Flock – What you need to know about the new UK drone laws

New drone laws have come into force as part of the UK Government’s effort to improve aviation safety. In this post, we highlight the important changes you need to know about.

As of Monday 30th July 2018, new drone safety restrictions came into effect in the UK. These changes have been implemented by the Government as part of an amendment to the 2016 Air Navigation order.

To guide you through the changes, we have summarised our interpretation of the new laws below. We also walk you through how you can use the Flock Cover app to check how safe your flight is before take-off.

What are the new laws?

1. It is a criminal offence to fly your drone within 1 km of airport boundaries

If you want to fly within 1km of a licenced airfield (be it an airport or a military airfield) at any height, you will have to get special permission from the air traffic control, or the CAA. This law applies to all drones, regardless of their mass.

2. It is against the law to fly your drone above 400ft (120m)

Unless you have an exemption from the CAA, you must not fly your drone more than 400ft above the ground. The distance is measured from the height you take off from, whether this is from the top of a hill, or in a valley. If you are flying over a cliff edge or a tall building and there is more than 400ft between the ground and your drone, you will need to obtain an exemption.

What happens if I break the laws?

If you’re found breaking the new restrictions you could face up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. Breaking these laws could open yourself up to being charged with ‘recklessly endangering an aircraft, or a person in an aircraft’ , which comes with severe consequences.

How can the Flock Cover app help?

You can use Flock Cover as a safety tool and receive a real-time risk-report for your drone flight in seconds. All you have to do is enter your flight location in the app, and you’ll be instantly alerted to nearby airports, heliports, military airbases (and more!). By analysing real-time data in your Flight Area, Flock will inform you of temporary restrictions of airspace, which are put in place when events such as football matches are taking place.

The Flock Cover app analyses where you are flying in order to alert you to surrounding risks.

Additional changes PfCO holders should note..

In addition to the new drone laws, if you are a commercial pilot there are a few additional changes you should familiarise yourself with…

1. The terms SUA Operator and Remote Pilot

There are now two new terms: SUA Operator (the person managing the drone) and Remote Pilot (the person flying the drone). Previously in your Ops manual, you may have referred to the latter as the ‘Person in Control’.

If you’re a sole trader, then both terms would apply to you simultaneously. The distinction between the two is more clearly illustrated when considering a scenario which may be more typical of a larger organisation, where the SUA Operator (who is also probably the PfCO holder) would prepare the flight, and then provide instructions to the remote pilot on where they are required to fly for that job. What the new terminology does is make it clear that responsibilities for safety are shared between both the remote pilot and the SUA Operator.

2. Changes to PfCO drone classifications

It used to be that if you were flying a drone above 7kg, you would have to sit a separate Heavy Lift qualification. Now, there are now only two classes of drone on the standard PfCO:

  1. 0–20kg multirotor
  2. 0–20kg fixed wing

Need further information?

If you need any clarification of the points written here, you can contact the Flock team through the instant chat on our website, or in the Flock Cover app (available on iOS and Android). We typically respond within 2 minutes, and will be happy to help!

You can also read the CAA’s official guide in regards to the ANO amendments here, and their explanation regarding PfCO amendments here.

We hope this has been a useful guide, and as always, safe flying!

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