Filming with drones

To film with drones (also known as Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) ), you will need to be aware of the application process and permissions required.

There are 3 basic permissions needed to film with a drone:

  1. Operators license from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
  2. Permission from the land owner, manager or authority for the land where the drone will be taking off and landing
  3. Permission from the land owner, manager or authority for any property in whose boundary the drone will be operated closer than 50 meters to any people, vehicles, buildings or structures

Follow these simple steps to make sure you are flying safely and legally:

  • Make sure you can see your drone at all times and don’t fly higher than 400 feet
  • Drones must not fly within 1 kilometre of airport boundaries
  • Use your common sense and fly safely; you could be prosecuted if you don’t.
  • The new laws will also require owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and for drone pilots to take an online safety test to ensure the UK’s skies are safe from irresponsible flyers.

Drones fitted with cameras must not be flown:

  • within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or structures
  • over congested areas or large gatherings such as concerts and sports events – Traffic management may be required for any use of drone filming over a public highway.

Tips on responsible use of drones:

  • Let people know before you start recording. In some scenarios this is going to be quite easy because you will know everyone within close view (for example, if you are taking a group photo at a family barbeque). In other scenarios, for example at the beach or the park, this is going to be much more difficult so you’ll need to apply some common sense before you start.
  • Consider your surroundings. If you are recording images beyond your home, a drone may intrude on the privacy of others where they expect their privacy to be respected (such as in their back garden). It is unlikely that you would want a drone to be hovering outside your window so be considerate to others and don’t hover outside theirs.
  • Get to know your camera first. It is a good idea to get to know the capability of your camera in a controlled situation to understand how it works. What is the quality of the image? How powerful is the zoom? Can you control when it starts and stops recording? Drone cameras are capable of taking unusual and creative pictures from original vantage points. Knowing the capabilities of your camera will help you to reduce the risk of privacy intrusion.
  • Plan your flight. Your drone’s battery life is likely to be short. By understanding its capabilities you will be able to make best use of its flight and it will be easier to plan how to avoid invading the privacy of other people. For example, it may be more privacy-friendly to launch from a different location rather than flying close to other people or their property.
  • Keep you and your drone in view. You won’t want to lose it, and if you are clearly visible then it will be easier for members of the public to know that you are the person responsible for the drone.
  • Think before sharing. Once your drone has landed, think carefully about who’s going to be looking at the images, particularly if you’re thinking about posting them on social media. Avoid sharing images that could have unfair or harmful consequences. Apply the same common sense approach that you would with images or video recorded by a smartphone or digital camera.
  • Keep the images safe. The images you have taken may be saved on an SD card or USB drive attached to the drone or the camera. If they are not necessary, then don’t keep them. If you do want to keep them, then make sure they are kept in a safe place.

Other laws

Other laws that protect individuals from harassment may apply when using your drone. It is worth checking which laws you need to be aware of before you fly your drone to avoid any unexpected complaints or disputes.
The safe use of drones is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority. For guidance about this, see UAS on the Civil Aviation Authority website

If you want to use a small unmanned aircraft or drone outside of the operating limits set out in the Air Navigation Order then you will need Permission from the CAA, even if your activity is non-commercial.

Applications for this type of Permission are considered on a case by case basis.

The Air Navigation Order defines a congested area as being ‘any area of a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes’.
• Permission must be obtained from the CAA to land or operate within a congested area.
• Permissions granted may be valid for one flight or for a period of up to 12 months

In order to ensure that sufficient safety measures have been put in place, we will need you to demonstrate that they have taken the necessary steps to ensure their drone will not endanger people, property or aircraft. This may be as simple as preparing a safety case or a risk assessment for a one-off flight.

An individual or organisation that would like to conduct regular flights with their drone, however, will probably need to submit an operating manual to the CAA for a permanent approval. This will allow greater freedom to operate continuously without the need to seek ad hoc approvals.
This type of Permission could be of use to:
• emergency services,
• a local authority that would like to use a drone to carry out maintenance inspections of its property.

As with a Permission to carry out a commercial operation, the CAA will need to be assured of the competence of the person who will be flying the device. The ‘pilot’ therefore will probably need to undergo an assessment process with one of the approved National Qualified Entities. The NQE can help you develop your operations manual to submit to the CAA.

If you are unsure whether you need a Permission from the CAA and would like some advice before contacting an NQE, email the CAA at

Further information about drone safety can be found on the DroneSafe website.