Off The Ground
Changes to UK Drone Laws
UK Drone Regulations changed on December 31, 2020, to align with those of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in order to allow free circulation of drones with Europe.
The new rules remove the requirements of PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) and whether your operation is commercial/non-commercial, focussing solely on the type of drone and where you intend to fly it.
This leads to some major changes from current regulations and potentially offers great opportunities to carry out missions which would have been hugely restricted previously.
In some cases, for example, you will be able to fly much closer to people/buildings and even fly over people which open up many more possibilities for drone pilots.
An Operational Authorisation has replaced the PfCO and there are now 3 categories of operations providing a framework related to the level of risk involved in the flight.
These categories are Open, Specific and Certified,
To summarise these categories:
Low-risk operations will not require any authorisation, but will be subject to strict operational limitations.
The Open Category is made up of 3 subcategories, determined by the type of flying you are intending to carry out and the drone you are using:
A1 – Flying “Over” People
A2 – Flying “Close to” People
A3 – Flying “Far from” People
Type of Drone
From 1 January 2023 all new drones will be required to meet a set of product standards and will be classified from C0 to C4.
These classes will be based on the weight and capability of the drone, and will determine how and where you can fly.
C0 or C1 drones are authorised to be flown the A1 sub category (as well as A2 and A3)
C2 drones are only authorised to be flown in the A2 or A3 sub category
C3 and C4 drones are only authorised to be flown in the A3 sub category
Until January 2023 if your drone doesn’t have a class marking, you may fly it in the following categories:
Drones under 250g are authorised to be flown in the sub category A1 (as well as A2 and A3)
Drones less than 2kg are authorised to be flown in the sub category A2 and A3, however you are required to maintain a 50 meters distance from people and are required to pass the A2 theory exam (A2 Certificate of Competency or ‘A2 CofC’).
Drones of MOTM (Maximum Take Off Mass) of 2kg or greater are only authorised to be flown in the A3 subcategory.
After 1 January 2023, ‘legacy’ unmarked drones are still authorised to fly in the following categories:
Privately built drones with a MTOM (Maximum Take Off Mass) of 250g are still authorised to be flown in the sub category A1.
All other drones are only authorised to be used in the sub category A3
The full requirements for flying in the Open category are shown in the CAA factsheet CAP2012.
For medium-risk operations, operators will have to require an authorisation from the national aviation authority on the basis of a standardised risk assessment or a specific scenario. Pilots will require a GVC (General VLOS Certificate) to apply for operational authorisation (See Below for GVC details)
In the case of high-risk operations, classical aviation rules will apply. To ensure operational safety flights falling under the Certified category with require certification of the UAS, licensing of the pilot and to be carried out by an approved operator.
While these changes may cause some initial confusion for pilots used to the previous regulations, it means that drone pilots will be able to fly commercially with fewer restrictions based on the risk of the operation where the flights are of lower risk.
For the latest updates to UK drone laws CHECK HERE
No Matter What Size Drone You Are Flying EVERYBODY Must Comply with these Drone Laws:
The Drone Code – The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) published The Drone and Model Aircraft Code in October 2019, which is clear guidance for flying drones and model aircraft of 20kg or less in the UK.
• Always keep your drone or model aircraft in direct sight • Never fly more than 400ft (120m) above the surface and stay well away from aircraft, airports and airfields. • Never fly closer than 50m to people. Even when your drone is more than 50m away from people it is safer to avoid directly overflying them • Never fly closer than 50m to buildings, cars, trains or boats • Never fly closer than 150m to a crowd of 1,000 people or more. Never fly directly over a crowd • Never fly closer than 150m to built-up areas. Never fly directly over a built-up area • Never fly in an airport’s flight restriction zone • It is illegal to fly a drone or model aircraft between 250g-20kg that does not show a valid operator ID.