Using Camera Drones Safely and Within the Law
Advice Posted on May 21st 2015 By Kristina

Using Camera Drones Safely and Within the Law

There's no denying the attraction of the camera drone. They're now cheaper than they've ever been, and some of the pictures and movies people publish from them can be breath-taking. There's nothing quite like watching a sweeping landscape, especially if it's somewhere you know from the ground. Being able to see if from up on high can give you a great appreciation of your surroundings.

However, there's trouble brewing. For a start off, the relative inexpensiveness of them means that they're within virtually anyone's budget. Let me explain why that's a problem...

When drones were expensive, they had to pay for themselves. Owners would usually use them in order to make money by being commissioned by landowners, etc. to take pictures and provide videos for advertising purposes. The owners, in the main, would therefore go through all the proper channels, get the right authority and handle their cameras with respect.

Some people, however, buy them simply for fun, and why not? But some buy them because they like the idea of being able to spy on people. This, in turn, is leading to the number of complaints about their use increasing. The problem is, this could eventually lead to more legislation or indeed, the use of them being banned completely.

As gadgeteers ourselves, we like drones, no, we LOVE them, and we want to keep using them, but we also want owners to be courteous, understand their responsibilities and work within the law. And so, we propose a code of conduct. If we adhere to this, we can continue to enjoy our hobby, show others how great their surroundings are from the skies and help to promote the great things drones can be used for!

The law and your drone

The law is quite clear on how you use drones. Anything that goes up in the air and has a camera is classed as a "Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft" - quite a mouthful! It's also governed by the Civil Aviation Authority. This is serious stuff and needs to be understood in all its detail. There are fines for not following the rules, and they can be big ones, too.

In 2014, Robert Knowles became the first person to be convicted in the UK for flying a drone "dangerously" near a nuclear installation. Now, to be fair, that's a pretty dangerous thing to do anyway, surely these places are well protected?

He got fined £800 and ordered to pay £3500 in costs. That's an expensive flight!

So where can you not fly a drone?

The CAA makes it very clear that unless you get permission from them, you shouldn't fly your drone:

  • Over or within 150 metres of any congested area
  • Over or within 150 meters of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons
  • Within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft
  • Within 50 metres of any person (subject to...)
  • During take-off or landing, the aircraft must not be within 30 metres of any person

The upshot of this is that if you're in a town or village, you shouldn't be flying your drone at all unless you get express permission from the CAA. However you can still fly in open countryside and other areas where there are not likely to be crowds gathering.

That's fine, some of the best films have been taken of sweeping valleys and meandering rivers, it shouldn't stifle your creativity too much!

What if you want to make money from your drone?

Nope. Unless you get express permission from the CAA, you cannot use your drone to capture videos or images that you will then secure payment for.

And if you *do* use your drone and capture images of people, you have to be careful with them as the collection and use of them could come under the Data Protection Act. What a minefield!!!

So what's the point in having one of these things then?

There's a lot of countryside in the UK and there are plenty of places you can fly your drone in complete safety without annoying anyone else. Videos posted on-line of drone flights are fantastic, and it's still an amazing way to impress your friends. So, to this end, we offer the following code of conduct to ensure drone operators use them safely, get amazing pictures and don't end up with a hefty fine!

The CAA

Of course, all of these points are over and above those laws as laid down by the CAA and you should check those, too.

Above all, have fun!

Camera drones are great fun, if used correctly. We don't want the law to restrict us from using them in a safe and managed way but if people don't respect the rules, it could end up that way.

So let's promote self-regulation, safe usage and consideration for others!

Let’s spread the word!

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