Drone Laws in the United Kingdom

Drone regulations and links for people flying drone in the United Kingdom.

drone laws in United KingdomUnited Kingdom Drone Regulations

According to the U.K.’s national aviation authority, the Civil Aviation Authority of the U.K. (CAA), flying a drone is legal in the United Kingdom, but we recommend being aware of and compliant with the drone regulations listed below before doing so.

Special Travel Considerations

If you’re traveling to the United Kingdom and want to bring your drone, the CAA lists these special considerations for foreigners who want to fly drones:

  • If you are a drone operator from overseas and want to carry out work in the U.K. (i.e., you want to do commercial drone work in the U.K.), the CAA will normally be able to grant permissions to foreign operators, on the basis that you are able to satisfy the same basic safety requirements that are required for U.K.-based operators.
  • Drone approvals / qualifications from other nations are not ‘automatically’ accepted as being valid. In order to fly in the U.K., you must be in possession of a valid U.K. permission if the type of flight that you are conducting requires one. Each application is considered on its own merits, but we will take the details of your own national approval / qualification into account when determining your application and the conditions that are set within the permission. All applications should be made as far in advance as possible—you can find the guidelines on how to apply and submit your application on this page on the CAA’s website.

If you’d like to contact the CAA directly before you travel with any questions you might have, here is their contact information: infoservices@caa.co.uk. / +44 0330 022 1500

flying a drone in the U.K.

Why fly a drone in the United Kingdom? To get great aerial shots like this!

General Rules for Flying a Drone in the United Kingdom

Based on our research and interpretation of the laws, here are the most important rules to know for flying a drone in the U.K.

  • Commercial drone operations in the U.K. require permission from the CAA. See the section below to learn more about how to obtain permission.
  • Insurance is required for all commercial drone operations.
  • You are responsible for flying your drone in a safe manner.
  • You must keep the drone in your direct sight at all times while it is flying, so that you can ensure that it does not collide with anything, especially other aircraft.
  • You must not endanger anyone, or anything with your drone, including any articles that you drop from it.
  • All drones, regardless of mass, must not fly above 122 meters (400 feet) above the surface.
  • If your drone is fitted with a camera, there are also a number of additional limitations surrounding where you can fly it, and how close you can fly it to other uninvolved people or objects. In order to be able to fly within these areas, or closer than the minimum distances that are in the regulations, you must obtain prior permission from the CAA to do so. Learn more about applying for permission here.
  • You may not fly a drone within 150 meters (492 feet) of any congested area or organized open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons; or within 50 meters (164 feet) of any person, property, vessel, vehicle, or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft; following additional codes not to overfly 122 meters (400 feet) above the surface.
  • You must not fly a small unmanned aircraft closer than 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the boundary of a protected aerodrome (called the “runway protection zone”) without first checking that you have permission to do so from air traffic control, the flight information service unit, or the operator of the protected aerodrome.
  • You may not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft in a way that endangers persons or property.

For more information on the United Kingdom’s drone laws, see this page on the CAA’s website.

Know something we don’t about drone laws in the U.K.? Send us an email at support[at]uavcoach[dot]com. We are not international aviation attorneys and do our best to keep this page up-to-date for drone pilots, but the reality is that given the pace of the small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) industry and how governments are responding, drone regulations in the U.K. can change throughout the year, and those changes can be hard to track. If we missed something, please reach out to let us know.

Permission Requirements for Flying a Drone Commercially in the United Kingdom

To obtain a standard permission to fly commercially (PfCO), you must complete the CAA’s online application form and submit the following documents:

  • Initial application: Ops Manual, Insurance, NQE full recommendation or equivalent qualification
  • Renewal application: Ops Manual, Insurance, Flight Logs
  • Variation application: Ops Manual, Insurance, NQE recommendation or equivalent qualification if changing weight / class category
  • Renewal & Variation application: Ops Manual Insurance, NQE recommendation or equivalent qualification if changing weight / class category, Flight Logs

You can learn more about the CAA’s permissions process on this page on the CAA website.

Want to get a feel for the kind of footage you could get flying a drone in the United Kingdom? Here you go: