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Can I Fly a Drone in My Garden? (UK)

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A lot of the drone rules we’ve discussed on the blog only pertain to the United States, not over the pond in the United Kingdom. You don’t want to be presumptuous and assume the same rules fly there.

Are you allowed to operate a drone in your own garden in the UK?

You can fly a drone over your own garden in the UK but must stay under 400 feet when you do it. However, you cannot go within 50 meters of your neighbor’s garden or anyone else’s garden that doesn’t belong to you.

You probably have a lot of questions about flying your drone in a garden in the UK, but worry not, as we’ve got answers!

Make sure you keep reading, as there’s lots of great information to come!

Who is the governing body for drone flights in the UK, anyway? #

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA is the leading authority instituted by the federal government that oversees drone and other aircraft flights.

However, once you leave the US, you’re no longer under the jurisdiction of the FAA. Instead, in the UK, it’s the Civilian Aviation Authority or CAA.

The CAA operates in much the same capacity as the FAA, only in the UK instead of the US.

For instance, the CAA is referred to as a supranational or national statutory authority that sets the rules for civil aviation.

Further, the CAA can make decisions on what makes an aircraft airworthy, set flight safety rules, establish conditional rules for manufacturing drones, issue licenses to pilots, and create standards for air traffic control.

So while the CAA and the FAA draw a lot of clear parallels between one another, you should not assume that just because something is allowed under the FAA that the CAA would permit the same.

As you’re about to see, the rules do diverge in interesting ways.

Are you allowed to fly a drone around your garden in the UK? #

Okay, so what does the CAA say about pilots such as yourself operating a drone around your garden?

You’re allowed to fly a small drone that weighs less than 250 grams or meets the C0 or C1 class around residential areas such as your garden.

Now wait, what is the C0 or C1 class, you’re asking?

In the UK, the CAA categorizes drones by class to make it easier for pilots to gauge whether they have to register the drone, as you can see on this CAA page.

A class C0 drone is usually a toy but can also be a non-toy drone without a camera. Some C0 drones are not toy drones but do have a camera, in which case an operator ID is required.

As for class C1 drones, you need both a flyer ID and an operator ID, which is also true of C2, C3, and C4 drones.

In other words, you’re required to register drones that slot into any of those classes.

If your drone is registered (should it require a registration), you still must follow the CAA’s rules when flying.

For instance, you can only fly your drone around your garden in the UK at a height of under 400 feet or 120 meters.

Although you should be free of other aircraft when flying at that height, you’re still required to keep both your eyes and ears peeled for low-flying military aircraft, police helicopters, and air ambulances.

Flying around your garden can be quite advantageous, as you can take overhead shots of your plants, flowers, and any other greenery you’ve got growing.

Can you fly your drone around a neighbor’s garden in the UK? #

In the United States, if you wanted to fly a drone around someone else’s personal property, there is no law prohibiting you from doing that, even by the FAA.

That said, many state and local laws bar you from invading someone’s privacy or harassing them with your drone.

In the UK, the rules are different still.

For drones that weigh less than 250 grams and are in the C0 or C1 class, you’re allowed to get within 50 meters of people.

If your drone is beyond the C1 class, then you cannot fly any closer horizontally than 50 meters to people or other model aircraft or drones.

These are designated no-fly zones that change according to the proximity of people and aircraft.

The height of the no-fly zone extends up to, according to the CAA, “the legal height limit.”

Here’s an image per the CAA’s site that will help you visually imagine where you can and cannot fly your drone.

By the way, if it’s useful, 50 meters is the equivalent of 164 feet. You have to be a good distance away from anyone else.

You cannot fly over other people if your drone is a C2 class and up, but you can if your drone is a C0 class or a C1 class.

Even if you are permitted to fly over people with your drone per the CAA, you cannot risk their wellbeing with your UAV.

Here’s what the CAA recommends for C0 and C1 class pilots:

  • Keep a further distance than 50 meters if you’ll fly your drone at high speeds. This way, you have more time for a quick reaction, which is needed when flying at high speeds.
  • You should stay further than 50 feet in inclement weather, including windy weather, as the weather can make it harder to control your drone. Thus, your UAV is at a greater risk of hurting others.
  • When flying above 50 meters, it’s important to keep your horizontal distance the same as your vertical distance. A height of 80 meters would require a horizontal distance of 80 meters as well, for instance.

There are some exceptions for heavier drones in Class C2 and up. If you’re with a group of people and/or those people are involved in your drone activities, then you can fly closer to them.

Colleagues, family, and friends would all count, as would anyone that you got permission from to operate your drone around.

However, while drone flight is allowed in these instances (and, for some drones, in these instances only), you’re still prohibited from creating any type of dangerous conditions with your drone around people.

By the way, if you see anyone in a group or crowd, you’re outlawed from flying over them no matter which class your drone is, says the CAA.

That means steering clear of these types of events and gatherings:

  • Fetes, carnivals, and parties
  • Crowded parks and beaches
  • Rallies and marches
  • Concerts and music festivals
  • Political gatherings
  • Religious gatherings
  • Sports events
  • Shopping areas, including malls and other retail stores

What if my garden is within 50 meters of my neighbor’s property?  #

Perhaps you face a unique conundrum.

You know per the CAA that you’re allowed to fly your drone over your own property, including your garden, but your property happens to be very close to your neighbor’s.

What’s the rule here?

Well, there are two rules in play, actually. First, there’s the rule that you cannot fly within 50 meters of your neighbor unless you have a class C0 or C1 drone.

The other CAA rule is that pilots must stay 150 meters from industrial, commercial, and recreational areas.

Per the CAA, residential areas include schools, housing estates, villages, towns, and cities. These are all designated no-fly zones as well.

However, this is yet another one of those rules that don’t apply to class C0 and C1 drones.

Since your neighbor might not know the difference between drone classes, you should have a conversation with them ahead of flying your drone and mention that while you are allowed to be out there using the UAV that you want to respect their privacy and personal preferences.

If they ask that you don’t fly your drone around their property, then even though you can with a class C0 or C1 drone, respect their wishes.

Should your neighbor say they don’t really care either way, always avoid flying too close to them to prevent injury.

What is the punishment for breaking drone laws in the UK? #

Uh-oh, did you disobey a drone law established by the CAA?

You’re going to get in trouble, just as you would when breaking the FAA’s drone rules in the US.

The punishments aren’t too different. You will be either fined or sent to prison for a limited sentence.

The crimes get more and more severe for serious infractions or repeat offenses, so try to stay on the right side of the law from the beginning!

Conclusion #

In the UK, the drone laws aren’t identical to those overseas. There’s a different governing body known as the CAA instead of the FAA.

You are allowed to fly your drone on your own personal property such as a garden, but you cannot be within 150 meters of other residential property nor within 50 meters of other people unless yours is a class C0 or C1 drone.


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