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

Where you can fly (Points 3 to 7)

Height limits and distances from people, buildings, crowds and vehicles.
Restrictions on flying near to airports.

3. Never fly above 400ft (120m)

Your drone or model aircraft must never be more than 400ft (120m) from the surface of the earth.

This will help you to avoid colliding with planes, helicopters and other aircraft, which normally fly higher than this.

Always look and listen out for other aircraft that may be flying below 400ft (120m), such as air ambulances and police helicopters.

Flying where there are hills, mountains or cliffs

If you fly where the ground level falls or rises, such as over hills, mountains or cliffs, you’ll need to adjust the height of your drone or model aircraft so that it’s never more than 400ft (120m) from the surface.


                 Adjust the height you fly at in hilly areas so your drone or model aircraft is never more than 400ft (120m) from the surface

4. Keep the right distance from people, property, vehicles and busy areas

Never fly your drone or model aircraft closer than the legal distances.

The distances in point 4 apply to drones and model aircraft fitted with cameras. Even if you don’t have a camera, you must still fly safely, so following these points will help you do this.

People

Never fly closer to people than 50m.

Even when your drone is more than 50m away from people, it’s safer to avoid flying or hovering directly over them. You’re responsible for flying safely whenever you fly.

During take-off and landing, you can reduce this distance down to 30m.

Never fly closer to people than 50m
These limits do not apply to you or people who are with you and are involved in what you’re doing, such as friends and family out flying with you.

Buildings, structures, vehicles, trains, boats and other types of transport

Never fly closer to these than 50m.

Never fly closer to buildings, structures, vehicles, trains, boats and other types of transport than 50m
Does not apply to those you own or where the owner has given you permission to fly closer.

Built-up and busy areas

Never fly closer to built-up and busy areas than 150m.

Never fly above these areas at any height.

Examples of built-up and busy areas:

  • cities and towns
  • villages
  • beaches and recreational parks that are part of a city, town or village
  • housing estates
  • schools and offices
  • retail, warehouse, industrial and business parks
  • theme parks
Never fly closer to built-up and busy areas than 150m
The law refers to built-up and busy areas as congested areas.

Crowds of more than 1,000 people

Never fly closer to crowds of more than 1,000 people than 150m.

Never fly above crowds at any height.

A crowd is any organised, open-air gathering of more than 1,000 people.

Such as at a:

  • sports event
  • music festival or concert
  • march or rally
  • carnival
Never fly closer to crowds of more than 1,000 people than 150m

5. Stay well away from airports, airfields and aircraft

Warning If you endanger the safety of an aircraft, you could go to prison for five years.

Most airports and airfields have a flight restriction zone (FRZ). You must never fly in this zone unless you have permission from the airport. The zone is in place to avoid any collisions with aircraft at or near the airport.

Always check before you fly.

The DroneSafe website (opens in a new window) gives details of airfield restrictions.

Some drone apps also give details of flight restriction zones.

Never fly inside an airport’s flight restriction zone without permission

6. Always check and follow any flying restrictions

There are different types of restrictions on where you can fly. Always check before you fly.

You can check using:

If you use an app, make sure you understand exactly what information it will give you.

Restricted airspace

This includes areas around prisons, military bases, royal palaces, government sites and more.

Events

Flying may be temporarily banned in specific areas during some events, such as airshows or festivals. This is to keep everyone safe.

There may also be security reasons for banning flying, such as at political conferences.

Emergency incidents

Temporary restrictions may be established at very short notice due to emergency incidents, such as road traffic accidents, fires and floods.

Official information on activities affecting flying – called NOTAMs (Notice to Airmen)

NOTAMS are the official notices on activities that affect where aircraft, including drones and model aircraft can fly.

Many drone apps include details of NOTAMs. You can also find NOTAMs at the NATS drone website (opens in a new window).

Geo-awareness software

Your drone or model aircraft may include software designed to help you avoid flying in certain restricted areas.

You should not alter or disable this software if your drone or model aircraft has it.

7. Check for local restrictions and temporary hazards

Always check before you fly and be ready to respond if anything changes.

Byelaws

Byelaws may restrict when and where you can fly.

Look out for local signs for information and contact details where you can find out more. Byelaws are unlikely to be shown on apps or drone websites.

Structures in the area

Check for any structures, such as cranes, masts and wires. Remember, you must be at least 50m away from these.

Do not fly if there are structures in the area that will mean it’s not safe or legal.

Animals

Do not fly where you’ll disturb animals.

Other aircraft

This includes unusual or specialist flying activities, such as air ambulances, police helicopters, light aircraft, military low flying, crop spraying, and electricity pylon surveying.

Always be ready to respond in the safest way possible so that you keep everyone safe.

Signs

Check for signs that say you cannot fly drones or model aircraft.

Some sites may have restrictions that are not listed in apps and other services.

Extra flying permission

If you want to do more types of flying, you’ll need to get the correct permission or exemption (opens in a new window) first.

For example:

  • if you want to fly at or near an airport, you need permission from the airport
  • if you want to fly at different heights or distances to the ones in this Code, you need permission from the Civil Aviation Authority
  • if you want to fly closer to or over a built-up or busy area, you need permission from the Civil Aviation Authority
  • if you want to fly to make money or for any kind of payment, you need permission for commercial operations from the Civil Aviation Authority

From time to time, the Civil Aviation Authority may issue general exemptions and permissions (opens in a new window)