If traveling through the UK, who wouldn’t want to spend time flying a drone in London?
The city has Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Thames River, and Buckingham Palace, to name but a few iconic sights. Before you plan a flight here, you’ve got to know:
Can you fly a drone in London?
You can fly a drone in London with the appropriate CAA license and obey all local flight rules. Individual boroughs have their own rules about drone usage, and the city has a variety of off-limits places, including airports, the Thames River, and Royal Parks.
This guide to using a drone in London will be chock-full of information helpful when taking a trip to this part of the UK.
You’ll learn where you can fly, where you’ll have to avoid, and the most pertinent drone laws in and around London.
Let’s get started!
Can you fly a drone in London?
The Civil Aviation Authority permits drone use throughout London, although you must fly according to aircraft restrictions.
The best thing you can do when traveling abroad is to have a drone app downloaded and ready to go.
Use the app before launching your drone so you don’t accidentally commit a crime and stay out of restricted airspace.
In the next section, we’ll talk more about where you can’t use your drone throughout London. In the meantime, where can you legally fly? Try these places!
The West London district of Ealing is the home of Walpole Park, which features the Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery. There, you can see an assortment of contemporary artwork.
However, you cannot use your drone in any nature conservation areas, Hanwell Zoo, Gunnersbury Park, or other areas marked as restricted airspace in your drone map.
You may also sometimes require the permission of a park ranger to fly in certain locations throughout Ealing.
You can contact the park ranger by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the email, include the proposed date and time of your flight to expedite the process.
Richmond Park’s Flying Field
As a Royal Park, you can’t access Richmond Park’s 2,500 acres in their entirety. However, you can get into this park with your drone if you stick within the parameters of the Flying Field.
Here are the map coordinates to the Flying Field so you can chart your course.
Make sure you keep your drone within those limits, as it’s not permitted anywhere else in the park.
Off-limits places for drone use in London
Although your drone app will confirm as much, we want to take this section to outline some places throughout London where you cannot fly.
This should come as no surprise whether you’ve only used your drone in the United States or you’re a seasoned traveler. Manned aircraft abound around airports, and drones can get in the way of a manned aircraft’s flight.
Since that’s terribly unsafe for manned aircraft, your drone cannot fly within 5 kilometers or 3.11 miles of any airport in London and the greater UK.
One of London’s most beloved attractions by far is the Thames River. You’re not necessarily restricted from using your drone here altogether, but you do need prior permission, so you can’t just launch if you want to.
You’ll have to contact the London Port Authority at least three days ahead of your scheduled flight to ask for permission to ascend over the river.
If you don’t hear back in enough time, you don’t officially have permission, and flying over the river is illegal. That also applies if you requested permission but got turned down for any reason.
You might recall this one if you read the blog regularly, but you cannot use a drone in Hyde Park.
As a Royal Park, Hyde Park has strict guidelines about letting drones flit about the parklands, gardens, and lakes within its borders.
In rare instances, the Royal Parks might grant permits to drone pilots, but that’s only for commercial use and typically for broadcasts.
To obtain permission, reach out to The Royal Parks Press Office 10 days before you plan to use your drone. You’ll have to fill out an application and wait to see if you’re approved.
Most commons outlaw drones, among them Clapham Common, Putney Common, and Wimbledon Common. Use your drone app to confirm whether you can use your UAV around a common.
Hyde Park isn’t the only Royal Park that’s off-limits to drone pilots. None of them welcome drones unless in specialized circumstances like having a permit.
London drone rules by borough
The following London boroughs allow drone usage but under strict rules and requirements. Let’s take a look.
Richmond Upon Thames
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames Public Spaces Protection Order 2020 (Anti-Social Behaviour) prohibits drone use in the area without prior permission.
Here’s the law in full.
“(2) No person (except as provided in (3) below) shall, without express prior consent, cause any power-driven model aircraft to:
- take off or otherwise be released for flight or control the flight of such an aircraft in the restricted area; or
- land in the restricted area without reasonable excuse otherwise than in a designated area for flying model aircraft.
