As well as abiding by the
UK dronecode, you must find out whether you are allowed to fly a drone at that particular location before taking off.
For example, the dronecode says you can’t fly within 50m of a building that’s not owned or controlled by the drone operator which likely rules out your back garden.
There’s also the potential for crashing into trees and other obstacles, so it’s wise to find a nice big open space.
You may well be able to fly in your local park, but you should check before you fly. Some parks have signage which explains what is and isn’t permitted. You might see a ‘no model aircraft’ sign, which also includes drones.
New UK drone laws
Over the last month or so runways at Gatwick and Heathrow have been shut down for periods due to reported drone sightings. And on 7 January 2019 the government announced that police would be given new power to land, seize and search drones, backed up by on-the-spot fines of £100 and the potential for up to five years in prison for those that flout the rules. It hasn’t said when the new laws will come into force, though.
It also said that exclusion zones would be extended around airports (to 4.63km) and extra distance at the start and end of runways.
And from November 2019 all drone operators will be required by law to register. Currently you can buy and fly a drone without any form of registration. There’s no word on what registration will cost – if anything – so you’ll have to wait until nearer the time to find out more details.
So where can I fly my drone in the UK?
All eight of
London’s Royal Parks are no-drone zones, as are many of the commons including Wimbledon Common, Putney Common, Clapham Common. You’re not allowed to fly any model aircraft or even a kite at these sites.
You can fly on the heaths such as Hampstead Heath and Blackheath, although this may not be the case for long as these spaces, too, are under pressure to restrict the use of drones.
In the borough of Lambeth, you will have to have a commercial licence to fly as hobbyists are considered no different from commercial operators.
In Hackney, you need to fill out an application form.
Chelsea is a ‘congested area’ so you cannot fly there at all. It’s the same for Lewisham, Dagenham, Barking and Redbridge.
In Bexley, drones are banned from all parks and open spaces.
You can fly in parks in Ealing, though.
Greenwich, Barnet and Camden don’t have a drone policy currently, but as mentioned, you can’t fly in Greenwich Park.
In Islington and Sutton, just be careful to fly without causing a nuisance. This is a much more sensible policy that banning drones from all parks open spaces: as it effectively means you cannot fly.
If you’re unsure, check with the local council before flying. There’s still confusion in some areas about whether drones are permitted or not, so don’t be surprised if you can’t get a clear answer.
Other restricted areas
These are the places we know about – if your local park or open space has restrictions, let us know.
All parks and open spaces in Derby are now no-fly-zones.
Although extremely unhelpful because of its lack of clear guidance, the
Lake District‘s website appears to suggest that you can fly drones under 20kg in the National Park.
Bye-laws in the Peak District National Park mean you cannot fly drones. The
website is clearer, explaining you can’t fly in the park and you must obtain permission from any land that isn’t part of the National Park, such as on National Trust land.
It’s not permitted to fly a drone in the New Forest either.
Can I fly over someone else’s land?
You need permission from the owner of the land if you will take off or land on their property.
Flying over someone’s property is more of a grey area. Currently, the rights of a property owner are restricted in relation to the airspace above his or her land to such a height as is necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of his land.
In other words, you can fly in the airspace over their land (but not higher than the general rule of 400ft) as long as you do not cause a nuisance, infringe their privacy or otherwise interfere with the “ordinary use and enjoyment” of the land.
It would be down to a a judge to decide whether or not a drone pilot was infringing these rights, should a case go to court.
UK no-fly zones for drones
Of course, there are some areas you cannot fly at all, such as near airports, power stations and military bases.
These are called no-fly-zones and there’s an app, the NATS Drone Assist, which is available for
iOS. This requires you to sign up for an account with an email address, rather than being a simple map overlay.
As well as restricted airspace, the app displays ground ‘hazards’ such as powerlines, railway lines, schools, petrol stations and other areas where you should be cautious of flying.
It also shows areas, such as parks, where you must be careful of flying near people congregating.
Assuming you’re satisfied that it’s ok to fly somewhere, you must still obey the minimum and maximum distance rules of the Dronecode.