Skip to main content
  1. Blog/

Can I Fly a Drone over a Motorway? (UK)

6 mins
Drone Blog
Table of Contents

You may have a project that requires you to fly over a motorway or close to it and are wondering if you can fly there in the UK. Are you allowed?

You can fly over a motorway in the UK as long as it’s not very busy. When you do, make sure you don’t spend too long and maintain at least 100 meters of vertical distance. Your drone category also matters as smaller drones can fly over a motorway but heavier drones are under more strict rules.

Keep reading to learn more about flying a drone near a motorway in the UK and more laws for drone users across the pond.

Can I fly a drone over a motorway in the UK? #

In the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority or CAA regulates drone flights.

The CAA doesn’t explicitly state that you can’t fly drones over a motorway.

What they do say is you should avoid congested areas, including roads, and stay at least 50 meters from vehicles, people, or property that doesn’t belong to you or that you don’t have control over.

However, this also depends on which drone class your drone falls in (more on this later).

If you have a site to film close to a motorway, it’s up to you to ensure the flight is safe. You can avoid flying during rush hours so the roads aren’t busy. A Sunday morning would be a good example of a good time to fly.

Secondly, since there will still be a few cars passing over the motorway, fly at least 100 meters off the ground so you don’t distract any drivers.

A good way to avoid flying or spending too much time on the motorway is to plan your flight. Visit the area ahead of time and map out a route that allows you to spend only a few minutes over the motorway.

If you want to film the motorway itself, you must ensure there are very few cars and keep a reasonable distance when operating your drone.

The good thing is that 100 meters (328 feet) fall within the 400-foot legal limit for flying drones in the UK.

Drone and open area classifications #

To better answer your question of whether you can fly a drone over a motorway in the UK, let’s now see how the CAA classifies drones and where they can fly.

Drone classifications #

Below are the drone categories that are recognized:

  • C0 – These are drones weighing less than 250 grams.
  • C1 – These drones weigh 250 to 500 grams.
  • C2 – Drones weighing 1 to 4 kilograms are in this category.
  • C3 and C4 – Drones weighing 4 to 25 kilograms are C3 or C4.

Remote Identification and geo-awareness systems are required for C1, C2, and C3 drones but not necessary for C0 and C4 UAVs.

Flying area subcategories #

There are three main subcategories to fly in: Open (doesn’t need permission from CAA), Specific (complex and needs authorization by CAA), and Certified (very complex and needs special clearances).

Most drone operations are accomplished in the Open category, so we will focus on that.

Below are the recognized subcategories for the Open category (the category where leisure and low-risk commercial drone activities are allowed):

  • A1 – Avoid or minimize flying over people who are not aware of drone activities, and avoid flying over crowded areas.
  • A2 – Avoid flying over people and maintain a 50-meter horizontal distance from people. To fly in an A2 zone, you must take and pass the A2 theory exam.
  • A3 – Avoid flying over people at all costs and keep a 150-meter distance away from industrial, residential, or commercial areas.

With that in mind, below is a table showing where each drone category is allowed to fly.

Drone Category****Open CategoryC0A1, A3C1A1, A3C2A2, A3C3A3C4A3

Drones weighing less than 250 grams can fly closer to people, fly over them, and fly in residential, commercial, industrial, and recreational areas. The drone pilot must do their due diligence to ensure the flight is safe.

That means it will be easier to fly such a drone over a motorway than a heavier one. The heavier the drone is, the more restricted it is in areas it can fly.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Exmouth, UK?

Where can you not fly a drone UK? #

Unless you have authorization from the CAA, you should avoid flying in the following areas:

  • Crowded areas such as festivals, football games, political gatherings, religious gatherings, beaches, parties, or markets.
  • Near or within airports, airfields, and spaceports, which are all flight-restricted zones (FRZs).
  • Within 150 meters of residential, urban, industrial, or recreational areas. Schools, villages, cities, and estates fall under residential areas. Recreational areas include beaches and parks and industrial areas are factories and railway stations.
  • Close to wildlife and areas identified as Sites of Specific Special Interest (SSSIs) to avoid disrupting their natural habits.
  • Temporarily restricted areas such as during balloon shows, military training exercises, emergency incidents, etc.

Can police confiscate your drone UK? #

If you are caught violating drone laws, police officers are obligated to fine you or confiscate your drone.

Can I fly a drone over a railway line in the UK? #

Drones are not allowed near railway lines, let alone over them unless you have the necessary authorization from the CAA or work for the Network Rail.

Just like with motorways, drones pose a danger to railway lines, no matter how small they are. They could crash into trains, crash and damage railway equipment, or hit staff or civilians close to the railway line.

Can I fly a drone from a public footpath in the UK? #

You can take off and land on a public footpath as long as bylaws prohibiting drone flight on the footpath don’t exist.

For instance, government agencies or individuals owning land adjacent to the lands may prohibit using drones on paths near them. If you are in such a situation, get authorization and consent.

You will also need to ensure a safe flight by avoiding flying too close to people on the pathway, and if someone comes too close when you are about to land, you can land the drone somewhere else.

Conclusion #

And there you have it. Before you fly near or over a motorway or any other place in the UK, make sure you are aware of the regulations that exist for that region!


DJI Mini 3 Pro vs. DJI FPV (All You Need to Know)
10 mins
Drone Blog
Part 5: The Truth About Running a Drone Business
10 mins
Drone Blog
Exo Mini vs. DJI Mini 3 (Which One is Right for You?)
8 mins
Drone Blog
Potensic Atom SE Range (Explained for Beginners)
5 mins
Drone Blog
DJI Avata for Real Estate (Explained)
7 mins
Drone Blog
Best Beginner Drones for Racing
10 mins
Drone Blog