Flying a drone can be a very exciting hobby. Whether you’re soaring high to capture stunning aerial images, exploring your neighbourhood from a new angle or speed racing through 3D obstacle courses, you’ll see yourself improving with each flight.
There are many areas in the UK where it’s perfectly safe to fly your drone, but there are a few restrictions you should bear in mind.
How to be safe with your drone
While most of us know you’re unlikely to get away with hovering over of the Houses of Parliament or Manchester Airport, it’s not always clear what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to flying drones. The UK Civil Aviation Authority gives the following advice:
- Always keep your drone in sight – this means within about 500 metres
- Keep your drone below 400ft high to reduce the likelihood of it interfering with a manned aircraft
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to keep yourself and the people around you safe
- Join a local drone flying club to learn new skills safely
- Fly within 50 metres of buildings, vehicles or people
- Fly over crowded areas or large gatherings like concerts or sports events
- Film people without permission, even if they’re in a public place
- Fly your drone near an airport or close to a plane – this is a criminal offence and you could be jailed for up to 5 years. You also can’t fly near military bases, prisons and government buildings
A number of incidents where drones have not been flown safely have caused the Government to consider how to ensure people’s safety and privacy. Last year it was announced that every drone weighing 250g or more will have to be registered in a crackdown designed to make owners more accountable for their actions.
So the next time you post a video of your stunning aerial footage on YouTube, make sure you haven’t broken any rules as the long arm of the law might eventually catch up with you.
Where can you fly your drone?
The best places to fly your unmanned aircraft are large open spaces such as a deserted beach or your local park. Some areas have signs explaining what is and isn't permitted. You might see a 'no model aircraft' sign, which includes drones. If you’re in doubt, it’s worth checking with your local council first.
Many of the safety instructions for flying a drone are basically common sense but, if you want to become an expert at controlling your drone, you may wish to think about joining a club. Organisations like the British Model Flying Club have groups all across the country you could get in contact with.
You can also download the Drone Assist app from NATS, the UK’s main air traffic controller. It shows you an interactive map of airspace used by commercial air traffic so you know the areas to avoid. You can also see ground hazards such as powerlines that may pose safety risks when you’re out flying your drone.
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