Whether you choose to believe it or not, on the 31st December 2020 the UK is adopting a new set of regulations which will allow you to do MUCH more with your drone if you are a recreational drone flyer for a relatively cost-effective price when compared with the outgoing PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operation).

Why the A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC) is the BEST qualification for recreational drone pilots

 

Many recreational drone flyers believe that the new regulations will 'ruin' the hobby for them, this is why I'm going to BUST THAT MYTH.

Please note: This information is accurate on 23rd October 2020 but may be subject to changes implemented after this date.

 

What are the Recreational UK Drone Regulations in the UK in 2020?

First off, let's take a look at the options that you have in 2020 if you want to fly any drones recreationally regardless of the weight (provided it is between 0kg-20kg).

  • You need to stay 150 metres away from congested areas
  • Stay a minimum of 50 metres away from uninvolved people
  • Fly no higher than 400 feet above the ground
  • Maintain unaided Visual Line of Sight with your aircraft at all times
  • You need to hold a Flyer ID (if your drone is between 250g-20kg)

All of these limitations are provided as part of the UK 'Drone Code' which includes graphic illustrations of all of the requirements.

If you wanted to do any commercial work (regardless of the weight of the drone) you had to get a Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) from the UK Civil Aviation Authority. This only applies until 31st December 2020.

 

What are the Recreational Drone Regulations in the UK from 2021?

From the very beginning of 2021, the UK is implementing a brand new set of regulations which removes and differences between recreational drone pilots and commercial drone pilots.

We're moving over to a risk-based approach, which will mean that those people who want to fly drones 'far from people' won't need any formal qualification other than a UK Flyer ID. If you want to fly 'closer to people' you may need further certification, depending on the size of the aircraft. Let's take a look at the new regulations which are being implemented in January.

 

Drones under 250g flying weight

Drones under 250g flying weight

Drones that are under 250g flying weight can only be flown out to a maximum distance of 120m from the remote pilot but they can be flown over uninvolved people as long as it's not a crowd.

You also may not fly the drone any higher than 400ft (120m).

You will need an Operator ID affixed to the aircraft if the drone has a camera on it and there is NO minimum age set for this size of the drone.

Examples of drones in this category are:

    • DJI Mavic Mini (without propellor guards)

 

Drones between 250g-500g flying weight (valid until 31st December 2022)

Drones between 250g-500g flying weight (valid until 31st December 2022)

People flying drones that are between 250g-500g will need to do the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service (DMARES) to get their Flyer ID (this is free). Once you have your Flyer ID you will then need to get an A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC) from a certified company such as UAVHUB.

Once you hold an A2 CofC you will be able to fly these drones in areas used for recreational, industrial, residential and commercial purposes. You must always maintain unaided visual line of sight with the drone and you can't intentionally overfly uninvolved people (people who aren't involved with your flight!).

If you choose not to get an A2 CofC, you will need to:

You can also fly commercially with or without the A2 CofC.

Examples of drones in this category are:

    • Parrot ANAFI
    • DJI Spark
    • DJI Mavic Air (1st generation)

 

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Drones between 500g-2kg flying weight (valid until 31st December 2022)

Drones between 500g-2kg flying weight (valid until 31st December 2022)

People flying drones that are between 500g-2kg will need to do the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service (DMARES) to get their Flyer ID (this is free). Once you have your Flyer ID you will then benefit from getting an A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC) from a certified company such as UAVHUB.

Once you hold an A2 CofC you will be able to fly these drones in areas used for recreational, industrial, residential and commercial purposes. You must always maintain unaided visual line of sight with the drone and you must stay at least 50 metres away from uninvolved people (people who aren't involved with your flight!) and you cannot overfly uninvolved people.

If you choose not to get an A2 CofC, you will need to:

  • Do the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service and get your Flyer ID
  • Stay 150 metres away from congested areas
  • Stay a minimum of 50 metres away from uninvolved people

You can also fly commercially with or without the A2 CofC.

Examples of drones in this category are:

    • DJI Mavic 2 Pro
    • DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
    • DJI Mavic (1st generation)
    • DJI Mavic Air 2
    • Autel EVO II
    • DJI Phantom 4

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Drones between 2kg-25kg flying weight

Drones between 2kg-25kg flying weight

People flying drones that are between 500g-2kg will need to do the Drone and Model Aircraft Registration and Education Service (DMARES) to get their Flyer ID (this is free).

You will then need to fly these drones 150m away from congested areas and stay a minimum of 50 metres away from uninvolved people and you cannot overfly uninvolved people.

If you need to fly these larger drones between 2kg-25kg in congested areas (or areas used for commercial, industrial, residential and recreational purposes) then you will need to do a General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC) course and apply for an Operational Authorisation from the UK CAA.

You can fly these drones commercially with or without an Operational Authorisation from the UK CAA.

Examples of drones in this category are:

    • DJI Inspire 1
    • DJI Inspire 2
    • DJI Matrice 200 series
    • DJI Matrice 300
    • DJI Matrice 600
    • Freefly Alta 6, 8 and X

 

Certified Drones

By the end of 2022, all drones on the UK market will need to be certified, this will take the form of a new 'UK Marking' which will highlight what you can and cannot do with that particular drone. As of today, there are NO certified drones on the market which is why these transitional rules above are in place for the next 2 years.

 

So how will recreational drone pilots benefit from the new regulations?

Previously, people who wanted to fly their drones in congested areas regardless of the weight had to get a Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) from the CAA. This has previously been considered costly to people who only want to fly for fun OR for people who only want to use small drones occasionally as part of their business.

Under the new regulations, from 2021 if you only fly relatively small drones you may only need to do a short course or no formal paid-for course at all!

This should open up drone flying to a much wider audience who were previously limited and potentially unsure of what they could or couldn’t do if they only wanted to fly for fun! You'll be able to fly in spaces once off bounds because of the old requirement to maintain 50 metres away from people. Following the new regulations, if your drone is small enough, you may even be able to fly in your back garden!

 

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