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UK – EU Transition, and UK Civil Aviation Regulations

To access current UK civil aviation regulations, including AMC and GM, CAA regulatory documents, please use this link to UK Regulation. Please note, if you use information and guidance under the Headings, the references to EU regulations or EU websites in our guidance will not be an accurate information or description of your obligations under UK law. These pages are undergoing reviews and updates.

Guidance for people that don't fly unmanned aircraft

What is an Unmanned Aircraft?

An unmanned aircraft (UA) is defined as: Any aircraft operating or designed to operate autonomously or to be piloted remotely without a pilot on board. Regulation (EU) 2018/1139 – Basic Regulation

The CAA considers the following as flying ‘objects’ rather than flying ‘machines’, and so do not fall within the definition of an unmanned aircraft:

  • Paper Aeroplanes
  • Hand launched glider, but only those with no moveable control surfaces or remote-control link
  • Frisbees, darts and other thrown toys.

Specific regulations that relate to small unmanned aircraft

The safety regulations for unmanned aircraft are primarily contained in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 ‘ The UAS Implementing Regulation’. A consolidated version of the UAS IR can be found in CAP 1789A These are mainly safety regulations but they also cover some matters relating to privacy and security. The UAS IR sets limits on where unmanned aircraft may fly.

The Air Navigation Order 2016, as amended, (ANO) also sets out some requirements that apply to unmanned aircraft, and the most relevant ones are:

Article 240 - endangering safety of an aircraft

A person must not recklessly or negligently act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft, or any person in an aircraft.

The term 'Aircraft' within article 240 refers to any aircraft which is not a small unmanned aircraft, as set out in article 23

Close Article 240 - endangering safety of an aircraft

Article 241 – endangering safety of any person or property

A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property

Close Article 241 – endangering safety of any person or property

We have a series of factsheets to help explain the rules that will apply to your flying:

The difference between an unmanned aircraft system and a model aircraft

Before describing the differences, it is important to note that both are classified as unmanned aircraft and that the aviation regulations above, covering how and where they can be used, apply equally to both.

Recent technological advances mean that a much greater variety of unmanned aircraft are now available. These vary from the ready-to-fly multi-rotor types that represent the popular conception of a ‘drone’, through to the traditional kit or plans-built model aeroplane or helicopter. A typical multi-rotor drone is heavily gyro-stabilised and can use GPS for guidance in addition to acting on Radio Frequency (RF) commands from the pilot. The traditional model aircraft usually uses only an RF signal for commands from the pilot via ‘traditional control inputs.

The vast majority of unmanned aircraft used for commercial work are of the camera-equipped multi-rotor drone type. These vary in size and capability and, unlike traditional model aircraft, are increasingly being used for specific purposes including photographic flights in urban areas.

Police use of unmanned aircraft

The Police use of unmanned aircraft comes under civil aviation legislation and their operators work under the same safety criteria applied to all other civilian operators.

Indoor use

Flights inside buildings have no impact on Air Navigation because they can have no effect on flights by aircraft in the open air. As a result, flights within buildings, or within areas where there is no possibility for the unmanned aircraft to ‘escape’ into the open air (such as a ‘closed’ netted structure) are not subject to air navigation legislation. Persons intending to operate Unmanned Aircraft indoors should refer to the appropriate Health and Safety at Work regulations.

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