Drones or 'small unmanned aircraft' are essentially flying robots. The aircraft can be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously using inbuilt software-controlled flight plans. Designed by the military, they are becoming increasingly popular among members of the public.
The requirements relating to drones and model aircraft vary dependent on the weight and capability of an aircraft. There are separate requirements where a flight is deemed a higher risk.
In relation to drones and model aircraft from 250g to 20kg that are used outdoors, there are three main requirements. You must:
- pass an online test to get a flyer ID if you want to fly a drone or model aircraft
- register for an operator ID if you're responsible for a drone or model aircraft
- label any drones and model aircraft you're responsible for with your operator ID.
These requirements do not apply to drones weighing less than 250g, unless they are fitted with a camera. Please see the following link for registration details:
If you are considering using a drone for recreational purposes, you should be aware of the restrictions below, which will apply to any open category flight where permission from the CAA (see Q543
) is not required:
- You must fly in a responsible manner.
- You must keep the drone in sight at all times when flying.
- You must not fly a 'small unmanned aircraft' more than 400 feet above the surface.
There are separate requirements that will depend on how close a drone is being flown to people. Please see the following link for more details on this:
If you intend to conduct a flight that has a higher risk, the rules for the Open Category will no longer apply and you will need to get permission from the CAA. Details on the requirements applying to higher risk flights may be accessed at:
Misuse of a drone can lead to a criminal offence being committed.
If you have any concerns about unmanned aircraft being used in your area, either from a safety or privacy perspective, contact your local police force. The police have powers to respond to and deal with unlawful use of all types of unmanned aircraft, including drones and model aircraft, to protect the safety of the public, and to ensure that offenders are dealt with in an appropriate manner.
For further help on how to use a drone safely and legally, please see the websites in the Related Information section.