Quick Start Guide to model flying/operation of unmanned aircraft

Click on the headings below for all you need to know about flying your model aircraft lawfully

Model Flying Quick Start

If you are operating an unmanned aircraft, you are legally responsible for ensuring that the flight is conducted safely.  It is therefore essential that you are aware of the laws which apply.

You must not operate an unmanned aircraft for any commercial purpose, without permission from the CAA.

Failure to operate lawfully could result in criminal prosecution.

If you are operating an unmanned aircraft, you must keep it within visual line of sight to allow you to see and avoid any other hazards within the area of operation.

If you are operating an unmanned aircraft using first person view, then you must have a competent observer who maintains visual line of sight with your aircraft and is next to you.

The legal height limit for all unmanned aircraft is 400ft (120m) above the terrain, but BMFA members have permission to operate their aircraft (other than multi-rotors) which weigh less than 7Kg higher than 400ft.

BMFA members are also permitted to operate sailplanes over 7kg, (but not exceeding 14kg), higher than 400ft above the terrain, provided that the aircraft is not flown at a height greater than 400ft above the pilot.

Multi-rotors and model aircraft weighing more than 7Kg must not be flown higher than 400ft without permission from the CAA.

For details of the full requirements for first person view operation, please visit www.bmfa.org.

You must not endanger the safety of any uninvolved person or any vessel, vehicle or structure not under your control when you fly your unmanned aircraft and you must always maintain a safe distance.

For aircraft fitted with cameras, you must not fly within 150ft (50m) of any uninvolved person (reduced to 30m for take-off/landing) or any vessel, vehicle or structure not under your control and you must not fly over or within 500ft (150m) of any congested area or an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons.

The general aviation principle of ‘see and avoid’ applies and you must do everything possible to avoid conflict with any other aircraft.

It is illegal to fly any unmanned aircraft within in a Flight Restriction Zone (FRZ) around an airport/airfield without permission from air traffic control at the airport or, if air traffic control is not operational, from the airport itself.

To ensure that you are not operating within an FRZ, please see https://dronesafe.uk/restrictions/ or use an phone app like NATS Drone Assist (https://dronesafe.uk/safety-apps/) .

Endangering the safety of an aircraft could result in a five-year prison sentence.

From 30th November 2019, the law requires that anyone operating an unmanned aircraft outdoors which weighs more than 250g is registered as an Operator with the CAA and able to provide evidence of their competency.  BMFA members are exempted from the requirement to register as an Operator until the start of 2020 when they renew their membership.

From the 30th November, those without a recognised BMFA Achievement should take the BMFA’s Registration Competency Certificate or the CAA’s online test before they fly.

For further details of the registration and competency requirements, please see our DMARES Quick Start Guide.

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