Drone Enthusiasts: Make Sure You Know These UK Drone Code Laws

With complicated rules and regulations coming into force every year, it can be tricky keeping up-to-date with the CAA’s regulations on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

Read on to discover 5 essential drones code rules you must follow when piloting drones in the UK and a handy acronym you can follow.

The Drone Code

The Drone Code is a set of responsibilities that have been set out by the CAA to ensure every UK drone operator follows the rules and regulations safely.

Whilst the Drone Code itself is an incredibly detailed guide and its content is essential reading, key points for hobbyists can be summarised with a handy acronym: DRONE.

Drone Code In The UK

D - Don’t Fly Near Airports or Airfields.

You must never fly in a Flight Restriction Zone (FRZ) unless you have permission from the airport authorities. Remember - a smaller airfield may not have an FRZ, but you must still not fly on or near these airfields.

Working out where FRZ’s and other airspace restrictions are situated is easy with the UAS Airspace Restrictions Map.

Airspace restrictions are not just around airports, they can also be found near prisons, royal palaces and government buildings. There may also be temporary restrictions or bylaws in place.

R - Remember You Can’t Fly Above 120m (or 400ft)

By flying below the legal height limit of 120m, you are massively minimising the risk of coming across other aircraft which regularly fly higher than that. It’s important to remember to watch out for aircraft that fly below 120m, such as air ambulances.

When it comes to flying where there are hills or mountains, the exact same rules apply. Your drone must never be more than 120m from the closest point of the earth’s surface.

Drone pilots may need to adjust their flight path when operating on mounds and cliffs to ensure that they are never more than 120m from the closest point of the earth’s surface.

Drone Code In The UK

O - Observe Your Drone At All Times

It is essential that you keep your drone in a direct line of sight and that you have a clear, consistent view of any surrounding airspace. This view must be without any additional equipment, so no binoculars! 

Remember that it doesn’t have to be the pilot that has a line of sight with the drone. An observer or “spotter” can communicate the location of the drone to you and ensure you are flying safely. 

When it comes to flying using a first-person view or FPV as it’s more widely known, you must have an observer with you to ensure you are following the rules. 

N - Never Fly Without The Correct Drone ID’s

It is illegal to fly a drone or model aircraft without the necessary identification. You may also face a fine if you violate the law while flying. In the most serious cases, you may be imprisoned.

The CAA Flyer ID serves as proof of competency as a drone pilot and is administered through the CAA website as an online, open-book test on drone rules and regulations.

Pilots must pass the CAA’s official theory test to get a Flyer ID before flying a drone or model aircraft and the pilot is responsible for flying safely and legally whenever they fly.

We always recommend completing the Flyer ID, regardless of whether you legally need it or not.

The CAA Operator ID is easily distinguishable from the Flyer ID as anyone in charge of a drone or model aircraft with a camera or weighing more than 250g must register for an Operator ID. They are also responsible for anyone who is flying the aircraft.

A pilot’s Operator ID must be visible on an active drone and it’s recommended this should be attached by sticker.

You must have an Operational ID listed on your drone to prove ownership and control.

Drone Code In The UK

E - Enjoy Your Drone Safely

At the end of the day, it’s important for hobbyists to be able to enjoy flying their drone, but it’s also important to know what your drone can or can’t do. Read the instructions!

Make sure you know the answers to these questions:

How far can your drone fly before it loses power?

How far can your drone fly before losing signal?

Is my software up to date?

Is it safe to fly in these conditions?

Drone Safe Register Hobbyist Membership

We expect our hobbyist members to operate their drone in accordance with CAA advice and guidelines, as well as to remain safe and legal at all times, as with all Drone Safe Register Memberships!

Drone Safe Register Hobbyist members receive extensive discounts from Drone Safe Store as well as a Drone Safe Register ID card and other great benefits!

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About the Author: DSR Journalist

Henry Greenshields