New drone laws – how and where drone pilots can fly

Drone Scotland - New drone laws
Drone Scotland – Construction in Glasgow

New drone laws came into force in the UK on 31st December 2020. These are the biggest changes to how unmanned aircraft systems can be operated that we have seen since the beginning of the drone industry. If you’re flying drones, it’s critical you are aware of these new drone laws. In this article we will explore how this affects how, where, what and when you can fly drones legally and safely in the UK and comply with the new drone laws uk.

A new framework, for the operation of drones/unmanned aircraft, was introduced by the European Aviation Safety Agency on the 31st December 2020. Although, it has been common place for ‘minor’ tweaks and amendments to be frequently introduced, the entire approach to UAS operations has been shifted.

New legislation based on risk

The term ‘commercial’ operation has been removed and you no longer require a PfCO to operate in return for reward. This doesn’t mean that there is a free for all and anyone can simply launch a drone into the sky. It does however fundamentally change how, where and when we can fly unmanned aircraft. The new legislation is focussed on risk. The riskier the flight, the more hurdles you have to overcome to be permitted to legally conduct the flight. Factors taken into consideration include:

  • pilot experience and qualifications
  • drone weight classifications
  • proximity to uninvolved persons and outdoor gatherings
  • drone classification
  • visual line of sight or beyond or extended line of sight
  • safety features built into Drones
  • attachments including Cameras
  • airspace

Qualifications required – new drone laws uk

Even the training and qualifications systems have been changed. Gone is the PfCO (permission for commercial operations). Only those in possession of a PfCO prior to the 31/12/20 can continue to fly under it. And, it’s name has been changed to an Operational Authorisation (OA). If you missed the boat, I’m afraid it has sailed. The OA allows companies to operate in locations where new companies with the new qualifications cannot. New qualifications include the A2CofC and the GVC. At Drone Scotland, we have just secured our 5th annual permission or should we say, our OA. To achieve this we’ve had to keep up to date on new drone laws in the UK.

Sub 250g drones – new drone laws

Possibly the biggest change to the industry is that sub 250g drones can now be flown without training, without qualifications and without having to worry about separation distances from uninvolved persons. Now, this may sound like carte blanche to go out and do whatever you want with a drone. The reality is, it’s not. The UK continues to have laws in place to protect it’s citizens and their property. Just because the CAA lets you fly in more places, it doesn’t retract from your accountability as the remote pilot.

Drone Scotland – Our take on the new drone laws

At Drone Scotland, we aren’t lawyers nor are we the ‘drone police’ but our take on it is as follows:

  • The air navigation order 2016 still exists. Articles 240 and 241 explicitly state that the drone pilot must not negligently or recklessly permit the drone to endanger other aircraft, people or property. In other words, fly without due care or where it is not safe to do so and you could be committing a criminal offence. So, don’t fly down a busy main street thinking that because your drone is under 250g, that you are safe and legal. In addition to the ANO, the Police could also take action for a breach of the peace.
  • Insurance. You must have insurance and it must comply with Regulation (EC) No 785/2004
  • GDPR & Privacy – these laws continue to exist. Make sure you are aware of your obligations – especially when it comes to private residences and people who may be regarded as ‘at risk’.
  • Registration – if your drone has a camera attached, it must be registered and display your valid operator ID on it. If not, you are committing a criminal act. Think of it as a drone licence plate number.

This article was accurate when published. It is not being updated unless it states otherwise and is for information only. Please refer to the CAA website for all correct legislation and keep up to date with new drone laws in the UK before attempting any drone flights.

For more information on how Drone Scotland can help your business get in touch at

Glasgow Drone services – : 0141 302 4685

Dundee Drone services –  01382 785 693

Edinburgh Drone services –  0131 203 3077

Ayrshire Drone Services – 01292 518 833

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.