As of 10 December 2019

Drone filming has transformed the video production industry. It has made previously unimaginable camera angles accessible and affordable for both amateurs and professionals. However, nobody wants a fine for improper use, so it’s important to follow drone flying regulations.

As a video production company  (but not a law firm, so this article doesn’t constitute legal advice of course) that regularly uses drones to capture incredible footage, we’re pretty familiar with the rules surrounding drone filming. With this in mind, we’ve created a list of frequently asked questions when it comes to the rules and regulations surrounding drone filming.

The Air Navigation Order 2016 is the law that sets out most of the restrictions on operating a drone in the UK. The overarching theme, as captured in Article 241, is that ‘a person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.’ In other words, it’s the drone pilot’s responsibility to fly safely.

All of these laws are governed by the Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA).

Do I need a license?

According to the CAA, ‘It is against the law to fly a drone or model aircraft without passing the theory test or registering. You can also be fined for breaking the law when flying. In the most serious cases, you could be sent to prison.’

You’ll need to sit a theory test to get your flyer ID, and you’ll also need to register for an operator ID. According to the CAA, the operator ID is responsible for ‘making sure that only people with a valid flyer ID use their drone or model aircraft’.

You can find more information on drone licenses on the CAA website.

What if I’m planning to fly a drone commercially?

If you’re planning to use a drone commercially, you will need permission from the CAA.

The CAA defines commercial drone flying as ‘…any flight by a small unmanned aircraft…in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.’

According to the CAA, you will need to ‘demonstrate a sufficient understanding of aviation theory (airmanship, airspace, aviation law and good flying practice) and pass a practical flight assessment (flight test). You will also need to ‘develop basic procedures for conducting the type of flights you want to do and set these out in an Operations Manual.’

There are two types of permission: standard and non-standard.

Standard permission allows ‘a person to conduct commercial operations with a small unmanned aircraft (drone) and also permits operations within a congested area.’

Non-standard permission covers ‘all other types of flight and addresses operations that contain a greater element of operating risk.’ For this permission, you must ‘prepare and submit an Operating Safety Case (OSC) to the CAA.’

You can find more information on flying a drone commercially on the CAA website.

I’m planning to use a video production agency for drone filming – how do I know they’re registered?

You can check the list of companies with CAA permission here. This register is updated on a monthly basis.

Each operator will also have a permission document, which you should ask to see.

Do I have to keep visual contact with the drone?

Article 94 specifies that the pilot must maintain visual contact with their drone at all times during flight. It also states that you can’t drop things from your drone and that you need to be ‘reasonably satisfied’ that the flight can be completed safely before taking off.

How high can I fly my drone?

The CAA says that permission is required for ‘a flight, or a part of a flight, by a small unmanned aircraft at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface.’

Can I fly in busy areas?

Article 95 states that drones cannot be flown “over or within 150 metres of any congested area”, or “within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the SUA operator or the remote pilot of the aircraft”.

If you’re going to be shooting video from a drone and you intend to exceed these limits, you must apply for an exemption with the Civil Aviation Authority. Once you demonstrate that you’re qualified to fly a drone and run through a practice of the flight plan with them, you’re good to go.

Are there any areas where you can’t fly a drone?

Article 94B states that you cannot fly within certain ranges of airports. If you endanger the safety of an aircraft, you could go to prison for five years, so exercise caution.

There are a number of other excluded areas, which you can read about on the CAA website.

There are a range of websites which show excluded areas – these should be used as guidance, rather than absolute fact:

Other options for drone filming

Just to reiterate, drones can capture incredible footage, but they can also be dangerous if they’re not used properly. After a few years of relative free-for-all, the government has begun to legislate drones. Now, irresponsible drone operation can land you in prison for up to five years, so understanding the rules is essential.

It can be complex and expensive to get up and running, between the rules and operating the drone, so why not consider a company with drone filming expertise instead? If you’re planning a company video and want some breath-taking drone shots, get in touch with our MD, Jamie.