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The Law and Regulation of Drones | AI lawyer

The Law and Regulation of Drones  | AI lawyer

The increased popularity of Drones for use in business or as a hobby is causing a headache for regulators. Although the Civil Aviation Authority have summarised the rules that need to be followed by anyone using a drone, a close examination of the relevant legislation reveals a potential minefield for anyone who is planning to take up this new activity.


The Civil Aviation Authority have released their ‘Dronecode’ which sets out the following advice:

  • Enjoy responsibly.
  • Don’t fly near airports and airfields 
  • Remember to stay below 400ft (120) meters.
  • Observe your drone at all times.  - stay 150ft (50m) away from people and property
  • Never fly near aircraft

This is clearly a good starting point for the new user, but a careful examination of the material below is recommended.


The main categories are Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) or Unmanned Air System (UAS). There are also Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV)s which are often flown by the military.  Most come in the form of Quadcopters, Hexacopters or even Octocopters and vary in price and capability. Some have cameras and even full HD video with a range of 1 km and good battery life.

In addition to machines that are operated by sight, there are machines operated by ‘First Person View’ where the operator uses a set of googles to fly from images sent back from the machine. It can be argued that model aircraft can also be considered as drones for the purposes of the legislation.

Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA) Air Navigation Order (August )2016

These are some of the key regulations:

By Article 241, a person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger anyperson or property. Article 94 prevents people dropping any article or small animal from  small unmanned aircraft ) and by subsection 3 makes it clear that the person in charg must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.

By 242(4) these drones cannot be flown in designated airspace without the appropriate air traffic control approval orat a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in airspace as approved. It may also not fly over or within 150 meters 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 person ( 30 meters when taking off or landing).

Article 265 sets out the penalties which are a fine on summary conviction or up to 2 years or 5 years imprisonment on indictment ( for breaches of Part 4 Schedule 13).

General points

The difficult piece is defining the flightpath that is going to be used, as hights and distance to people and buildings become critical. It is also clear that to use a drone for commercial use, permission is required from the CAA. Accredited courses train flying competence, knowledge of the law, risk assessments, decision making and more. Permission can be either standard or non standard ( where an Operating Safety Case might be required).

Advice can be obtained from the Military Aviation Authority, for example Defence Instructions and Notices issued by 700X Naval Air Squadron. Details of requirements for pilot competence can be found in CAP 722. Permissions are usually granted for 12 months but extensions can be granted.

This is an interesting area of law as many entrepeneurs are considering the use of drones for a variety of tasks, including delivery and monitoring of supply chain and construction projects where the use of Artitifical Intelligence and Internet of Things can be used to automate payment without the need for human verification. A great example of innovation is Flying Carpet Network  which proposes a charging and rental platform to encourage commercialisation of drone use. This uses blockchain and other emerging technology to build a P2P autonomous decentralised transportation network. 

It is also suggested that data protection issues are considered as the majority of commercial applications currently being considered involve the use of photography, much information that is harvested could potentially invoke the General Data Protection Regulations.


There are a number of pitfalls that can face the potential commercial use of a drone. It is suggested that proper training and certification is obtained, together with suitable insurance, as the potential claims arising from accidents could be substantial. Great care has to be taken not to interfere with other commercial aircraft, buildings or areas where large numbers of people are gathered. Substantial fines and imprisonment await for those who chose to ignore the law. 

For any advice and assistance for issues like these please do call Jeremy on 0844 2722322 or submit a comment below. Jeremy will come back to you at the earliest convenience.

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