How to keep on the right side of the law

Ground rules on Drones


Drones are more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or remotely piloted aerial systems (RPAS). Basically, a drone is a flying robot. The aircraft may be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded systems working in conjunction with GPS. UAVs have most often been associated with the military, but they are also used for search and rescue, surveillance, traffic monitoring, weather monitoring, condition monitoring of structures and fire-fighting.

For a drone to be of practical use, it needs to be equipped with a camera. Increasingly, ultra high-definition (4K) cameras are built into these devices and enable high-quality images and video to be captured or streamed back to the operator or other location for analysis.


In the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sets the rules on drones in the UK under what is called an air navigation order.

  • An unmanned aircraft must never be flown beyond the normal unaided line of sight of the person operating it – this is normally measured as 500m (1,640ft) horizontally or 122m (400ft) vertically.
  • An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must always be flown at least 50m (164ft) distance away from a person, vehicle, building or structure.
  • An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must not be flown within 150m (492ft) of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert.
  • For commercial purposes, operators must have permission to fly a drone from the CAA.

Source: BBC, 9 December 2014.