Flying safely a guide for recreational drone pilots
The safe use of drones is a hot topic in the UK and around the world as sales of drones for recreational and commercial use continue to increase. It is really important that all UK-based drone pilots are aware of and abide by the rules of the air as applied to drones by the CAA which are designed to ensure that people fly safely. Commercial drone pilots attend a ground school course as part of their training where they learn the rules of the air alongside other important and relevant topics.
The CAA also provide basic guidance for recreational pilots through their website https://www.caa.co.uk/drones/ this post repeats that guidance together with some additional points that we believe are relevant to the recreational pilot.
In simple terms, the main difference between a recreational drone pilot and one who uses a drone for business is the CAA Permission for Aerial Work (PFAW) which authorises a person to undertake commercial work using a drone in accordance with the guidelines set by the CAA and recorded in their PFAW.
Other than that the rules that apply to a professional pilot also apply to recreational pilots in terms of where and how to fly your drone to ensure that you fly safely.
Most of the rules are common sense and are there to protect you as the pilot and people who might be affected by your use of a drone.
If you do not want to risk being the subject of a worldwide news story such as this viral video of a drone crashing inches from skier Marcel Hirscher, being prosecuted by the CAA or being sued in court for damage or injury caused by your drone follow the rules below whenever and wherever you fly.
You are responsible for your drone and for flying it safely.
You are responsible for avoiding crashes and near-miss incidents.
Do not fly your drone in a way that could cause danger.
You must not fly beyond 500m or above 400ft from your position on the ground.
You must keep your UAV in view this may prevent you flying 500m away because some are too small to see at that distance.
Using FPV does not exempt you from the 500m rule or from physically watching your drone. This means that if you are wearing FPV goggles you must be accompanied by someone who watches your drone with the naked eye. This person is responsible for warning you before you fly to close to people or buildings and of anything that may approach your drone causing a potential danger.
You must not fly within 50 metres of people, vehicles or buildings.
You must not fly within 150 metres of a congested area i.e. streets, towns & cities.
You must not fly near airports, aircraft, helicopters, gliders, paragliders, parachutists etc.
You must not fly at night.
You must use approved UK radio frequencies for transmitting data to and from your drone. This means that transmitters are limited to a maximum permitted power output of 25mw.
You must not film people or their property if they can be identified without their permission.
If you do inadvertently film people or their property do not publish the images if that might breach their privacy. If you do you may breach the Data Protection Act.
You need permission from land owners before you can take off on their land or property.
Always complete a risk assessment before flying, look out for obstructions etc that may impact your drone, power lines, trees, buildings are all hazards that your drone might come into conflict with.
Find a large open space free from hazards to learn to fly your drone.
Always check your drone thoroughly before each flight make sure that it is maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and replace any worn or damaged parts before flying.
Do not ignore low battery warnings.
Want to learn more?
Our Drone Proficiency course for recreational drone pilots is designed to explain the above points, it will also provide you with additional tips and procedures to help you fly safely.