?

The UK CAA regulates the use of drones through application of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 and the Air Navigation Order 2016.

3. Is there a distinction between “State UAS” and “Private UAS”?

UK Emergency services are exempt from flying only within line of sight and from flying in congested areas in short term reactive situations aimed at preventing risk to human life or during a major incident.

Drones are also used in the military for air surveillance and airstrikes. These drones are regulated by the Military Aviation Authority and are classified by reference to their size, how they are operated and the risk they pose to people on the ground. The classification the drone is given determines the level of regulation.

4. Is there any distinction between public, leisure and commercial UAS? What regulations are provided for UAS operations in each group?

Yes – there are separate rules from the UK CAA for drones being used for recreational purposes and those used for commercial purposes. The rules applying to commercial operations are further divided between small drones and larger unmanned aircraft with an operating mass of > 20kgs.

5. Is there a distinction, in terms of regulation, between completely autonomous UAS and remotely-piloted UAS?


Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Operations - Safety

6. How are UAS operations regulated in terms of safety?

The UK CAA is responsible for drone safety regulations which currently impose the following restrictions on flights:

(1) Drone must be kept in sight at all times

(2) Stay below 400ft (120m)

(3) 150m away from people and properties

(4) 50m from crowds or built up areas

(5) Stay away from aircraft, airports and airfields

7. Is the applicable regulation considering the rule of 1 UAS = 1 pilot?

No. There is no proposed restriction of 1 pilot for 1 drone.

Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems ("UAS") Operations - Licensing

8. What procedures are there to obtain licenses or the rights to operate UAS?

To operate commercial drones, or to operate a drone beyond the restrictions imposed on recreational drones, permission must be sought from the UK CAA directly.

9. Are there any kind of taxes or fees regarding the licensing procedure?

Currently no, however the UK is bringing in a requirement for all drones over 250g to be registered, which will carry a registration fee.

10. Is a Certificate of Airworthiness mandatory to operate a UAS?

No – anyone can buy a UAS and fly it for recreational purposes.

11. Is access to the market for the provision of UAS operation services regulated and, if so, how?


12. What requirements apply in the areas of financial strength and nationality of ownership regarding control of UAS?

None stipulated.

13. Is drone transport permitted / regulated in your country?

No. Amazon Logistics have proposed using drones to deliver within short distances from their warehouses, however this is not permitted by current regulations and was reported incorrectly by the media.

Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems ("UAS") - Operations - Others

14. Is there a specific Data & Privacy Protection regulation applicable to UAS operations?

No, although in the case of drones with cameras the Data Protection Act 2018 may apply.

15. Is there a specific control-link interference regulation applicable to UAS operations?


16. Do specific rules regulate UAS manufacturers?

Not aviation specific as far as we are aware.

17. What requirements must a foreign UAS operator satisfy in order to operate to or from your country?

Comply with UK requirements pertaining to UAS operations.

18. Are fares or pricing of UAS operations regulated and, if so, how?

Not as far as we are aware.

The Aircraft (“UAS”)

19. Must UAS be registered in any particular register?

Currently there is no requirement. However, the UK Government has announced plans to introduce mandatory registration of drones over 250g and a requirement to take a safety awareness course.

20. Who is entitled to be mentioned in the UAS register?

There is no firm set of rules or a timescale on implementation of the new registration requirements, however it is thought that the register would reflect the owner of the drone only.

21. Do requirements or limitations apply to the ownership of a UAS listed on your country’s register?


22. Do specific rules regulate the maintenance of UAS?


Operation Zones

23. Which are the operational and distance limitations for an aerial work with a UAS? Is there any kind of certificate or permission to operate beyond those limitations?

Consumer drones (those under 20kg) are restricted to being flown no higher than 120 meters and kept at least 50 meters away from people and private property and 150 meters from crowds and built up areas. The drone must always remain in line of sight. To amend the restrictions permission is required from the CAA where pilot competence should be demonstrated.

For commercial drones, the drone must be registered with the CAA. This commercial definition extends to YouTube and personal blogging. Any permission given from CAA lasts for 12 months.

24. Are UAS obliged to take off from and/or land in specific facilities?

No – other than the restrictions outlined above.

25. Which kind of airspaces are UAS permitted to operate with?

Must be operated within the permitted restrictions but also avoid restricted airspaces (military, airports etc.).

26. Which airspaces are restricted for UAS?

As above.

27. Which zones are UAS operations banned?

Restricted airspace such as military airspace is banned.

28. Who provides air traffic control services for UAS in your country?


Liability and Accidents

29. Are there any special rules in respect of loss or damage to cargo?

Not as far as we are aware.

30. Are there any special rules about the liability of UAS operators for surface damage?

Not as far as we are aware.

31. Is there a mandatory accident and incident reporting system and, if so, how does it operate?

Not as far as we are aware.

32. What system and procedures are in place for the investigation of UAS accidents?

Not as far as we are aware.

33. Are UAS operators obliged to have insurance for their operations? If so, which are their main features?

It is advised to have public liability insurance when using a drone in public spaces. In some instances, insurance may be covered by home insurance policies, however most will exclude liability arising out of vehicles or aircraft.

34. What is insured? The operator, the business or the aircraft?


Financial Support and State Aid

35. Are there sector-specific rules regulating direct or indirect financial support to companies by the government or government-controlled agencies or companies (state aid) in the UAS sector? If not, do general state aid rules apply?


36. What are the main principles of the stated aid rules applicable to the UAS sector?


37. Are there exemptions from the state aid rules or situations in which they do not apply?


38. Must clearance from the competition authorities be obtained before state aid may be granted?


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