Drone Hobby Pilots – Our Advice


Subjects Covered In This Post:

– The Legal Aspects
– Data Protection and CCTV Rules
– Harassment
– Insurance For Hobby Flyers
– First Person View Pilots
– Who Enforces The Law
– Choosing Hobby Flying Locations
– Complaints About Drone Nuisance – Including Towns and Cities

Legal Aspects

If you are flying a Drone for sporting and recreational purposes, including recreational (non-commercial) aerial photography and videography, they are considered to be model aircraft; the law makes no specific distinction on types of aircraft, other than weight limits, and all model aircraft pilots should read and understand the guidance contained in the CAA publications:

CAP 393 – Air Navigation: The Order and Regulations – CAA Link

CAP 658 – Model Aircraft: A Guide to Safe Flying – CAA Link

CAP 722 – Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance – Auto stabilisation, flight automation and with video payloads. CAA Link

The latest version of these documents are available at the links above in electronic format and  www.caa.co.uk/publications is where you may also register for e-mail notification of amendments. Before flying a drone or any radio controlled aircraft, you should make sure you’ve read the latest legal requirements.

Rules Summary

These rules, applied with a little common sense, will ensure you are complying with the relevant legal requirements.

The basic aims of the main Air Navigation Order provisions is to prevent members of the public and full size aviation being endangered, and these provisions also help to limit the potential for causing nuisance and for invading privacy.

The basics are summarised in The CAA Drone Code:

♦ Always keep your drone in sight – This means you can see and avoid other things while flying

♦ Stay below 400ft – This reduces the likelihood of a conflict with manned aircraft

♦ Every time you fly, follow the manufacturer’s instructions – Keep your drone and the people around you safe

♦ Keep the right distance from people and property – 50m from people and property, 150m from crowds & Built Up Areas. So, that is keeping 50m away from people and properties outside of villages, towns and cities and 150m away from villages, towns and cities, unless you have CAA permission.

♦ You are responsible for each flight – Failure to fly responsibly could result in criminal prosecution

♦ Stay well away from aircraft, airports and airfields – It is a criminal offence to endanger safety of an a/c: could = prison for 5 years

The latest copy of the Drone Code can be found  – here

Data Protection and CCTV Rules

You need to be aware that the collection of images of identifiable individuals, even inadvertently, when using a camera mounted on a drone will be subject to the Data Protection Act. This act contains requirements concerning the collection, storage and use of such images. Drone operators should ensure they are complying with any applicable requirements or exemptions. Further information about the Data Protection Act can be obtained from the Information Commissioners Office website: www.ico.org.uk.

If you are using a drone with a camera, there could be a privacy risk to other people. The ICO suggest following their tips here and summarised below to help ensure you respect people’s privacy when using your drone.

Tips on responsible use of drones:

– Let people know before you start recording.
– Consider your surroundings.
– Get to know your camera first.
– Plan your flight.
– Keep you and your drone in view.
– Think before sharing.
– Keep the images safe.


Other laws that protect individuals from harassment may apply when using your drone. It is worth checking which laws you need to be aware of before you fly your drone to avoid any unexpected complaints or disputes.

Insurance For Hobby Flyers

Consider insurance; even as a hobby flyer as you may be liable for 3rd party damage and personal injury claims should you have an accident and damage is caused.

For information, this mandatory for flying at a model flying association club or commercial operation.

First Person View Pilots

N.B. The CAA issues an exemption to Article 94 (3) for First Person View (FPV) operation. See here for details.

Who Enforces The Law

In June 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between UK National Police Chiefs, UK CAA, Home Office and the Department for Transport ( Memorandum of Understanding) – the CAA provide the rules, and the Police will investigate and enforce them. The Police now have an aide memoire for drone incidents.

Choosing Hobby Flying Locations

If intending to fly on private land, then the permission of the landowner should be sought. If flying on public land, such as a park or open access site, then you must ensure that there are no bylaws in place specifically prohibiting or restricting model flying.

The other main consideration is the overall suitability of the location for the activity, and that all flying can take place in compliance with the primary “endangering” provisions of the ANO and also in accordance with the distances mandated.

There are a number of emerging software applications to assist with safe Drone flying. These will identify your location and provide you with an indication of the flight hazards including classification of airspace. With these you may also have a facility to indicate to other application users that you are flying in that specific location. Like all of these tools, you need to ensure that you keep them up to date with the latest information.

Hobby Drone pilots should consider the location surroundings – what happens if the drone has a fault and flies away – how far will it fly, what directions might it travel and what can it endanger? e.g. straight up into manned aircraft.

If you have insurance – where does that insurance allow you to fly?

Complaints About Drone Nuisance

If you have any concerns about drones being used in your area, either from a safety or privacy perspective, contact your local Police on 101.

As a general rule, unless the drone pilot has permission from the CAA, he or she should not be flying a camera equipped drone within 150m of a ‘congested area’ (e.g. town or city), or at a public event.

The definition of a congested area in relation to a city, town or settlement means: any area which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes

When the pilot does have permission from the CAA, such flights are usually restricted to flight distances no closer than 50m from people, vehicles and structures that are not ‘under the control’ of the pilot.

These restrictions mean that the use of a drone in public places is limited, and often not suitable or legal unless the operator has received the appropriate permission from the CAA.  The enforcement strategy has recently changed to better reflect the balance of capabilities between the CAA and local Police services.

The Police often have greater resources, response times and powers of investigation than the CAA.  To support this, the CAA has now agreed with the Police, in a signed Memorandum of Understanding, that the Police will take the lead in dealing with drone misuse incidents, particularly at public events, that may contravene aviation safety legislation or other relevant criminal legislation.

The UK CAA information regarding the reporting of safety concerns. UK CAA Safety Concerns Reporting.



Please do not assume that just because one pilot is doing it, that it is acceptable, safe and legal. There are many British Model Flying organisations and a growing number of UK CAA National Qualified Entities that would be able to provide you with the information you require.

At AJSSL, we are always happy to provide independent advice and guidance to recreational pilots to ensure that they enjoy their hobby whilst flying safely and legally. We have a web-chat facility that you are welcome to use for queries.

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