• Ian Titchener

What you need to know if you are giving or getting a drone for Christmas.

Drones are expected to be one of the most popular gifts over the forthcoming festive period, with thousands of people set to be opening their new aircraft on Christmas day. With the current chaos at Gatwick airport, I thought that I would put pen to paper and lay bare what you can and cannot do with drones!

1. You cannot fly it in a built-up area (including your back garden)

The Air Navigation Order (the legislation governing all airspace in the UK ) says that you must not fly your aircraft within 150m or a built-up area, or within 50m of any person, vehicle, vessel or structure not under your control. In practice this means that flying in your back garden is a big no-no (unless you live in the middle of nowhere) You must find somewhere that you can fly safely away from potential hazards

2. You must keep the aircraft within visual line of sight

The aircraft must remain within visual line of sight at all times. This is defined as less than 500m away or with a clear unobstructed view of the aircraft (you cannot use binoculars!) In practice line of sight will change depending upon your aircraft. You may easily lose sight of something like a DJI spark at as little as 50M. You must be able to see your drone at all times!

3. You must not fly above 400ft (120m)

Because you are then in the territory of manned aviation. The hazards are obvious! Stay below 400ft! This distance is defined as the distance below the drone. So if you are standing on a hill, and flying at 400 feet you will very quickly find the distance below the aircraft will become greater than 400ft

4. You must not fly within 1KM from the boundary of any airport, airfield or aerodrome.

My personal recommendation is to stay at least 5 miles away from any major airport or aerodrome. You are legally responsible for any flight you make, and ignorance is no excuse. Fly near an airport is stupidity in its purest form, it is also a criminal offence and could land you in jail!

The Drone Code

The Civil Aviation Authority has produced the Drone Code, which is a fantastic resource for anybody thinking of buying a drone. It lays out clearly in far more detail than this article what you can and cannot do and you should read it BEFORE you fly any unmanned aircraft in UK airspace You can download a PDF copy by clicking here


There are various apps available that can help you make sure you are flying safely. Amongst these are NATS Drone Assist, Drone Forecast and Skydemon. You can use these to assist you in deciding whether a flight is safe to conduct.

It's down to you!

The CAA says “You must be reasonably convinced that the flight can be conducted safely” If you have just chucked a battery in your new aircraft and crashed It into somebody’s house, car, face, flown over an airport or shut down Gatwick Airport you cannot tick this box! Oh, and by the way, all of the above applies to all drones, even the little ones!

What am I saying? Enjoy your new aircraft and have fun. But make sure you read the drone code, use your common sense and you may just avoid a visit from the boys in blue. We offer specialist training for new drone pilots at our Cambridgeshire training facility, so if you think you or yours may benefit just give us a call on 01353 771459 or visit www.prodroneacademy.co.uk for more details!

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