Drone Laws and Codes of Conduct

As the quadcopter and other multirotor market continues to expand and as the popularity of these aerial vehicles continues to grow, countries all over the world are having to hastily draft new legislation to control their use.  In the UK the CAA has this task in hand and so far it appears to be serving its purpose, and although there has been one recent prosecution it’s still early days yet.  In some countries there are no drone laws at all and perhaps the national civil aviation authority decides to impose a blanket ban while its legislators catch up with what is going on at low level altitudes in its national airspace.  This is obviously the worst possible scenario for any fledgling aerial photography companies or keen enthusiasts.

For multirotor owners and pilots the absence of any drone laws in a particular country may seem the ideal situation as it gives them carte blanche to fly wherever and whenever they want, and to film and photograph whatever and whoever they like, but if the growth of the commercial and civilian use of UAV is to be as smooth and as painless as possible these budding aerial photographers and UAV entrepreneurs need to adhere to some voluntary codes of practice.

There is a saying, “Just because you have the right to do something, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.”  The absence of a law may appear to give you the right to do something, but the expectation within the community may be that you would have the common sense and simple courtesy not to do that thing without someone having to tell you not to do it.  Individuals who fly their quadcopters over neighbourhoods and crowds without giving any consideration to privacy and safety are not only likely to be condemned for doing so but they will also encourage stricter laws to be established, and that could spoil the party for everyone.

Code of Conduct

With that in mind what code of contact could a multirotor pilot adhere to if the national law doesn’t yet exist?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Do not fly over residential areas i.e. gardens and houses without the owners’ permission
  • Do not fly across motorways and main roads
  • Do not fly over or close to livestock and herds
  • Do not fly over or close to crowds at beaches and outdoor events
  • Do not fly within Controlled Airspace
  • Do not fly within the vicinity of airfields and farm strips where other aircraft will be descending to land or ascending after take off
  • Do not fly above 400ft or at such an altitude that there is a risk of collision with any other aircraft, piloted or unmanned
  • Always ensure your multirotor is serviceable and in a good state of repair
  • Always ensure you, the pilot, are fit for flight and not ill, under emotional or mental strain, or under the influence of drink or drugs
  • Always remember that you’re an ambassador for sUAV flying, so if approached by someone who has grievances or concerns be prepared to listen and to demonstrate that their concerns will be taken seriously.  Offer to explain the benefits and enjoyment to be had from flying sUAV.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know, or post a comment below. We’ve posted this to encourage debate so please share widely.

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Bob - April 26, 2014 Reply

Totally agree with your comments, I think everyone likes to see video or pictures of interesting subjects of people and buildings as it’s something we do not usually see from an above ground perspective. I expect most other members of the public will however not take our view. I have ordered a vision 2 plus because like so many other people I bought a rc copter and found it too difficult to fly so it got left in its box. (In a lot more pieces than when it came out!) My passion is taking pictures and taking pictures from above gives a whole new world to experiment with, the vision 2 ticks all the box’s for me. I don’t want to join a club I want to be free to just put the vision 2 in the boot of my car and have it ready at short notice to get that shot. The problem I can see is that the vision 2 plus will make it too easy for people like me to just buy and fly without learning the ropes or understanding the dangers. Sites like yours will be invaluable to people like me who want to learn and try to take a responsible approach. Trying to put in place a voluntary code will always be better than a mandatory law, keep up the good work. Bob.

ibrahim sabah - April 17, 2015 Reply


I have been investigation the binding regulations on small UAVs. I am trying to find out whether it is possible to operate a small UAV for surveillance purposes within a private area. Basically, a programmed UAV will fly over to take photos in case of a perimeter breach, without an active pilot on site.

Could you please share your knowledge on the topic and/or direct me to the relevant regulations?

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