The answer to this short simple question depends entirely on where you are and if you are flying as a hobby or professionally. I’ll break down some of the rules from the CAA, IAA and the FAA into easy to understand chunks to keep you informed and on the right side of the law.
As drones become ever more popular, it’s becoming increasingly important that the people who intend to fly them know how to do so safely and legally. Navigating airspace and understanding all the rules and regulations before this point was incredibly difficult. You needed to have a sectional map and have the knowledge of what class of airspace you are allowed to fly in, which is a lot to ask someone starting out flying drones. Nowadays there are platforms and apps which allow you to check where you can and cannot fly by simply toggling some layers on and off.
In The U.K
If the drone you are flying is under 20kg you do not need to register it. The CAA created the DroneCode to help drone hobbyists understand the basic rules they need to follow to ensure a safe and legal flight.
If you are flying as a hobby here are the very basics from the Drone Safe Website plus some expanded information:
- Always keep your drone in sight – You cannot legally fly beyond 500m
- Stay below 400ft (120m) – This reduces the chances of flying near an airplane or other aircraft.
- Keep the right distance from people and buildings – You must fly at least 50m from buildings and at least 150m from crowds of more than 1000 people and built up areas. You also cannot fly within 50m of any person who is not under your control. You cannot fly over people.
- You are responsible for each flight – ensure that you comply with all manufacturer’s guideline and fly responsibly or you could face criminal prosecution
- Stay well away from airports and aircraft. If you are within 2 miles of an airport you are possibly in an Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ) and may have a high number of airplanes and aircraft taking off and landing and you cannot fly any drone above 7kg in these areas. If you are flying a drone below 7kg it is advised that you contact Air Traffic Control and notify them of your intent to fly.
There are areas where you are simply not allowed to fly drones and it can be hard to work out where you can and can’t. NATS have created an app just for this purpose called Drone Assist. Drone Assist provides you with an interactive map, highlighting areas that you cannot fly in while also showing you areas to fly with caution.
In the Republic Of Ireland
If you are flying your drone recreationally in Ireland if it weighs more than 1kg it must be registered with the IAA. On the IAA website, there are various resources to help ensure that you know exactly what you can and can’t.
The Do’s and Don’ts leaflet is really useful, here are some of those do’s and don’ts with expanded information.
- You should not fly beyond 300m and you must not fly beyond line of sight.
- You cannot fly within 120m of crowds of 12 or more people not under your control. Also, you can not fly within 30m of any person, vehicle or building not under your control.
- You cannot fly within 5km of an airport or aerodrome.
- You must fly below 400ft (120m).
- You can not fly overhead of crowds of people (e.g. concerts, sporting events, parades etc).
In The US
In the U.S if you are flying recreationally you do not have to register your drone with the FAA. Similar to the Drone Safe website there is a website, Know Before Your Fly, specifically for the drone users in the U.S. If you are flying recreationally, here are the rules from the website, expanded with some more information.
- You must fly below 400ft (120m) – to minimise the risk of flying near airplanes or other aircraft
- You must not fly within 5 miles of an airport without having contacted Air Traffic Control to notify them of your intent to fly in the area.
- You must always fly within line of sight.
- You must not fly over groups of people, over stadiums or sports events, near emergency response efforts such as fires.
- You must not take photos or people or property where there is an expectation of privacy without their permission.
- You cannot fly in National Parks.
- You must not fly faster than 100mph.
- You must be 13 years old or older
As with the U.K there are no fly zones,where you cannot fly your drone and just like the UK there is an app you can download called B4UFLY to help you find somewhere to safely and legally fly your drone.
B4UFLY provides the user that helps the user identify if there are any no fly zones around and if there are any restrictions in the area they are planning to fly in.
Using platforms like Airmap are a great way to find out if it’s ok to fly your drone in a specific area and if there are any precautions you need to take such as contacting Air Traffic Control.
If you fly a DJI drone, you may have noticed that your drone simply will not take off in certain areas – this is due to DJIs geofencing system stopping you from taking off from or flying into no-fly zones. The downside to this is that should you accidentally fly into a no fly zone, your drone will automatically initiate the land sequence. This can be a real problem if you happen to be in an area where it is not practical, safe or even legal to land your drone. A prime example of this happening is when YouTuber Sawyer Hartman’s drone started to land on a busy highway and almost crashed into two buildings when he tried to fly it back towards himself.
I know it seems like there’s a lot to worry about when flying your drone, but don’t forget to have fun! Drones are amazing and you should enjoy flying them. If you are still unsure about anything in this post don’t hesitate to contact me and I’ll be happy to help.
Don’t forget you can find me on all social medias @litlemissdrone