Use the e-cards below to help keep up to date with lawful operation of model aircraft and drones.
Click the e-card to flip to the answer, then click next to go to the next e-card.
What do these these aircraft all have in common?
They are considered to be "small unmanned aircraft" (SUA) by the CAA.
A small unmanned aircraft (SUA) is defined as ‘any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20 kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight’.
Important Note! By the additions of a camera an SUA becomes a "small unmanned surveillance aircraft" (SUSA)
A ‘small unmanned surveillance aircraft’ means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition (which includes camera equipped multi-rotor aircraft).
What is the legislation called that contains the regulations that apply to flying model aircraft and drones?
The Air Navigation Order (ANO):- CAP393
The regulations are contained in a series of "Articles" within the ANO that define our responsibilities and what is lawful.
The Articles that relate to model aircraft and drone flying are:-
Article 241 and Articles 94, 94A, 94B, 94C, 94D, 94E, 94F, 94G & 95
Who is responsible for the safety of a model aircraft or drone flight?
You are responsible!
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.
Failure to operate lawfully could result in criminal prosecution.
Can you fly your model aircraft or drone out of sight behind trees or buildings?
No. You must keep the aircraft within visual line of sight (VLOS)
If you are operating an unmanned aircraft, you must keep it within unaided (except for corrective lenses) 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 unaided visual line of sight with your aircraft.
A local farmer has offered to pay you to take an aerial photograph of his farm buildings.
Can you accept the payment?
No. You must not operate an unmanned aircraft for any commercial purpose, without permission from the CAA.
A commercial operation is defined as:
‘flight by a small unmanned aircraft except a flight for public transport, or any operation of any other aircraft except an operation for public transport;
- which is available to the public; or
- which, when not made available to the public, in the case of a flight by a small unmanned aircraft, is performed under a contract between the SUA operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the remote pilot or
in any other case, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator,
in return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.’
You turn up at your club flying site and want to fly your model aircraft using a screen or video goggles.
There are no other people present.
Can you do so?
Article 94 states "The remote pilot of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions."
If using a screen or video goggles you cannot maintain visual line of sight (VLOS) so must either use a "buddy" system or have a competent observer who maintains VLOS.
Your model aircraft weighs 6.5kg.
How high can you fly your aircraft?
The legal height limit for all unmanned aircraft is 400ft (120m) above the terrain.
However BMFA members have permission (an exemption from the CAA) to operate their aircraft (other than multi-rotors) which weigh less than 7Kg higher than 400ft. Visual line of sight must be maintained.
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.
Before taking off what question should all remote pilots of model aircraft or drones ask themselves?
Your model aircraft or drone has a camera fitted.
How close can you fly to people or buildings not under your control?
You must not fly your aircraft closer than 50m from uninvolved people and buildings not under your control.
You must also not fly over or closer than 150m from built up areas and crowds of people.
You are flying your model aircraft at a safe height, there are un-involved people nearby when you notice a manned helicopter flying towards you.
What should you do?
Quickly fly your aircraft out of the way and wait or land if it is safe to do so.
You must not endanger the safety of any other aircraft!
The general aviation principle of ‘see and avoid’ applies and you must do everything possible to avoid conflict with any other aircraft.
Endangering the safety of an aircraft could result in a five-year prison sentence.
You want to fly your model aircraft or drone in a field close but outside the boundary of a nearby airfield.
Is it ok for you to fly here?
It is illegal to fly any unmanned aircraft within 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 one of the number of phone apps that are available, like NATS Drone Assist (https://dronesafe.uk/safety-apps/) .
It is not a legal requirement to carry 3rd party liability insurance for most flying of model aircraft and drones.
(it's a very good idea though.)
In what circumstances is it a legal requirement?
You MUST have insurance if you want to fly for payment or other commercial work
You MUST have insurance if the take off weight of your aircraft exceeds 20kg
For sporting and recreational flights (non commercial) the best available liability insurance is included with BMFA membership.
You have been flying your camera equipped model aircraft or drone and captured images of people not involved with you.
What should you consider and what action should you take?
You should consider if any people in your images are in a public place, or are they in a location where they could have a reasonable expectation of privacy? (Their home or private garden)
If they could have a reasonable expectation of privacy you should delete the images and ensure you do not share the images online or with other people.
As a remote pilot changing weather conditions can affect your performance as well as your model aircraft or drone.
What points should you consider if the temperature drops and it starts to snow?
That you’re not getting too cold to be able to use your controller.
That your aircraft will work in cold temperatures.
That you can still see your aircraft through the snow.
Some types of battery do not last as long in cold weather and this may reduce the amount of time you can fly.
Heavy rain and snow may reduce the range of your radio signal.