UK Takes A Proactive Stand On UAVs – Here Is How You Can And Cannot Fly A Quadcopter In London

uk-cca-dronesUAVs or Drones or Quadcopters or any other name you would like to give cameras mounted on radio controled helicopters are getting increasing attention from both citizens (as opposed to photographers 😉 ) and regulating authorities. We’ve had a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) abandoned in St Luise after breaking the height limit allowed for aerial activity, and Yosemite National Park banning drones altogether.

The UK is taking a proactive approach making it absolutely clear what is and is not allowed when flying a UAV. British CAA (similar to the US FAA) released a Small Unmanned Aircraft Operations Within London and Other Towns and Cities last month, which makes it crystal clear that while some activities using UAVs are OK, some require license or are simply forbidden.

Scaa-dronesSome things that we took for granted are turning illegal, FPV (First Person View – which allows you ‘see’ what the aircraft sees) can not be used for controlling of monitoring the UAV:

166(3) The person in charge of a SUA must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.

And of course, you need a commercial license to do any sort of commercial work with the footage or photos:

166(5) The person in charge of a SUA must not fly the aircraft for the purposes of aerial work except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.

In fact, it may not even be legal to take photos at all:

Aircraft operators and pilots should be aware that the collection of images of identifiable individuals, even inadvertently, when using surveillance cameras mounted on a SUSA , may be subject to the Data Protection Act. As this Act contains requirements concerning the collection, storage and use of such images, SUA operators should ensure that they are complying with any such applicable requirements or exemptions. Further information about the Data Protection Act and the circumstances in which it applies can be obtained from the Information Commissioner’s Office

A permit is needed to fly near congested areas (that would have made this video impossible)

The person in charge of a SUSA must have permission from the CAA to fly over or within 150 metres of any congested area;

There is more where that came from, you can read the entire regulation here.

Now, I wonder if Canada and the US are going to follow suit.

[Small Unmanned Aircraft Operations Within London and Other Towns and Cities, Thanks for the heads up Tomer, Illustration based on Jim Nix photo]

  • Wil Fry

    These seem reasonable, and the one about photos simply refers to an existing law… I’ve been told that the UK already has laws about photos in public that seem strict by U.S. standards (please correct me if this isn’t true). The good thing here is that they’re acting, instead of taking the “wait and see” approach.

    • Tomerd

      I agree, it seems reasonable to me as well.

      I was worried that such laws would come from drones hysteria and would be too encompassing. I can live with such rules both as a pedestrian and as a drones flier (wanna-be).

    • Jezz1966

      Here in the UK, provided you are on public property (or private property and acting with the landowners permission) you can take what photo’s you like and use them as you like. Nobody has copyright to their own image, though discretion should be used with photographing children. You may may find the Police challenging you if you are using a tripod in a busy area, but their concern should be about public safety (as with many countries, the Police don’t always get it right). Note the statement above says, “may be subject to the Data Protection Act”, not “is subject”. That would depend on what you were taking your images for and how you intended to use them. Some of the data stored on my work computer is governed by the Data Protection Act. My computer is registered and I am obliged to share with any individual whatever records I have concerning them if requested.

  • Jw

    And again (as already stated in the Yosemite story) this is nothing new and just current law

  • Ian Hecht

    Ironic that the UK, which seems to have more government surveillance of public areas than other countries, would have a problem with citizens taking photos of the same areas…

  • Amaryllis

    Reasonable stuff compared to a few laws here in Quebec… discreet street photography is forbidden here, if you want to take a photo of someone, you MUST ask their permission. If the photo gets published, even if there’s no money gain out of it, and that person sees it, they can sue you. So, just forbidding the photos of identifiable individuals from drones is better than forbidding them completely…

  • chris

    As long as the government can have cameras on every street corner i will fly my quad wherever and whenever i want to at least where i am flying fpv i am flying because i am enjoying the view and not spying on people also i am not charging the taxpayer for doing it.the british government can screw itself and its laws

  • chris

    one last thing when people use fpv many times they are not taking pictures they are using the camera to see where they are going and admire the view from above

  • Andrew Davies

    Is it a license or simply a permission that is needed? My understanding that you need to be assessed by an independent authority (theory and practical exam ) and then the CAA will grant permission for a 12 month period to operate commercially.