The Drone and Model Aircraft Code

For flying drones and model aircraft of 20kg or less outdoors in the UK
The Drone and Model Aircraft Code published and last updated dates
From: The Civil Aviation Authority (opens in a new window)
Published: October 2019
Last updated: October 2019

Making every flight safe (Points 8 to 15)

What to do before flying, during a flight and after a flight.

8. Make sure you know what your drone or model aircraft can and cannot do

Make sure you have read any instructions before you fly.

Key points to know are:

  • how far your drone or model aircraft can fly
  • how long your drone or model aircraft can fly before running low on power or fuel
  • whether your drone or model aircraft has a ‘return-to-home’ function that means it can fly back to you if there is a problem

9. Make sure your drone or model aircraft is fit to fly

Check fuel and battery levels

Take special care to check that fuel and battery levels will last through your flight. This includes any extra fuel you might need in an emergency or for flying in difficult weather, such as windy conditions.

Remember to check the battery power in the controller too.

Check any built-in software is up to date

The built-in software (called firmware) controls important navigation and flying controls. Depending on the type of drone or model aircraft you have, this could include:

  • the latest information on flight restriction zones and other airspace restrictions – so that your drone knows to avoid them
  • how your drone uses its power
  • how your drone knows its position
  • how your drone lands if there’s a problem

Keeping this software up to date will also help to protect against cyber attacks.

Follow the instructions to update the built-in software (firmware). Always check that the software has updated correctly before going flying.

10. Do not fly if the weather could affect your flight

Affecting your drone or model aircraft

Some of the things to look out for:

  • winds could blow your drone or model aircraft off course or make it difficult to fly safely
  • wind on the ground is often very different to the wind at height
  • rain, snow and cold weather could all stop parts of your drone or model aircraft from working
  • fog could mean you lose sight of your drone or model aircraft
  • glare from the sun could mean you lose sight of your drone or model aircraft

Affecting you

Some of the things to look out for:

  • cold or wet weather could affect your ability to control your drone or model aircraft safely.
  • standing out in the sun could affect your ability to concentrate

Make sure your drone or model aircraft will work if the temperature is low

Follow the manufacturer’s guidance on the safe temperatures to fly at.

Also, some types of battery, such as lithium-ion batteries, do not last as long in cold weather and this may reduce the amount of time you can fly.

11. Make sure you’re fit to fly

Do not drink and fly

Alcohol will seriously affect your judgement and ability.

As a general rule, you should apply the same limits as you would for driving a car.

Do not fly under the influence of drugs or medicine

Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking medicines that may affect your ability to operate your drone or model aircraft safely. Do not fly if they advise you that your ability to fly may be affected.

As a general rule, you should apply the same limits as you would for driving a car.

Do not fly if you’re tired or unwell

Your judgement and ability could be affected if you are tired or unwell.

12. Take action quickly and safely if the situation in the air or on the ground changes

Always be ready to land your drone or model aircraft and wait until it is safe to fly again. For example, if a group of people or animals turn up in the area where you are flying.

You may need to adjust the height you’re flying at.

Never fly in areas where the emergency services are responding to an incident.

13. Report any dangerous incidents or near misses

If something dangerous happens while you’re flying your drone or model aircraft, you must report the incident to the Civil Aviation Authority (opens in a new window).

If you crash or are forced to land somewhere that you can’t get to your drone or model aircraft, you should tell the site owner. This is particularly important at sensitive sites to avoid a security response.

If you see anybody using a drone or model aircraft in a suspicious or dangerous way, tell the police or site security, such as airport security.

14. Do not use your drone or model aircraft to make money or for any kind of payment

If you want to do this, you’ll need to get a permission from the Civil Aviation Authority that allows you to conduct commercial operations.

15. If you fly your drone or model aircraft for recreation, you can choose whether or not to have insurance

Insurance is optional if you’re flying for recreation. However, you should remember that you’re responsible for your actions, which means you could be held personally liable for any injury or damage you cause while you’re flying. This means you may want to consider getting insurance to protect yourself.

If your flight is for any reason other than recreation, you do need insurance.