13th March 2019 UK drone regulation changes

by | Mar 13, 2019

The flying of drones near active aerodromes has become an increasing issue over the last couple of years. As a result, the regulations for flying around active aerodromes were changed in July 2018. However, following incidents at Gatwick and Heathrow around Christmas 2018, the rules have been changed. I’ll probably discuss elsewhere whether these rules will actually have any impact whatsoever on preventing malicious interference of manned aircraft operations but the legislation is what it is, so here is my summary.

The first thing to say is, it’s not all bad, so read on and see if you could actually benefit from the new legislation.

Here are the references:

This is CAP 1763, it is the CAA summary of the changes, so can be seen as the definitive source of information:

This is a useful online map of the UAS flight restriction zones around UK airfields:

And for you legal purists here is the legislation that will become effective on March 13th 2019. The Air Navigation Order (ANO) will then be updated:

What is the implication on my drone operations?

The key implication is that if you are flying any drone of any size at any time for any purpose (commercial or recreational) within a flight restriction zone (FRZ) or runway protection zone, you must have permission from somebody. If air traffic control (ATC) is active it will be them, if there is no ATC but there is a flight information service (FIS) it will be them. Failing that it is the aerodrome operator.

Let’s use Norwich (my home turf) as an example.

The FRZ is anywhere within the aerodrome traffic zone (ATZ) of the aerodrome. So basically, if there is an ATZ on the chart, you can just read that as being the FRZ. This will either have a 2 or 2.5 nautical mile radius, dependent on the length of the runway. In addition to this, the runway protection zones extend 5km from each end of each runway and are 1km wide centred on the runway.

So, flights anywhere within the blue areas will generally need permission from ATC, but definitely from someone.

Now, in CAP 1763, it states “If there is an air traffic control unit (ATC) or a flight information service (FIS) unit in place (ie. there is someone in the ‘control tower’ at the time of the flight that you can speak to), then this ATC/FIS unit will issue the permission to fly. In this case, it may be possible to also obtain permission to fly above 400ft if the air traffic situation can permit this.”

This implies that an immediate verbal permission is acceptable which is in line with the “equivalence” concept of manned and unmanned operations. I will double-check this with our local ATC and make sure they are happy. The thing that worries me most about this legislation is the potential extra workload it places on ATC if everyone does it properly.

Within an ATC you can potentially fly above 400 feet

As you can see from the quote above, it “may” also be possible to obtain permission to fly above 400 feet. This is potentially great for operators who want to get that bigger picture! Please bear in mind that this requires a permission from ATC. It’s something that I would potentially discuss with them in advance rather than on the day, as it is much more likely to bring you into conflict with other aircraft within the ATZ. But, looking at the map again, this gives me good potential for certain jobs on the north side of the city.

You are still responsible for the safety of all flights

In that respect, nothing has changed! Article 94(2), article 241 and your standard separation distances in article 95 still apply. As a result, when operating within an FRZ you must also do your general due diligence as well.

I hope that helps, if you think any of this is wrong or you have further questions, please let me know on the Facebook group or at elliottisneverwrong@dronetraining.co.uk

Fly safe!