The Drone and Model Aircraft Code

For flying drones, model aeroplanes, model gliders, model helicopters, and other unmanned aircraft systems outdoors in the Open A1 and A3 categories
The Drone and Model Aircraft Code published and last updated dates
From: The UK Civil Aviation Authority (opens in a new tab)
Published: October 2019
Last updated: December 2020

Getting what you need to fly legally

How to make sure you have what you need to get started flying legally.

ID and registration requirements

There are two IDs you may need before flying drones or model aircraft outdoors in the UK:

  • flyer ID, which shows you’ve passed the basic flying test
  • operator ID, which must be labelled on your drone or model aircraft

You may need to have both.

The flyer must have a flyer ID. The operator must have an operator ID.

Flyer ID

You must pass the CAA’s official theory test to get a flyer ID before flying a drone or model aircraft covered by the regulations.

You’re responsible for flying safely and legally whenever you fly.

Operator ID

The operator is the person responsible for managing a drone or model aircraft. This means they’re responsible for things like maintaining it and making sure that anyone who flies it has a flyer ID.

You must be 18 or over to get an operator ID.

The operator is usually the person or organisation that owns the drone or model aircraft, but not always. For example, if you’re younger than 18 and you own a drone or model aircraft, you must ask your parent or guardian to register for an operator ID. You’ll still be able to fly as long as you have a flyer ID.

Categories of drone and model aircraft operations

The types of flying you do with your drone or model aircraft are known as operations.

There are different categories of operations. The categories affect things like where you can fly, and how close to people and crowds you can fly.

Categories of drone and model aircraft operations
Categories Type of flying
Open A1 and A3 Basic, low-risk flying
Open A2 More risk than A1 and A3
Specific Moderate-risk flying
Certified High-risk, complex flying

This Code tells you everything you need to know to pass the test to get a flyer ID. This allows you to fly in the Open A1 and A3 sub-categories, which is the starting point for anyone wanting to fly a drone or model aircraft in the UK.

You’ll need to go on and get further authorisation if you want to do more advanced flying, or if you want to fly a drone or model aircraft that weighs 25kg or more. For example, if you want to fly in the open A2 sub-category, or in the Specific and Certified categories (opens in a new tab).

Drone and model aircraft classes

Drones and model aircraft are split into five classes; from class C0 to class C4.

The classes have only recently been introduced, so your drone or model aircraft may not have been given a class when it was made. If your drone or model aircraft does not have a class mark, it is classed by its flying weight.

If you’ll only use the smallest weight or class of drone or model aircraft, you may not need a flyer ID or operator ID.

Privately built aircraft are classed by their flying weight.

Working out if you need a flyer ID, operator ID or both

Follow these steps to work out what you need to fly in the Open A1 and A3 categories of operations.

  1. Check if your drone or model aircraft has a class mark.

    The class mark will be marked on the drone or model aircraft and in any instructions. If not, go to step 3.

  2. If it does have a class mark, follow the class requirements table to see what ID you need.

    Class mark requirements

    Class mark requirements table
    Class ID needed
    Flyer ID Operator ID
    C0 - toy
    Class 0 mark
    No No
    C0 - not a toy - no camera
    Class 0 mark
    No No
    C0 - not a toy - with camera
    Class 0 mark
    No Yes
    C1
    Class 1 mark
    Yes Yes
    C2
    Class 2 mark
    Yes Yes
    C3
    Class 3 mark
    Yes Yes
    C4
    Class 4 mark
    Yes Yes

  3. If it doesn’t have a class mark, follow the flying weight requirements table.

    Flying weight requirements

    Flying weight requirements table
    Flying weight ID needed
    Flyer ID Operator ID
    below 250g - toy No No
    below 250g - not a toy - no camera No No
    below 250g - not a toy - with camera No Yes
    250g and above Yes Yes

Toys, small drones and small model aircraft

You do not need to register if you will only fly or use the following types of drone or model aircraft:

  • toys below 250g or in C0 class
  • C0 class with no camera, whether it’s a toy or not
  • below 250g with no camera and no class mark, whether it’s a toy or not

Remember, you must still follow the Drone and Model Aircraft Code when you fly.

Working out if your drone or model aircraft is a toy

There is no standard mark to show that a drone or model aircraft is a toy.

Your drone or model aircraft is likely to be a toy if:

  • the manufacturer or store you bought it from describes it as a toy
  • you bought it from a toy department or retailer
  • it is marked as suitable for below age 14 or a younger age group
  • it was advertised or packaged to attract children

Children under 12

Children under 12 must be supervised by someone aged 16 or over when flying a drone or model aircraft.

The only exceptions are when they fly either:

  • a toy drone or model aircraft that is marked as C0 class
  • a privately-built drone or model aircraft below 250g

If the drone or model aircraft requires a flyer ID, both the child and the person supervising them must have a flyer ID.