What is the Law on Drones?

Judith Thompson

Last week, Robert Knowles, 46, of Barrow-in-Furness, was convicted for 'dangerous' use of recreational drone and was fined £800. He was also ordered to pay costs of £3,500 at the Furness and District Magistrates' Court after being prosecuted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). 

So what are the current rules about flying drones?

  • You can fly a drone that weighs under 20kgs without a permit.
  • You cannot fly a drone over gatherings of over 1,000 people at any height
  • You cannot fly a drone within 50 metres of a building or structure
  • If the structure is a government building, then perhaps give it an even wider berth!

If you want to use a drone for a commercial purpose, or to collect data or intelligence, i.e. surveillance, then you need authorisation and a permit from the CAA.

The number of organisations given permits to use drones in the skies over Britain, has increased by 80% since the beginning of the year. These include the BBC, police forces, film-makers the MOD and some universities.

But what if you are just using it for fun?

Well, be careful where you fly it. If you lose control, and the drone’s flight becomes unsafe, you may be convicted in the same way as Robert Knowles. He lost radio contact with his drone, which then crashed into the Walney Channel in Cumbria. His biggest trouble was that it flew too close to a submarine testing base, and over a road bridge on its way.

The National Aeronautical centre says: “Regulation needs to come in to ensure that [the pilots] conduct themselves properly and I think that is going to be tough. How do you police it?”

There may be a need to introduce specific privacy regulations, as well as safety regulations for drones as the majority of rules governing privacy will have been written when methods of collecting information on people did not include close aerial surveillance.

If you have a drone or are thinking of flying one, check the regulations. A good summary can be found by following this link:  http://droneflight.co.uk/pages/summary-of-uk-legal-requirements

Contact us for a free no obligation initial discussion if you have a dispute concerning the use of a drone.