The UK Air-space is generally controlled and regulated by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) whose main job is to safe-guard civil and commercial aircraft by enforcing the Air Navigation Order (ANO).
Along with civil and commercial aircraft the CAA is also currently responsible for regulating the use of small unmanned un-manned aerial vehicles (SUAVs) which remote control air-craft fall under the guise of.
Am I flying an SUAV?
The definition of a SUAV is a remotely piloted aerial vehicle (other than a kite or balloon) that weighs less than 20kg, If your craft weighs more than 20kg it is no longer considered a SUAV and you will need to seek further permission from the CAA.
The CAA splits SUAVs into three classes:
- Commercial Sub 7KG
- Commercial 7-20KG
- Hobby Sub 3.5kg
The last class above (Sub 3.5kg) is part of a special Exemption for Hobby/FPV pilots which allows craft under 3.5kg to be flown for non-commercial purposes without the need for a license or registration with the CAA.
So what are the rules for FPV flying?
The exemption that allows us to fly FPV within the letter of the law is actually temporary and could be with-drawn at any time so its worth keeping that in mind and using your common sense to help prevent an incident that might in-fact result in the hobby being banned for everyone.
Where can’t I fly?
- you must NOT fly in any class A, B, C or D airspace with-out prior consent from air traffic control (this is basically anywhere remotely near an airport or secure area such as a power-station or military installation).
- within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless permission of any such air traffic control unit has been obtained;
- at a height of more than 1,000 feet above the surface.
- over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
- over or within 150 metres 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 other person, apart from the competent observer, except when taking off or landing in accordance with paragraph (h);
- within 30 metres of any other person, apart from the competent observer, other adjacent model operators, or any model flying club members, during take-off or landing; or
NB: as mentioned above you are also not permitted to fly (at ANY site) for the purposes of commercial aerial work.
Do I need a spotter?
The CAA is adamant that to fly with-in the rules you MUST have a ‘competent observer’ who must be able to maintain (un-aided) visual contact with the craft so they can advise you of any risks or other air-traffic.
What are my responsibilities?
The person in charge (pilot) must ensure that:
- the competent observer is fully briefed on the planned flight and what is expected of him/her taking into account the prevailing conditions;
- the competent observer understands that he/she must stay directly adjacent to the person in charge and maintain direct unaided visual contact with the craft at all times, to visually and aurally monitor the airspace for other aircraft and the take-off and landing area for any persons;
- the competent observer has been instructed on the actions to take in the event of another aircraft being spotted and a risk of collision is assessed; and
- the competent observer understands that he/she must advise if the craft is proceeding beyond the point at which he/she is able to monitor its flight path sufficiently to identify a risk of collision.
- Official CAA Documentation regarding SUAVs:
- Office CAA Documentation regarding the FPV Exemption: