To the uninitiated, it would seem nothing could be simpler than unpacking your new drone in the garden, street or local park, and simply flying it around taking pictures or video. Yet, the truth is a different picture, and is so often misunderstood! It is also the reason why experts such as myself feel so passionate about training people, and why we choose to run academies such as CUAVA – to help others get great joy or a make a living from piloting drones within the law…

Even ‘hobbyist use’ comes under the Air Navigation Order via what’s known as ‘Air Law’: Articles 94 and 95 of the ANO 2016 outline what must be done, especially regarding the safe distance a drone must be away from persons, vehicles or buildings.


When considering commercial use of your UAV, the restrictions and responsibilities increase considerably. Remember: Anyone earning money from a drone must have a permit from the UK CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), namely, a PFCO (permission for commercial operation). This is the first step to the commercial use of a drone. From November 2019, all drones weighing over 250 grams must be registered with the CAA, and an (online) training course must be completed.


Restrictions can take many forms. Local authority restrictions could involve byelaws prohibiting the flight of drones, or there may be a requirement to have a film license in place before permission is granted to operate in a public area. Flying near busy traffic is restricted, and traffic marshaling may be necessary, perhaps with involvement from the local police if a road closure is required. Likewise, if a drone has a camera or other sensor fitted, its use has the potential to be covered under the Data Protection Act – so this is another restriction to be considered.


Aviation restrictions are most important, after all we’re flying in airspace, so pilots must be aware of all restricted or prohibited areas – permanent or temporary – that are in place where they wish to fly. Protected aerodromes now have runway protection zones that extend 5km from the threshold of the runway, and are 1km wide, some even wider.


Many aviation restrictions can be temporary, lasting just a day – or even hours, but it is important not to fly if a restriction is in place. Knowing how to check this information is an important part of the training we offer at CUAVA in order to help our students become a qualified drone pilot – thanks to our status as a CAA-approved NQE (national qualified entity).


Alan Perrin

Commercial UAV Academy


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