UK CAA clarify things

If your in the UK and getting ready for some big UAS purchases for Christmas just remember the CAA are waiting

With the increasing popularity of small, unmanned aircraft (20 kg or less), some of which can now be controlled by Smart Phones, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has today issued advice on using the devices in built-up areas or when in proximity to people, property or vehicles. The CAA said it was important that owners of the aircraft understood the risks they pose, despite their small size, to other airspace users and also to individuals on the ground.

The CAA pointed out that these devices are ‘aircraft’ and are therefore covered by regulations within the Air Navigation Order, which anyone flying them should be aware of. There have been a number of accidents in recent years, some fatal, involving model aircraft, and to avoid similar incidents and risk to third parties, operators of these new generation of unmanned aircraft should take great care when using them. Where such small, unmanned aircraft are fitted with surveillance cameras, they need permission from the CAA to operate within 50 metres of a person, vehicle, vessel or structure (not in control of the person in charge) and when operating over or within 150 metres of any area that is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes or open-air assemblies of more than 1,000 people.

Emergency services, and many commercial operators, are already using small, unmanned aircraft mounted with cameras, but are doing so with the full knowledge and authorisation of the CAA. All such flying is done within set distances from the pilot, who must also be able to clearly see the aircraft at all times to ensure safe operation and the avoidance of collisions.

Matt Lee, Head of Regulation Enforcement at the CAA, said: “Anyone thinking of buying a small, unmanned aircraft should be aware that whilst there is a lot of pleasure in flying one, they are not toys and they must be operated legally. In the wrong hands or used irresponsibly in built-up areas, or, too close to other people or property, they represent a very real safety risk. As well as the danger of being physically hit, there is also the chance of other accidents being caused through distraction, for example, if a car driver was to be surprised by something flying towards him. In the past we have seen people seriously injured or even killed by model aircraft and, now that small, unmanned aircraft are becoming more readily available and simpler to fly, we need to avoid any similar incidents.”

The CAA said it had contacted several manufacturers and distributors to explain the rules for using small, unmanned surveillance aircraft in the UK, as set out in the Air Navigation Order, and asked that this information be passed on to potential and existing customers.

So private or commercial no dumb videos on YouTube please. The people at Parrot are almost certainly the people that prompted this response with their very ill conceived advertising campaign

I have already informed my customers in fact we have always told people what the rules were. For those of you that might be customers.....

In summary, as soon as a camera is put on a model it becomes a UAS, its the law here don't whine, it was in the pipeline for at least 5 years before it happened.


Aircraft weight up to 20KG carry on, just don't do anything silly


Aircraft 0-7 kg BMFA A cert and form SRG 1320 submission

7-20kg BMFA B cert and form SRG 1320

I think its 107 pounds for the permission.

This pilot certification route will change as the CPL(U) is defined and comes into existence. If you do not have prior aviation knowledge the CAA may ask you to train using Euro USC.

The guys at the CAA are actually very cool and only want to see things develop correctly and the industry to lead the world here. Its interesting to see Bill P having problems flying at a small AMA event and yet we could fly at Farnborough airshow this year. ;

The CAA have made their position clear, its the head of prosecutions talking in that press release. Thankfully in all my flying I have been lucky and they have not come after me, honest. But I know people that have been pulled up for the odd moment of youthful exuberance and its not funny.

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  • Moderator
    Thanks for posting that Simon.

    Well I'm not negotiating anything I just happen to bump into some of the chaps every once in a while. I understand that there is likely to be further clarification of the situation in view of recent video submissions that they have seen. I think George also said their might be a change to 722 again soon. Perhaps those changes are what Tony hinted at.

    Looks like they are playing the game again and finding a way for FPV to happen which is very good of them, terming it as they have.
  • So, will CAA permission will be required before "every" flight?
  • From Tony Eagles at the CAA:

    Simon thank you for your reply.

    Here is a simplified table which I hope explains more clearly where we are intending on going:

    Use Equipment Permission
    Recreation No surveillance/ data acquisition (external) No
    Recreation Cockpit camera for monitoring aircraft flight (including recording) No
    Recreation Surveillance/ data acquisition (external) equipment (eg camera) No - if outside separation criteria
    Yes – if inside
    Professional, eg police, fire services Surveillance/ data acquisition (external) equipment (eg camera) No - if outside separation criteria
    Yes – if inside
    Commercial (Aerial work) Any activity Yes

    Your cockpit camera example would be viewed as telemetry for the operation of the aircraft and thus not for the purpose of surveillance or data acquisition, and it might be easier to understand this as external acquisition, even though as you say pictures of the world could be captured. However, it is most likely, I would suggest and as mentioned by you, that the aircraft in these circumstances would be flying clear of persons and property that are not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft. We will provide guidance on the interpretation of telemetry etc in CAP 722 (UAV operations) and probably CAP 658 (Model Aircraft) in due course.

