A guide to the new 2018 drone regulations in the UK

2018 Drone Regulations UK

The UK government recently announced a whole host of new rules and regulations for drone users in the UK, that will come into force in 2018. To help make things a little easier for you, we’ve outlined exactly what you need to know, and the steps you can take now to make sure you’re compliant when the rules come into force.

UK drone regulations

The current UK drone regulations can be a little unclear, but generally, recreational drone users must:

  • Not use their drone for commercial purposes
  • Not fly a drone weighing over 20kg
  • Always keep the drone within their sight
  • Fly below an altitude of 400ft, if your UAV weighs over 7kg
  • Stay 150 ft away from people and buildings, if your drone is equipped with a camera
  • Keep 500 ft away from crowds and/or built up areas, if your drone is equipped with a camera
  • Avoid flying over or 150 ft near to open areas with more than 1,000 people present
  • Adhere to their local council’s rules about drone flights in the area
  • Only fly their drones as and when it is safe to do so

New drone regulations in 2018

Following the announcement of new drone laws, UK drone enthusiasts are scrambling to make sure they are compliant before the laws come into force. Carry on reading to find out exactly what these new laws mean for you.

Drone size and registration rules

Under the new laws, drones weighing over 250g will need to be formally registered. This will affect the majority of drone users as even small drones such as the DJI Spark exceed this weight limit. Drone pilots must be able to present their registration documents if requested to do so by the police. Those who fail to register their drone before flying could be given a £1,000 fine.

The 400 ft height limit, which currently only applies to UAVs over 7kg, will be becoming a requirement for drones between 250g and 7kg.

Safety tests

Following suit from other countries across Europe, drone pilots will be required to take a drone safety test before they’re allowed to fly. It’s not yet known how or where drone pilots will be able to take this test, but the government has said they’re developing training materials for drone users. If drone users were to fly without passing the tests beforehand, they could be faced with a £1,000 fine.

Increased police powers

If a drone pilot is suspected of flying unsafely or carrying out any illegal activities with their drone, police will have powers to ground the drone and seize it and any memory cards as evidence.

Drone users will also need to be able to present their registration documents if requested by the police.

Apps and geofencing

Drone users will be told to use apps to plan their flights, to make sure that they are not entering unsafe or no-fly zones. Other drone users in the area will be able to see any nearby flights, to help avoid crashes. Geofencing will also be implemented to help drone users know if they’re close to a no-fly area.


Although drone pilots are currently advised not to fly near airports, this may be made completely illegal in the new drone bill. The new regulations will restrict drones from flying within 1 km of any airport’s boundaries. These new restrictions stem from an increasing number of incidents occurring between drones and aircrafts.

No matter what size or type of drone you have, it’s important to keep your drone and all of its accessories well protected. Check out our range of drone cases here, to make sure your gadgets are safe from water, dust and knocks.

31 thoughts on “A guide to the new 2018 drone regulations in the UK

  1. Brian forward says:

    I build my own quads and I have dji phantom 1 and blade qx NO APPS available for these quads so does that mean Im grounded. THEY REALLY HAVEN’T THOUGHT THIS THROUGH.
    as you can see I call them quads that’s what they are QUADCOPTER NOT DRONES as the press call them to hype up hysteria (has overtones of millertrry death and destruction)

    • Nigel says:

      Well said mate. I always tell people they are quadcopters.and that drones are only used by the police or military for killing or spying!

  2. Paul says:

    The current 400ft altitude limit is only a guide and for drones over 7kg. Technically you can fly higher than this if you are not close to an Airport.

    • Ollie says:

      Hi Steve! You only need a license for your drone if you are using it for profit or for other business purposes. Drone licenses can be obtained from a CAA approved provider.

      If you’re referring to registering your drone as we discuss in this article, we believe this is still being rolled out – there hasn’t been any updates from the UK government yet. However with some of the large drone manufacturers such as DJI, it’s compulsory to have a DJI account when setting up your drone, so it’s possible this essentially qualifies as registering.

      Here’s the source that this article took information from – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/drones-to-be-registered-and-users-to-sit-safety-tests-under-new-government-rules

      To avoid any potential future problems we’d recommend keeping all receipts, serial numbers and additional information about your drone, just to be on the safe side.