(3) Where any part of the restricted area has been set apart by the Council for the flying of power-driven model aircraft, no use of such is permitted without express prior consent unless-
(a) the aircraft weighs not more than 7kg without its fuel;
(b) the aircraft is driven by the combustion of petrol vapour or other combustible vapour or other combustible substances;
(c) gives a noise measurement of not more than 82Db(A) when measured at a distance of 7 metres from the aircraft in accordance with the Code of Practice issued under the Control of Noise (Code of Practice on Noise from Model Aircraft) Order 1981; and
(d) where it is reasonably practicable to fit, fitted with an effectual silencer or similar device
(e) the aircraft is attached to a control line and kept under effective control.”
Lambeth’s open bylaws on parks prohibit drones from operating within the parks in the borough.
If you’re part of an authorized event, you could receive permission to use a drone, but make sure you have that permission prior to attending the event.
A tighter, more populous part of London, Chelsea strictly outlaws drone usage in its open spaces, parks, and the borough as a whole, including Redbridge, Barking, Dagenham, and Lewisham.
According to the Royal Borough of Greenwich website:
“No motorized vehicles are allowed in our parks and open spaces without written permission from the Royal Borough of Greenwich” unless you drive a mobility scooter.”
Hobbyists cannot fly in a Hackney park, and commercial pilots can only do so if they have a film permit.
You’ll have to apply for the permit before you arrive. You’re required to have 5,000,000 pounds of public liability insurance (at least!).
If you plan to film on a public highway or council property, you’d need to complete a risk assessment form.
You’re also charged various fees according to the extent of your flight, the size of your cast and crew, and if you need a film officer.
Drone pilots must pay a fee of 150 pounds plus VAT just for submitting a drone filming application.
London drone laws to know before you fly
In addition to the above regulations, you must follow the CAA’s drone laws when operating a UAV in London and the rest of England. Here’s an overview of what you need to know.
You must have a drone license
In the UK, one can obtain a Flyer ID, an Operator ID, or even both.
A Flyer ID requires you to pass an online theory exam on CAA drone rules according to the Drone and Model Aircraft Code. You can be as young as 13 years old and apply for a Flyer ID (with your parent’s permission, of course).
Flyer IDs last for three years, then you need to reverify.
An Operator ID only allows those 18 and older to apply. If you’ll manage a drone, you need an Operator ID.
Keep your distance from industrial, commercial, and recreational sites
Drones cannot get closer than 150 meters to any industrial, commercial, or recreational site in London.
Industrial site examples are transport and rail hubs, factories, and docks. A commercial site encompasses any warehouse, shopping center, or business park.
You’re also forbidden from flying a drone close to recreational sites like parks, tourist attractions, beaches, theme parks, and sports facilities.
Keep your drone away from residential sites, including towns and cities, housing estates, individual residential buildings, groups of residential buildings, schools, and villages.
Don’t use your drone close to crowds
The CAA defines a crowd as a large group that cannot quickly disperse.
You might see these crowds at parks, rallies, beaches, marches, concerts, political gatherings, festivals, religious gatherings, sports events, or shopping areas.
Limit your distance around people to 50 meters
In other circumstances, you should fly your drone at least 50 meters from people. Drones that weigh 250 to 500 grams can get closer to people, but you’re not allowed to fly over them.
In certain circumstances, the CAA advises drone pilots to fly further than 50 meters from people, such as in bad weather or when flying higher in the sky.
If your drone flies 80 meters high, you should keep 80 meters from people.
Stay within 400 feet of the ground
The CAA requires drone pilots to stay within a max altitude of 400 feet or 120 meters. This rule still applies even if you’re flying over cliffs, mountains, or hills, so plan your drone flights carefully.
London permits drone pilots per the CAA, but you’re subject to their rules and limitations. Throughout London, you’ll find many great places where you can fly, but keep in mind that just as many restrict drone usage.
Use a drone app and keep these laws in your back pocket so you can have a safe, enjoyable trip to London!