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05-October-2015 10:17
in Aviation and Travel
by Christopher McCarthy

CAA Introduce Regulations for Unmanned Aircraft Users

Following the increase in drone users whether from companies or unlicensed individuals, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have issued what they have called ‘drone code’ to help regulate these devices. The past year has seen an increase in recorded incidents whereby drones have ‘buzzed’ passenger jets. ‘Buzzing’ occurs when the drone tracks along the approach path towards the plane. In some recorded cases of ‘buzzing’, the drone has been known to fly within just 50ft of the aircraft.

In 2014, Heathrow reported an incident whereby a drone buzzed an Airbus just 700ft above the ground. Unfortunately, the controller of the drone could not be tracked down. These types of near misses are not isolated to Heathrow but have been recorded in airports all over the country including Norwich, Southend and Leeds Bradford.

Drones are increasingly being used in Britain for photography and recreational uses by private owners which has prompted the CAA to issue the ‘drone code’. Whilst companies must register their drones, members of the public do not and none of the drone controllers which have buzzed in the past year have been caught. The CAA have warned that anyone convicted of buzzing could face custodial sentences as ‘recklessly endangering an aircraft in flight’ is considered to be a criminal offence.

The ‘drone code’ had been introduced alongside ‘drone safety awareness day’ to encourage operators of drones to fly safely and avoid the danger of collisions. The code includes keeping the drone within the operator’s line of sight at a maximum height of 400ft and to never fly near airports or aircrafts.

There is no denying that drones could have important benefits for the UK in the future but there is a clear need for drone operators to put the safety of others at the forefront of their minds whilst operating these machines. Stephen Landells, a flight safety specialist at the pilots’ union Balpa said, ‘operators must ensure there is no conflict with commercial manned traffic.’

More warnings were issued recently by the CAA after firefighters in California were put at risk when they were unable to douse forest fires because of hobby drone pilots flying devices above the fires. This just shows that this is a worldwide issue which needs to be addressed.

These are the CAA rules – “THE DRONECODE”:


BEFORE each flight, check drone for damage

Before each flight check that your unmanned aircraft is not damaged, and that all components are working in accordance with the Supplier’s User Manual.


Drone is in sight at all times

You must keep the unmanned aircraft within your sight at all times.


You are responsible for avoiding collisions

You are responsible for avoiding collisions with other people or objects - including aircraft.

Do not fly your unmanned aircraft in any way that could endanger people or property.


Keep your distance

It is illegal to fly your unmanned aircraft over a congested area (streets, towns and cities).

Also, stay well clear of airports and airfields.


Keep your distance 50 metres

Don’t fly your unmanned aircraft within 50m of a person, vehicle, building or structure, or overhead groups of people at any height.


Consider rights of privacy

Think about what you do with any images you obtain as you may breach privacy laws. Details are available from the Information Commissioner's Office.


Permission to use drones for paid work

If you intend to use an unmanned aircraft for any kind of commercial activity, you must get a ‘Permission’ from the Civil Aviation Authority, or you could face prosecution. For more details, visit www.caa.co.uk/uas



The CAA make it clear that the user is legally responsible for the safe conduct of each flight and that they must understand the rules. If there is a failure to comply this could lead to a criminal prosecution.


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