  3. Ben says:

    how do the new regulations effect visitors to the UK? I am planning a vacation in July and I wanted to bring my drone with me. Do I need the certification or will my US certification suffice?

  4. Hamble Turtle says:

    as commented earlier the 400ft ceiling currently only applies to “small unmanned aircraft” over 7kg which is heading out of normal hobby grade drones.
    The distance away from people, structures and vehicles only applies to “small unmanned surveillance aircraft” so only drones with cameras. (“small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.”)
    The rules paraphrased from CAP 393: The Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO) and Regulations
    1) Only fly if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
    2) Don’t drop objects or animals!?! in an unsafe way.
    3) Maintain unaided direct line of sight sufficient to monitor flight and avoid collisions.
    4) Don’t fly commercially without CAA permission.
    If it has a camera (or other data acquisition means.. is anyone flying a Geiger counter about?)
    5) Don’t fly over or within 150 metres of any congested area or an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons.
    6) Don’t fly within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft. (50m in any direction is ok for this rule including vertically )
    7) Don’t fly within 50 metres of any person not under you control (reduced 30 m when taking off and landing).
    If it’s over 7KG – surely pretty rare for non commercial?
    8) Don’t fly over 400ft (yes this is in imperial units)
    9) Don’t fly in class A,C,D or E airspace or in an aerodrome traffic zone without Air Traffic Permission.
    If it’s over 20kg
    10) Don’t fly without permission.

    It’s not helpful giving the false information about a 400ft ceiling which doesn’t affect most non commercial drones, aside from the DJI Matrice 600 Pro at > £5000 which looks pretty commercial to me I’ve failed to find any drones over 7kg.

    Its also worth noting the other distance requirements only apply if you’re equipped for data capture. So as long as I’m safe there’s nothing to stop me flying with no camera safely in my garden or as high as I can like without getting permission from all neighbours within 50m.

  5. Adam Howard-Dobson says:

    All the regulations are great but they won’t help unless there are resources available to enforce them. The CAA have made it very clear that this is a police matter but the police are massively overstretched as it is thanks to Tory cuts. I am all for regulating the use of drones for hobbyists but people also need to be educated better at the point of sale. Realistically these regulations have been put in place to deter and aid in prosecution when something goes really wrong.

  6. Matt says:

    All radio controlled aircraft are classified as drones so your large fixed wing model aircraft is also subject to these new restrictions not just camera drones.

  7. jane says:

    Hi I have been plaged by some very unsavory people who keep flying a drone in front of and over my house, it has a camera.
    It is not possable to know the excat hight, how would one meassure it? We live on the beach front in west sussex. The police dont know the rules about drones and cant do anything about it, yet, plus if you call 101 no one answers. Its very invasive, and a lot of us are fed up with it, beacaus of a few selfish bullies, it will become more and more diffucult for normal decent people to fly drones. the rules have not been made clear and it all seems very behind the times. Who wants someone spying on them with a camera ? I dont!

    • Mark Lewis says:

      Most mobile phones have cameras. Dash cams can also film you. What is the difference between a person with a large photo lens on a hill close to your property and a person using a tiny selfie drone? I think most people using these things aren’t trying to invade your privacy, we need some common sense applied here.

  8. Anthony Hunt says:

    This law is ill-considered and borders on a ban of any outdoor-capable quad (even children’s toy ones). Since all the training courses for passing the “test” far exceed £1,000 even the most responsible hobbyist will be tempted to risk a fine, because it would be cheaper. The “50m from area not under your control” means you can only fly a quad (toy one even) if you own (or have permission from someone who owns) a 100m (328ft) field or greater. Kent County Council have a blanket drone ban on all their open spaces already – but no signposting and nothing on NATS app. As do National Trust and they own more than a few public beaches.

    It’s irrational. Nobody has ever been killed or injured by a drone. Stairs kill upwards of 655 people a year, so where’s the stair test? Why aren’t stairs licensed? Because that’s stupid. The point here is that the whole thing is mindless knee-jerk reaction to media hysteria.

    A simple law that says “flying in public places requires insurance or you will be fined” and make “causing a public nuisance with a drone” an offense. Non-problem solved.

