Featured Regulators

UK – Drones flying in the open category

The flying of any ‘drone’ or model aircraft in the UK is covered by Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Regulations.

There are a basic set of regulations for flying unmanned aircraft within the UK. Operating within these limits will ensure you remain in the ‘Open Category’, meaning that you don’t need an authorisation from the CAA to fly. If you intend to operate outside any of these limits, you must first obtain an Operational Authorisation.

See guidance on the Specific Category for more information.

The basic requirements for flying in the Open Category are described below:

  • You must pass the online test and hold a Flyer-ID, and must register as a UAS operator, and display your Operator ID on your UAS
  • You are responsible for flying your UAS in a safe manner
  • You must keep the UAS 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 UAS
  • You must not fly more than 400ft/120m above the surface
  • You must not fly within the Flight Restriction Zone of a protected aerodrome, or within any other airspace restriction without permission. More information on airspace restrictions
  • Your UAS must weigh less than 25Kg

We have a series of factsheets to help explain the rules that will apply to your flying:

  • Flying for fun CAP2003
  • Flying as a hobby and at a club CAP2004
  • Using a drone for work CAP2005
  • Flying in the countryside CAP2006
  • Flying in towns and cities CAP2007
  • The difference with the new 2020 regulations CAP2008

The full set of rules that you need to know about are detailed in the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education System (DMARES) web pages. You must pass this test before you can fly your drone outdoors. There are some exceptions to this, which are detailed within the DMARES pages.

The Open category is divided into three ‘subcategories’, in order to specify certain rules for different types of flying. The category you fall into depends on the type of drone you wish to fly, and how you wish to fly it.

  • A1: Flying ‘over’ people;
  • A2: Flying ‘close to’ people;
  • A3: Flying ‘far from’ people;

You must always comply with the rules of whichever subcategory you are flying in.

Most people, flying a UAS away from people in the open countryside will fall into the basic requirements of the A3 category- these are similar to the old UK rules that were previously in place. A comparison of these rules, and the new rules can be found in our factsheet CAP2008 . The A1 and A2 categories allow flying closer to people, but with more restrictions.

The full requirements for flying in the Open category are shown in our factsheet CAP2012

Type of Drone

From 1 January 2023 new drones will have to meet a set of product standards, and some may do before this date. These will be classed from C0 to C4, based on the weight and capability of the drone, and will determine how and where you can fly.

  • Drones classed C0 or C1 can be flown in the open A1 sub category
  • Drones classed C2 can be flown in the A2 or A3 sub category – but if flying in ‘A2’ you must pass the A2 theory exam (A2 Certificate of Competency or ‘A2 CofC’)
  • Drones classed as C3 and C4 can only 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 can be flown in the A1 sub category (there are also some exceptions for drones up to 500g too).
  • Drones less than 2kg can be flown in A2 sub category, but you must keep at least 50 meters away from people and pass the A2 theory exam (A2 Certificate of Competency or ‘A2 CofC’). If you have not passed the A2 theory exam, you may only fly these drones in the A3 subcategory.
  • Drones of 2kg or greater may only be flown in the A3 subcategory.

After 1 January 2023, you can continue to fly a ‘legacy’ unmarked drone in the following categories:

  • Drones under 250g can continue to be flown in the A1 sub category.
  • All other drones must only be used in the A3 sub category.

UAS Regulations

The regulations that set out the requirements for UAS operations in the UK are contained within:

  • The Air Navigation Order 2016 (as amended). A consolidated version can be found in CAP2038A00. Full details of the applicable regulations within the ANO that apply to UAS, can be found in CAP722.
  • Regulation (EU) 2019/947 as retained (and amended in UK domestic law) under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018– referred to as ‘The UAS Implementing Regulation’. A consolidated version of the UAS IR can be found in CAP 1789A.
  • Regulation (EU) 2019/945 as retained (and amended in UK domestic law) under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018– referred to as ‘The UAS Delegated Regulation’. A consolidated version of the UAS DR can be found in CAP 1789B.

First Person View

Unmanned aircraft that are fitted with video cameras often provide an opportunity to downlink ‘live’ video to the remote pilot either via a mobile phone, tablet computer or other screen, or even through video goggles – this capability provides the pilot with a pseudo ‘pilots eye view’ from the UAS itself and is generally given the term ‘First Person view’ (FPV).

The remote pilot must always keep the UAS within their unaided visual line of sight, but FPV may be used, when a spotter is assisting the remote pilot.

The law states:

“The remote pilot may be assisted by a UA observer helping them to keep the unmanned aircraft away from other aircraft and obstacles.

The UA observer must be situated alongside the remote pilot and observers must not use aided vision (e.g. binoculars).

UA observers may also be used when the remote pilot conducts UAS operations in first-person view (FPV), which is a method used to control the UA with the aid of a visual system connected to the camera of the UA. In all cases, the remote pilot is still responsible for the safety of the flight.”

UAS Implementing Regulation- UAS.OPEN.060

Note: Images captured by a camera and displayed on a flat screen afford the pilot little by way of depth perception and no peripheral vision. This can make it difficult for the pilot to accurately judge speed and distance and to maintain sufficient awareness of the area surrounding the aircraft to effectively ‘see and avoid’ obstacles and other aircraft – as a result, the use of FPV equipment is not an acceptable mitigation for Beyond Visual Line of Sight flight unless the relevant operator has received a specific authorisation to do so from the CAA.

Indoor use

Flights inside buildings do not impact air navigation because they can have no effect on flights by aircraft in the open air. As a result, flights within buildings, or within areas where there is no possibility for the unmanned aircraft to ‘escape’ into the open air (such as a ‘closed’ netted structure) are not subject to air navigation legislation. Persons intending to operate unmanned aircraft indoors should refer to the appropriate Health and Safety At Work regulations.

Other Legitimate Interests

UAS operators must fully consider any other applicable restrictions and legitimate interests of other statutory bodies such as Local Authorities, many of which have established local byelaws. These byelaws often restrict the take-off/landing of UAS from council land. Such a restriction, on its own, is not an airspace restriction, and therefore is not considered a UAS Geographical Zone.

It is important to distinguish between the permission required to operate from council land and the permission required to operate in certain portions of airspace. Should a UAS operator be given permission by a council to operate on their land this does not necessarily mean that they have permission to fly. UAS operators and remote pilots must be aware of all the restrictions that may affect their flight and to seek all necessary authorisations prior to commencing operations. A permission from a Local Authority in accordance with a Byelaw may be just one of many permissions needed, such as a permission to fly within an FRZ, or an authorisation from the CAA to fly within the Specific category.

The CAA cannot provide advice on what is, or is not, a legitimate interest or whether restrictions or fees are being lawfully imposed by other authorities. However, any authority or regulatory body should be able to identify the specific laws, regulations or bye-laws that empower it to regulate the use of UAS, or more usually, the land from which they are operated, much as the CAA has set out the regulations that it applies, above. We recommend that if you are unsure of whether a restriction imposed by a body legitimately applies to your flight, you request that information from the relevant authority or regulatory body.

UAS operators and remote pilots are also reminded that ANO Article 241 provides that a person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property.

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