Information from the CAA and BMFA
CAP658 - Model Aircraft: A Guide to Safe Flying
LEGAL CONTROLS OVER MODEL FLYING
The sport of model flying is subject to various legal controls which should be carefully considered at all times. You are personally responsible for any flights you make and knowledge of your legal responsibilities is important.
The most important legal restriction is Article 241 of the CAA's ANO 2016 (used to be Article 138 of the CAA's ANO 2009) which states that 'a person shall not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property'. This is equally applicable to all manned and unmanned aircraft.
THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO THIS RULE.
(1) The Air Navigation Order (ANO)
The ANO is the legal framework which covers all flying activity in the UK. It is administered by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and has been ratified by Act of Parliament. This means that the ANO is part of the body of law of the UK and, if you break it, you are liable to criminal prosecution.
This law has been updated from the ANO 2009 on 25th August 2016 to the ANO 2016.
The update is effectively a name change, as described in the Information Notice of this link.
However, model flying has been exempted from most of the clauses of the ANO. The main ones that still apply are Articles 241, 94 and 95 in ANO 2016 (used to be Articles 138, 166 and 167 in ANO 2009). These are :-
“A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property”
THIS APPLIESTO ALL MODEL AIRCRAFT AT ALL TIMES, WHATEVER THEIR WEIGHT OR SIZE.
Article 94, (Small Unmanned Aircraft)
(1) A person shall not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons or property
(2) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.
(3) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft 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.
(4) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more than 7 kg excluding its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly the aircraft .
(a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic control unit has been obtained.
(effectively in any controlled airspace down to ground level - Ed)
(b) within an aerodrome traffic zone during the notified hours of watch of the air traffic control unit (if any) at that aerodrome unless the permission of any such air traffic control unit has been obtained; or
(c) at a height of more than 400 ft above the surface unless it is flying in airspace described in sub-paras (a) or (b) and in accordance with the requirements for that airspace.
(i.e. in any uncontrolled airspace. A further point is that ‘above the surface’ means ‘above the point of launch from the ground’ and this has been clarified with the CAA on several occasions - Ed).
(5) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must not fly the aircraft for the purposes of commercial operations except in accordance with a permission granted by the CAA.
(Section 5 doesn’t affect you unless you are flying your model commercially for ‘valuable consideration’ - BMFA).
Article 95, (Small unmanned surveillance aircraft)
(1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.
(2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are :-
(a) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;
(b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons;
(c) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft; or
(d) subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.
(3) Subject to paragraph (4), during take-off or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 metres of any person.
(4) Paragraphs (2)(d) and (3) do not apply to the person in charge of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft or a person under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft.
(5) In this article ‘a small unmanned surveillance aircraft’ means a small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.
BMFA COMMENT ON THE ABOVE:
It should also be noted that the above legislation does NOT prohibit you from flying a camera or video equipped model for recreational purposes. The person in charge of the model must retain direct visual contact with the model and there are some restrictions as to where you can fly. Probably the most important of these restrictions are the limits of not flying within 50 metres of any person or 30 metres from any person during take off and landing. Most clubs cope with these restrictions quite easily.
According to the BMFA, the provision of data solely for the use of monitoring the model is not considered to be applicable to the meaning of ‘surveillance or data acquisition’.
This confirms the clarification which the BMFA has received from the CAA that ‘surveillance or data acquisition’ equipment does NOT include such items as dataloggers, variometers etc. that are clearly used to monitor the performance of the model carrying them. They are only concerned with models equipped with cameras, video equipment etc. that have the potential to be used for surveillance purposes, either visual or electronic.