Answering the Top FAQs!

Aerial Motion Pictures Commercial Drone Training School Fly ICARUS has noticed how popular the drone consumer market has become. Especially since Christmas 2016, drones are now a common sight within every household. Whether the aircraft is a little Hubsan x5 or a Phantom 3 for a hobbyist photographer, as drones become more popular our concern is first and foremost safety. Drone owners must be aware of the rules before taking flight and here at Fly ICARUS we hope by answering these questions we can assist with understanding these regulations.

 The Civil Aviation Authority

The Civil Aviation Authority

New owners of drones and quadcopters are rarely aware of the guidelines applicable to their use. The rules and regulations can be complex to interpret but they are important in order for hobbyist (and future commercial pilots) to continue to enjoy the freedoms that we have today, also to avoid a heavy fine for breaching them. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions, answered to assist pilots in understanding how to safely fly their drones.

1.)   Where can a recreational (non-paid work) drone be flown?

As a general rule, unless the drone pilot has permission from the CAA, he or she should not be flying within 150m of a ‘congested area’ (e.g. town or city) or at a public event. When the pilot does have permission from the CAA, such flights are usually restricted to flight distances no closer than 50m from persons, vehicles and structures that are not ‘under the control’ of the pilot. Direct over-flight at any height is not usually permitted. – These restrictions mean that the use of a drone in public places is limited and often not suitable or legal unless the operator has received the appropriate permission from the CAA.

2.)   What is the CAA definition of a “congested area”?

The definition of a congested area is: ‘Congested area’ in relation to a city, town or settlement, means any area which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes’. Anything from a smallvillage (group of houses), people or anything that can be damaged (buildings, cars etc…).

3.)   How do I report unsafe drone activity and who do I report it to?

The Police often have greater resources, response times and powers of investigation than the CAA. To support this, the CAA has now agreed with the Police that they will take the lead in dealing with drone misuse incidents, particularly at public events, that may contravene aviation safety legislation or other relevant criminal legislation. We recommend that any such incidents are reported directly to the Police. – Certain types of drone flights, i.e. those that may be endangering an aircraft or are made in the vicinity of an airport or airfield, in addition to being reported to the Police, should also be specifically reported to the CAA using form FCS 1520. The CAA’s remit is limited to safety and does not include concerns over privacy or broadcast rights.

 Congested Area - London, also a place where most hobbyist and commercial pilots cannot fly near. 

Congested Area - London, also a place where most hobbyist and commercial pilots cannot fly near. 

4.)   What is the CAA definition of a ‘Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA)’? In terms of these regulations (the Air Navigation Order), a ‘small unmanned aircraft’ means any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20kg without its fuel, but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight. – When an unmanned aircraft weights more than 20kg, additional regulations come into play and recreational aircraft in this category are usually classified as ‘large model aircraft’.

5.)   Are there any specific regulations for drones (small unmanned aircraft)? Yes, under the Air Navigation Order 2009, Articles 166 and 167 apply, imposing the following regulations apply: –

  • A person must not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons or property.
  • The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
  • The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.
  • The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more than 7kg excluding its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly the aircraft:

a. in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic control unit has been obtained;

b. within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic control unit (if any)

c. at that aerodrome unless the permission of any such air traffic control unit has been obtained; or at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in airspace described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b) and in accordance with the requirements for that airspace.

  • The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly the aircraft for the purposes of aerial work (paid) except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.
  • The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft above (at any height) or within 150 metres of any congested area.
  • The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons.
  • The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft or within 50 metres of any person (excluding the pilot).
  •  The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person during take-off or landing (excluding the pilot).

6.)   What is classified as ‘paid work’ and requires a CAA certification?

The Air Navigation Order defines ‘aerial work’ as: –

“Any purpose, other than commercial air transport or public transport, for which an aircraft is flown if valuable consideration is given or promised for the flight or the purpose of the flight.”

At the present time, any activities involving the remunerated carriage of persons, cargo or mail are prohibited to drones although occasionally permission may be given to ‘drop articles’.

The term ‘aerial work’ allows a broad variety of flight applications, predominantly centring on aerial photography or the operation of other sensors and data-gathering devices. The essential question that needs to be asked is “what is the purpose of the (specific) flight?” i.e.”If I were not receiving payment/valuable consideration for making the flight, would it still take place?” –

Example 1: A drone operator holding a CAA permission for aerial work is engaged to film or survey a building development site or infrastructure facility. This is clearly within the remit of the permission and the operation can proceed within the limitations and conditions stated on the operator’s permission.

Example 2: An estate agent or builder’s firm wants to use a drone for aerial imagery/survey as part of their service. This also would be considered aerial work even if it only comprised a small part of the service to the customer, e.g. advertising a customer’s house or checking the property for the extent of works required. The operator of the drone would need to have a CAA permission for aerial work. The estate agent or builder’s firm should gain a permission or use the services of an existing permission holder (a list of such permission holders is provided on the CAA website (last link at the bottom

7. ) If I upload my drone footage to YouTube or my own website which features advertising/monetization, is this classed as commercial-use? No, not if advertising revenue received as a result of persons visiting a website or social media page where video or photographic stills shot from a drone are displayed/posted. This is because these types of web-pages may be legitimately used to post recreational video material that was not commissioned by another party, but was conceived and wholly funded by the poster. This would not apply if the photographic material had been directly commissioned by another party for the purposes of display or marketing on their website. – Also, an individual or business would not usually be considered to be doing ‘paid’ aerial work if the flight is provided only for their own use. However, imagery generated in this way should not be sold to another party.

8. )  I live near an airport/aerodrome, am I allowed to fly? In practical terms, drones of any weight present a hazard/risk when operating near an aerodrome or other landing site due to the presence of manned aircraft. – Operators of small drones should remain clear of charted aerodromes by at least a distance of 5km, whether or not the aerodrome is in controlled airspace or has an associated Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ).

Read more about the UK drone law, guidance, rules and regulations via the CAA website, click here for more information. Note: Whilst these regulations are UK-specific, the guidelines are well constructed and could be utilised in countries where no such regulations currently exist. Always check your local country guidelines before taking flight.

It is also a good idea to check the NOTAMs before flying (Notice to Airmen), you can do this by going to or Sky Demon.

If you have any more specific questions, do not hesitate to give us a call on 01491 526 700

Are you ready to take the next step towards your future? Ready to turn your drone hobby in to a career? Aerial Motion Pictures is home of the UK's First Independent Drone Training School Fly ICARUS. Want to find our more about our courses? - Go to

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