Where you can fly (Points 3 to 9)
3. Fly below 120m (400ft)
Flying below the legal height limit of 120m (400ft) will reduce the risk of coming across other aircraft, which normally fly higher than this.
Always look and listen out for other aircraft that may be flying below 120m (400ft), such as air ambulances, police helicopters, and low-flying military aircraft.
Flying where there are hills, mountains or cliffs
Your drone or model aircraft must never be more than 120m (400ft) from the closest point of the earth’s surface.
If you fly where the ground falls or rises, such as over hills, mountains or cliffs, you may need to adjust your flight path so that your drone or model aircraft is never more than 120m (400ft) from the closest point of the earth’s surface.
4. Do not fly closer to people than 50m
This includes people in buildings and transport, including cars, lorries, trains, and boats.
You must keep a minimum horizontal distance of 50m between your drone or model aircraft and people. This creates a no fly zone around people that goes all the way up to the legal height limit. It can help to think of this no fly zone as a cylinder.
You must not fly over people in this no fly zone, even if you fly higher than 50m.
People involved in what you’re doing
The rule on minimum distances is different for people involved in what you’re doing.
You can fly closer than 50m to people who are with you and who are involved in what you’re doing, such as friends, family or colleagues out flying with you. Remember, you must never put anyone in danger.
Drones and model aircraft below 250g
The rules on minimum distances to people are different for drones and model aircraft below 250g.
If you’re flying a drone or model aircraft that’s below 250g, you can fly closer to people than 50m and you can fly over them. You still can’t fly over crowds.
Remember, you must never put people in danger. Even small drones and model aircraft could injure people if you don’t fly them safely.
Drones and model aircraft that weigh 250g to 500g
If you’re flying a drone or model aircraft that’s between 250g and 500g, you can fly closer to people than 50m if you get the A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC). You still must not intentionally fly over people.
Always keep a safe distance
Sometimes, you’ll need to increase the 50m minimum distance from people to make sure that your flight remains safe.
Follow these general rules:
- If you fly higher than 50m, you should keep the same distance horizontally. For example, keep 80m away if you fly at a height of 80m.
- If poor weather conditions mean that there could be a greater risk to people, fly further away from them. For example if it’s very windy, you should fly further away from people.
- If you fly at high speeds, fly further away to give yourself more time to react.
5. Never fly over people who are crowded together
A crowd is any group of people who cannot move away quickly because of the number of other people around them.
Never fly over people who are crowded together, no matter what size of drone or model aircraft you have.
Examples of places where people are often crowded together include:
- shopping areas
- sports events
- religious gatherings
- political gatherings
- music festivals and concerts
- marches and rallies
- at a crowded beach or park
- parties, carnivals and fêtes
6. Keep at least 150m away from residential, recreational, commercial and industrial sites
150m is the minimum distance.
Be prepared to increase the distance if you need to do that to fly safely.
Small drones and model aircraft below 250g
You can fly small drones and model aircraft that are lighter than 250g at residential, recreational, commercial and industrial sites.
Remember, you must always fly safely.
Examples of residential, recreational, commercial and industrial sites
Residential sites include:
- individual residential buildings
- small groups of residential buildings
- housing estates
- cities and towns
Recreational sites include:
- tourist attractions
- sports facilities
- beaches and parks
- theme parks
Commercial sites include:
- shopping centres
- business parks
Industrial sites include:
- rail and transport hubs
7. Stay well away from airports, airfields, spaceports and aircraft
Most airports, airfields and spaceports have a flight restriction zone (FRZ).
Never fly in this zone unless you have permission from the airport, airfield or spaceport. The zone is in place to avoid any collisions with aircraft or spacecraft at or near the site.
Some smaller airfields do not have an FRZ, but you still must not fly on or near these airfields where you could pose a danger to the safety of aircraft.
Checking for airport, airfield and spaceport restrictions
You can find details of FRZs and other airspace restrictions in NATS' map of airspace restrictions (opens in a new tab).
Some drone apps also give details of flight restriction zones.
Smaller airfields may not appear on the map or in drone apps, so you must always look out for light aircraft, equipment or facilities that suggest there could be an airfield nearby.
8. Follow any flying restrictions and check for hazards
Always check for restrictions and hazards before you fly.
Examples of restrictions and hazards
Flying may be restricted around some sites, such as prisons, military ranges, royal palaces, and government buildings.
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.
You must keep out of the way and not fly in any way that could hamper the emergency services when they’re responding to an emergency incident.
If you’re out flying at or near to an emergency incident when it happens, you must safely and immediately stop flying unless the emergency services give you permission to continue.
- follow any temporary restrictions that are put in place
- take particular care not to hinder any aerial support to the emergency services
- respect and protect the privacy of anyone involved in the emergency
Examples of emergency incidents include road traffic accidents, fires, floods, rescues, and similar events.
Byelaws may restrict when you can fly and where you can fly from.
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.
Check for any tall structures, such as cranes, masts and wires.
Do not fly if there are structures in the area that will mean it’s not safe or legal.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Flying may be restricted at some Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) where that flight may disturb animals or wildlife. Check on the web for byelaws or look out for local signs and then follow any restrictions that apply.
The following national authorities provide information on SSSIs:
- Natural England (opens in a new tab)
- Natural Resources Wales (opens in a new tab)
- NatureScot (opens in a new tab)
- Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) (opens in a new tab)
Animals and wildlife
Do not fly where you’ll disturb or endanger animals and wildlife.
Always be ready to respond in the safest way possible if other aircraft appear where you’re flying.
Look and listen out for unusual or specialist flying activities, such as air ambulances, police helicopters, light aircraft, military aircraft, crop spraying, and electricity pylon surveying.
Useful places to check for restrictions and hazards
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.
NOTAMs (Notices to Aviation)
NOTAMs are official notices that tell people about activities that may be a hazard to flying. For example, a balloon show.
Many drone apps include details of NOTAMs. You can also find NOTAMs at the NATS drone website (opens in new tab).
Apps and other resources with details of restrictions
Some flying restrictions are given in the following:
- some drone apps
- the NATS drone website (opens in new tab) (NATS is the air traffic control organisation)
- the Aeronautical Information Publication (opens in new tab)
When you use any of these resources, make sure you understand exactly what information it is giving you.
9. Get the right authorisation before flying outside this code
This code covers flying in the Open A1 and A3 categories. If you want to fly outside the rules in this Code, you must first get the correct authorisation (opens in new tab).
For example, you’ll need authorisation from the Civil Aviation Authority if you want to fly:
- at different heights or distances to the ones in this Code
- closer to a residential, recreational, commercial or industrial area
- over crowds or groups of people
If you want to fly at or near an airport, you need permission from the airport.
From time to time, the Civil Aviation Authority may issue general authorisations (opens in new tab).
Authorisation that comes with membership of a club or association
In some cases, being a member of a recognised club or association may give you additional flying authorisation. For example, you may be able to fly in an area that is normally restricted as long as you follow the conditions in the authorisation.
Check with your club or association before you fly.