Drone Regulation – Operating your drone safely and legally

In recent years the popularity of drones has risen dramatically. The technology is becoming cheaper, and their uses more widespread. Industries such as film, farming, and surveillance are all starting to make use of drone technology, not to mention the boom in popularity of hobby drones. But while their popularity is escalating there’s still some confusion about drone law.

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Where can you fly them? How high can you fly your drone? And to make things even more confusing, each country has its very own set of drone laws.

To help clear up some of the confusion, The Drone Worx, has put together a quick rundown of the dos and don’ts of drone law in the US, UK, and the Rest of the World.​

United States

In recent years, the US has become the world’s biggest user of drones. Unfortunately, it’s also made news because of its famously poor drone regulatory system. It is run by the FAA (The Federal Aviation Administration) – and surprisingly, they apply the same laws for all unmanned aerial systems. That means that the same rules apply to hobby drones that can be used in your back garden to larger drones fit for commercial purposes.

Up until recently, commercial drone use in the US was a confusing matter. This year, however, the rules regarding flying drones have been relaxed. Before this, commercial drone pilots needed a pilot’s license to fly even small hobby drones – a rule that was met with a serious amount of criticism.

What made things worse was that operators had to apply to the FAA on a case by case basis for permission to fly. As of August of 2016, commercial drone operators won’t need to fulfill such demanding criteria.

The rules now stipulate as follows:

  • A drone can be flown as long as the pilot is over the age of 16
  • The drone remains in the line of sight of its pilot
  • It does not exceed over 400 ft above ground level
  • It can only be flown at twilight if the drone has lights that can be seen more than three miles away
  • Drones must weigh less than 25kg, and all pilots must pass an aeronautics safety test every 24 months
  • The FAA has said it would provide ‘privacy guidelines’ for drone use

Personal use is much more relaxed, just advising that the drone remains within sight at all times.

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United Kingdom

In fact, in the UK alone between January and October of 2014, there was an 80% increase in permit grants for flying a drone in the UK. The use of drones in the UK is governed by the CAA (The Civil Aviation Authority), and it’s a place that started making regulations around drone use a lot earlier than other countries.

​When compared to other countries, UK drone law is fairly straightforward, and is generally covered by 4 rules:

  • A drone is not permitted to be flown within 150 meters of a congested area or an outdoor gathering of more than 1000 people.
  • No drone should be flown within 50 meters of any individual apart from during takeoff.
  • Where there is a camera attached, the drone is classified as an unmanned surveillance aircraft, meaning that it cannot be flown within 30 meters of an individual.
  • All drones must be kept within sight of the pilot at all times. To use a drone at greater distances, special approval is required from the CAA.

DRONE LAW IN Rest of the World

Many other areas of the world haven’t yet seen a similar rise in drone popularity, meaning that there aren’t many rules or regulations in place. Some western countries have adapted similar UAV laws and regulations to the UK and US. And EU countries are addopting in separate pace.  

Canada, for example, has adopted laws that mirror the UKs, with slight discrepancies. For example, in Canada, one must apply for a special license if the drone isn’t within a specific size or weight category.

There’s a great infographic of the varying drone laws for different countries from Precision Hawk. To check detailed country regulations visit the AIP’s and AIC’s for the location you’re flying.

drone law

What to remember:

While drone law does often vary between countries, there a few things to remember regardless of your place of residence.

  • Always ask permission of anyone you plan on filming with your drone
  • Avoid heavily populated areas
  • Make sure that, when flying your drone, it remains within your line of sight at all times
  • Always avoid restricted areas such as airports and military bases
  • Check with your local council to find out more about drone law within your area before flying

The drone industry is booming, and these drone laws and regulations will change in the coming years. For now, enjoy your drone and fly responsibly.

Editor:

Adam James from thedroneworx

thedroneworxuk(at)gmail.com

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