New rules make it easier for small drone use
Since I originally wrote this article in 2018, things have moved on with regards to small 'toy' or 'nano' drones. As I write this in Spring 2021, I'm able to offer some good news; the CAA have introduced a new category system allowing generous use of small nano 'toy' drones (such as the Mavic Mini and Mavic Mini 2) for everyone. It seems as we dig into the details, that they are happy to trust that the extreme light weight of these mini drones deems them a very low risk to the general public, and given more freedom to owners, whilst also introducing a drone registration scheme, as well as steering owners towards simple insurance schemes like CoverDrone.
A drone such as as Mavic Mini which weighs under 250g BUT has a camera, does need the operator to have an operator ID, but NOT a flyer ID. In my opinion though, it's very cheap and easy now to get BOTH.
Privacy issues relating to drones are also covered off by the CAA updated rules. If your drone or model aircraft is fitted with a camera or listening device, you must respect other people’s privacy whenever you use them.
If you use these devices where people can expect privacy, such as inside their home or garden, you’re likely to be breaking data protection laws.
The new drone class system, will come into play as manufacturers catch up and start adding a letter 'C' to the drones, informing users they are either in the 'toy' class...
You do not need to register if the drones or model aircraft you’ll fly are certain toys, or a certain weight or class. Here are the classes of drones and their requirements.
What is the CAA A2 qualification?
I'd highly recommend the A2 C2C course offered by UAV Hub, which for only £99 right now (Spring 2021) offers anyone really wanting to know their drone and the rules around flying an incredible wealth of knowledge for that price. The qualification then allows you to fly 'legacy' drones (ie: DJI Mavic Pro and Pro 2 made BEFORE the new class system) with less restrictions.
"The A2 Certificate of Competency is a new qualification for Drone Pilots which went live when the new UK Drone Regulations came into effect at the start of 2021. With this simple and cost-effective qualification - you’ll be allowed to fly your drone in built-up areas - so long as you stay 50 metres away from uninvolved people (people who aren't aware that you're flying your drone)
This means you can now:
Enjoy more freedom with your drone than ever before
No longer have to travel miles just to use your drone
Fly your drone in cities, parks & even your back garden (if it’s big enough)"
FAQ: Am I a commercial or recreational operator?
The CAA have provided some clarification of a commercial flight and you must obtain a commercial policy unless your flight is for "sport or recreational purposes only". A recreational flight would NOT include paid work whether that is direct or indirect (such as imagery being used on another organisations website or social media). If you are happy that you are not operating commercially then you can select for recreational cover only. The full wording supplied by the CAA can be found here on page 42 of CAP393.
Also of interest, Matt from UAV Hub talks here on Youtube about the removal of the qualification where the CAA specified pilots had to have landowner permission to take off and land.
- The offical CAA drone code
- CAA - new rules for flying drones 2021
- Geeksvana - helpful video addressing the question 'Can I fly my drone from my garden?'
PS. I've got hold of my A2 class C2C qualification in Feb 2021, to allow me to use my larger sized 6k AUTEL EVO II drone, which is a safer drone to fly than my Mavic Mini 2 due to it's all round sensors. Why not get yours!
Happy and safe flying - TP
2018 original article:
It’s been a difficult week for the UK drone industry, as Gatwick airport has battled severe disruption after sightings of a drone flying within the airport boundary over a 48hr period. BBC news has reported that two people have been arrested in relation to the illegal flying of a drone or drones within a 1km radius of an airport.
As with any hobby where safety is paramount, it only takes one idiot to tarnish an industry's reputation. We are yet to hear what these idiots motives were for causing such reckless ruination of travellers plans, but the backlash towards drones and their use by unlicensed pilots is likely.
Professional drone users are aware that we are in a developing legal landscape, where legislation is being written 'on the hoof' by a government body trying to keep pace with an ever expanding new consumer hobby sector. And with Christmas 2018 upon us, thousands more drones will be unwrapped, charged up and consequently flown into garden hedges across the UK.
Please do read the UK restrictions directly on the CAA website here: CAA website drone rules
Selfie / Nano / toy / drones
Nano drones (Nano drone here made by Simtoo XT175) are small light weight quad copters that are intended for recreational use, and are nearly always under 250g in weight. They can be bought very cheaply, often between £17-£125. On the run up to Christmas week I popped into town and saw over 10 different models for sale in one gadget shop alone. Some have GPS which is certainly a safety feature worth having. But are you inadvertently setting yourself on a course for a whole heap of legal trouble flying one of these toy drones?
The current UK law states that owners of drones under 250g aren't required to pass any kind of tests or registration process. UK drone website Drone Deliver.co.uk spells it out :
The main changes to the law that have come in to effect as of July 30th 2018 are that you cannot fly within 1km of an airport and you cannot fly above 400ft anywhere – these rules were already in place but are now punishable by law.
The UK government have also announced that drone owners with drones that weigh over 250g will now be required to register with the Civil Aviation Authority – although you do have until November 2019 to do so. This means that drones such as the Mavic Air and Parrot Anafi will be required to register.
Could a toy drone stop an aeroplane?
In short, it's extremely unlikely. Most nano drones have a range of 450 feet. The UK law as of July 2018 states a maximum height of 400ft for all drones. All good. And light aircraft won't fly under 1000ft. The CAA states 'In general, unless they are landing or taking off, an aircraft should be 1,000 ft over a built up area or otherwise 500ft from people, buildings etc.' So no worries then - a plane and drone aren't going to meet. But what would happen if you flew your nano drone straight up to 400ft, then lost control as it went out of range? Doh! What if it carried on up? Or just hangs around at an illegal height? At the moment there's no registration needed for small drones, so it would be hard for authorities to trace the pilot. Follow the drone code.
In this video you can see a drone quadcopter hitting a light aircraft wing. You may be surprised by how easily the drone punctured the wing, but bear in mind the aircraft is travelling at a minimum of 100mph. The quad copter cuts into the alloy metal wing like a hot knife through butter in this test, and that's scarey.