What are drones?

"Drone" can mean a number of objects, the dictionary definition is an "unpiloted aerial system (UAS or UAV) capable of autonomous flight". A drone can be a large, fixed-wing, military strike platform; or a small hobby quad-copter. We use the latter. Aviation regulatory bodies refer to drones as Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS). As RPAS is not very catchy, nor recognised by the public, regulatory bodies often backtrack and conform to the word "Drone", such as in the Civil Aviation Authority's "Drone Code".

Do I need a licence to fly a drone?

There is no such thing as a drone licence. An aerial licence implies there is a pilot inside the aircraft. Drones are operated from the ground, to use a drone commercially you need CAA permission to operate. To operate a drone as a hobbyist, simply following the CAA's Drone Code (on the links section). In addition, commercial drone operators are required to have insurance, have completed a drone course, and to be aware of other airspace users by NOTAMs (see link section). CAA approval allows drone operators to apply to fly in locations (like town centres) where hobbyists are not allowed. This does not mean that permission will be allowed, nor does it mean that operators have permission to fly within 50 metres of someone without their approval. 

Are drones bad?

Drones are like motorbikes, some people misuse them, others enjoy them safely. Drones are definitely not bad, they are the future! If they are utilised correctly, they can give untold opportunities. If you have concerns that a drone is being misued, then report it.

What constitutes misuse?

If you believe a drone is within 50 metres of people or property without permission, then you can report it. If  a drone is being flown over a town or settlement, it is likely that this is misuse. If a drone is being operated dangerously, such as chasing you, this is clearly misuse.

How do I report drone concerns?

If you really have concerns that a drone is being used inappropriately, then you should report it to the National Air Traffic Services. The number to reports naughty drones is: 01489 616001. 

Where can I fly drones legally?

The below points are not guidelines, but are legal regulations detailed in Civil Aviation Publication 393 Articles 94 & 95.

  1. Fly somewhere that is not privately owned, otherwise you will need permission from the land owner. Intellectual property, of for example Whitby Abbey, will always belong to Whitby Abbey. You cannot profit from these images. Flying over the sea is a good location as nobody owns that.
  2. Do not fly within 3 miles of airports nor controlled airspace. The NATS' "Drone Assist" application for smart phones details where controlled airspace is located or where other airspace users are. Note that being near an airfield or gliding club does not mean that the airspace is controlled. 
  3. Never fly over towns or people - NEVER! Note that busy parks, tourist spots or other areas also count as busy areas. Basically if people look annoyed or worried, they have right of way and they will win any legal proceedings against.
  4. Always keep your drone in your line of sight.
  5. Never fly your drone more than 400 metres away from the operator.
  6. Never fly your drone more than 120 metres above the ground. 
  7. Never fly within 50 metres of other people.
  8. Never fly within 50 metres of buildings / property you do not own.

How good is the drone's photography and video?

Photos are generally around 16 megapixel in size. Images are sharp and clear, the best conditions for good images are in direct light. Video quality is high definition, whilst advanced models can capture video in 4K. Note that only 4K TVs can benefit from 4K media. 

Can drones endanger aircraft?

Most drones have airports and airfields geofenced. That is, the drone will automatically stop if within three miles of an airport. It is against the Drone Code to fly near airfields. Legally drones cannot fly higher than 120 metres. Drones should not be flown near airports or aircraft, and if they are, the operator is 100% liable to criminal offences. 

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