    Unless you have a lucrative commercial drone business or live on farm or in a mansion, basically for the average man, next year (November 2019) drones will be illegal to fly pretty much anywhere.

    • Mark Lewis says:

      Agree entirely. How about banning dash cams and how many people take photos with mobile phones in public places. Like you say paranoid knee jerk reaction to a problem that doesn’t exist. Why do people seem to think we would be interested in filming them? They seem to accept that businesses do it all the time and let’s be honest that is far more sinister.

    • Graham says:

      I have been flying old cat 5 models and modern radio control models without issues and some of these have cameras in. I have 2 quad copters and an octocopter that are flown only by radio control but have had loads of bad feedback My one octocopter with GPS is only used with a kill or return setup. This has all been used for years with no issue but I have seen some of these muppets using quads at airshows before now. Its going to be like insuring cars, the good guys pay and the bad guys don’t bother.

  9. Cotrbie says:

    In UK there no places where can use drone officially… All places, even abandoned in DJI app marked as restricted, so factically government going to punish every drone owner even if drone is registered

  10. Steveg says:

    Hi this law doesn’t seem very well thought out. Its been rolled out already but try finding info on how to register.There’s plenty of links for commercial licenced tests but nothing for everyday regular operator’s.

    Even CAA site is not helpful

  11. gabs says:

    my cctv cam in my bedroom window faces the street,so technically is also facing 3-4 bedroom windows 24/7 across the road, amount of helmet and dashboard cams daily filming pedestrians not to mention the thousands across every city are far more invasive than a 25mph+ flyby of a house etc as you go from a to b, hell cars are used more often than drones by terroists to mow down people. Don’t get me wrong i understand why should be tested as having the sense to fly a drone,but forcing 11yr olds who got a drone as a xmas present to take training usually reserved for adults intending fly a glider/small plane who just want to take a selfie in the park or nip around their back garden with it is pathetic.

  12. Malcolm Hogsden says:

    Hi my name is Malcolm and I have two drones from Hudsan which is h501s and a X4 Pro both of which way less than 250g with battery in should I sell my drones or keep them? I have got safety sign’s yellow sign boards I put up and cones before I fly any drone any where so people can see, and I keep my drone below 400ft and well away from people but what if you get dog walks come up near you and you put up notice’s that you are flying how can you stop them from keeping away when you fly your drone, you are doing your best to keep within the law, and the drone code its not fair.

  13. Wilf. Robinson says:

    Anthony Hunt ( above ) makes great sense and I’m afraid his conclusion is probably correct.
    The Department for Transports’ latest ”public consultation” – Taking Flight – heard about it? Nor had I up until a couple of days ago. It concludes today. This final consultation (another EU inspired gem) was built on the strength of the results of ‘workshop surveys’ earlier this year , attended by no less than 118 persons drawn from ” a cross-section of British society” .
    In reality the consultation is essentially A Notice of Intent. The most preposterous and impractical piece of proposed legislation is the requirement to inform ‘The Authorities’ via an ‘app’ several days in advance of your intention to fly and where about.
    Then to inform said Authorities at the point of flight. For what it was worth I pointed out on this ‘consultation’ that you could,
    for the public’s safety, apply a similar rule to the pushbike, car or motor cycle owner. These machines are all capable of causing injury or death , wilfully or accidentally. They can also be used by criminals, drug dealers and as transport for peeping Toms and paedophiles.
    Admittedly there are irresponsible idiots about who fly recklessly and endanger life and property. Again, this applies to the above .
    However, I can’t help but think there may be more to this proposed legislation than at first would appear.Call it a conspiracy theory or what-you-will but the sub-title of Taking Flight is Creating the Conditions for the Cutting Edge Commercial Use
    (of Drones). I suppose it would simplify flight planning for commercial users if those pesky amateur drones were cleared out of the skies altogether.

  14. michael says:

    this is confusing, the drone code which the gov.uk website leads you to states that you can’t fly any drone with or without camera above 400ft or within 50 meters of people buildings and cars also can’t find anywhere to register a drone with a government body. so what are the actual rules as of December 2018?

  15. Conundrum says:

    It is generally accepted that the IR controlled (ie indoor) variety of mini helicopters, quads etc are exempt as the instructions specifically prohibit outdoor use and most if not all are <250g.

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