    Essentially, the surveillance / data acquisition criteria is where the small aircraft with equipment package is flown intentionally for the gathering of information and especially when it is needed to go over or close to people or property. The separation criteria will be intended to offer protection to persons or property and if this needs to be reduced then it should be done through a controlled risk assessment process acceptable to, and with the permission of, the CAA. In all cases, Article 74 (endangerment) still applies. Additionally, paragraph (2)(a) of Article 98 (current) - 'unless the person in charge of the aircraft has reasonably satisfied himself that the flight can safely be made', will in future apply more explicitly to all operations of small aircraft.

    Unfortunately I am unable to view your videos due to the software standard we have! however, I am familiar with similar products.

    I hope this makes the situation as we see it today more clearer for you.



    Therefore 166 applies to FPV pilots but not 167 of the ANO.

    All the best


    From: Simon Dale []
    Sent: 10 February 2009 14:51
    To: Eagles Tony
    Subject: RE: UAV comment and response document
    Hi Tony

    Thank you very much for your reply.

    I am slightly confused by the following sentence: This will take into consideration the recreational use of Small Aircraft but will introduce separation criteria for when such aircraft are being used for surveillance or data acquisition (taking of photographs for instance).

    Firstly did you mean that if the small aircraft are being used to take pictures etc recreationally there will be no restrictions – but if the small aircraft are being used for the non-recreational activities of surveillance or data acquisition then there will separation criteria?

    First Person View (fpv) model flying is entirely recreational. The pilot flies the model entirely using the view from the cockpit mounted camera (down-linked live to the pilot’s video headset). It could be argued that there are elements of ‘surveillance’ in this – but only so much as the pilot of any full sized aircraft is also able to ‘see’ activity on the ground (but is generally focussed entirely on using the these visual cues to enable him to fly the aeroplane). With fpv flight there is certainly no opportunity to concentrate on any particular ground feature – other than the horizon and checking your position. (The videos on our website would show you what I mean.)

    Secondly many fpv pilots will also record the video feed from the model so that they can re-live the flights at home later – and if the scenery or flight is especially interesting then no doubt the video will end up on YouTube for others to enjoy.
    Obviously this is no different to my friend videoing the flight if I took him for a flight in a light aircraft.

    My point is that the recreational hobby of First Person View flying does have tiny elements of ‘surveillance’ and ‘data acquisition’ involved – but these are entirely incidental and are still ‘recreational’. Can you assure me that the new law will clearly keep us in the ‘recreational’ category?


    Simon Dale
  • Gary,

    What's your email address? I'll forward you the email from Tony Eagles confirming what I said.

    I'd rather you didn't go to them and ask them to confirm more stringent rules. That's likely to force an issue that we already have in writing and that doesn't help any of us!

  • Moderator
    Simon I will check again, but last time I met the CAA there was no private/commercial division once you add a camera. Thats why the Parrot AR.drone falls within their remit.
  • Looking at the form again it doesn't give a date for the flight so presumably it can be for a period at one site?

    If it were for a particular day then it would be problematic in the UK due to the variability of the weather!
  • The stupid Parrot advertising campaign was bound to provoke a response, just ridiculous.

    I have to disagree with one point you make though, as soon as you put a camera on a model aircraft it does not become a UAS. I have met with the CAA in my capacity as chairman of the UK FPV association FPV UK (formely the BFPVMFA) and I have it in writing that where the video is used purely for flying the aircraft, as in FPV flying, rather than surveillance, and the aircraft is used for recreational purposes it is not considered a UAS and as such the separation criteria does not apply. You do however (since January 1st) have to keep direct unaided visual contact with the model at all times for the purposes of collision avoidance as per article 166(3) of the ANO.

    All the best

  • Moderator
    Its less than 120 quid, I think its 107 but you will probably have to email them.
  • Gary,
    the form seems straightforward enough and fair but any idea what the fees are? They seem well hidden within the CAA site!

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