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Directorate of Airspace Policy

Environmental Information Sheet - Number 12


With the rapid development of unmanned aircraft over recent years and
an increasing demand for their use, it is important that the regulatory
framework keeps apace with the growth in this industry to ensure that
they can be operated safely and effectively within UK airspace. Whilst the
military have gained significant experience in the use of unmanned
aircraft under operational conditions in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the
benefits of their use within the UK are becoming readily apparent to
private companies and public bodies alike. The Police and the Fire &
Rescue Services have shown particular interest as they recognise the
versatility that unmanned aircraft can bring to search and rescue incidents
and for aerial surveillance.
Present applications range from large reconnaissance and surveillance
platforms, such as Northrop Grummans Global Hawk with a wingspan of
120ft, down to small hand held systems, such as Microdrone GmbHs
rotary wing unmanned aircraft, which weighs less than 1Kg. It is
inevitable that there will be a requirement for their integration with other
airspace users in all classes of airspace within the UK. The following text
provides information on the regulations that are currently in place for
unmanned aircraft.
Unmanned aircraft, irrespective of their size or mass, are still classed as
aircraft and any that operate in the UK must meet at least the same safety
and operational standards as those for manned aircraft; their operation
must not present or create a greater hazard to anyone (or any thing) than
the equivalent operations of manned aviation.
The requirement for avoiding collisions between aircraft, or between
aircraft and people/objects, applies equally to manned and unmanned
aviation. Therefore, appropriate steps must be taken to cater for the
absence of a pilot within the aircraft. For unmanned aircraft flights, the
methods used to prevent collisions depend on whether the aircraft is
being flown within, or beyond, the 'Visual Line of Sight' of its pilot.
Visual Line of Sight Operations
Visual Line of Sight is termed as being the maximum distance that the
flight crew is able to maintain separation and collision avoidance, under
the prevailing atmospheric conditions, with the unaided eye (other than
corrective lenses). For flights within Visual Line of Sight, the pilot of an
unmanned aircraft is required to employ the 'see and avoid' principle
through continued observation of the aircraft and the airspace around it,
with respect to other aircraft and/or objects. Within the United Kingdom,
Visual Line of Sight operations are normally accepted out to a maximum
distance of 500m horizontally, and 400ft vertically, from the pilot.
Beyond Visual Line of Sight Operations
For operations beyond Visual Line of Sight, it is not possible for the pilot to
directly see the unmanned aircraft that he/she is in charge of and so
he/she will not be in a position to be able to avoid other aircraft or objects;
alternative arrangements to prevent collisions must therefore be taken. In
these cases, the aircraft must either be fitted with a Sense and Avoid
system or, in the absence of such a system, it must be operated within
Segregated Airspace. The UK is not alone in this policy, the same policy
is applied throughout Europe, the USA and internationally through the
International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Sense and Avoid is a generic term used to describe a system involving
one or more sensors, which has the capability to see, sense or detect
conflicting traffic or other hazards and so enable the pilot to take the
appropriate action to comply with the applicable rules; in this way, the
system acts as a substitute for 'See and Avoid' in a manned aircraft.
Segregated Airspace, as the name suggests, is a block of airspace
specifically allocated for an unmanned aircraft's flight. Collision risks are
eliminated by either preventing, or strictly controlling, entry to this airspace
by other aircraft.
The Sense and Avoid system relies on further technological development
and until such a system is assessed to be safe for use (at present there
are none in use worldwide), airspace segregation will continue to be used.
However, it is acknowledged that airspace segregation denies the use of
the airspace to other aircraft and therefore segregation is only used where
absolutely necessary. Whilst the CAAs Directorate of Airspace Policy will
consider any requests for segregated airspace, it should be noted that
anything other than a short term, temporary establishment, will be
required to be submitted as an Airspace Change Proposal, in accordance
with the UK's Airspace Charter.
All aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, must be airworthy (ie. safe to
fly and not present a hazard to other persons or property). The airworthi-
ness and certification standards for civilian unmanned aircraft are
dependent on the aircraft's mass as follows:
Mass over 150kg - Airworthiness certification is the responsibility of the
European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), not the CAA, unless the aircraft
is being used for a State purpose such as policing.
Mass between 20kg and 150 kg - Certification is the responsibility of the
National Aviation Authority (ie. in the UK, the CAA)
Mass 20kg or below - There are no specific airworthiness standards to
measure against, however it is the responsibility of the operator to operate
the aircraft in a safe manner, and he/she must not recklessly or
negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or property
(this is covered by UK Law - Air Navigation Order 2009 Article 138)
Unmanned Aircraft
Unmanned Aircraft
Unmanned Aircraft
Directorate of Airspace Policy
Environmental Information Sheet - Number 13
Military Unmanned Aircraft are certified by the military authorities, but
again, are certified to a level of safety which is equivalent to that of a
comparable military aircraft. Police aircraft are civilian aircraft, and so will
be required to be certified to the civilian standards.

In the same fashion as for a manned aircraft, the airworthiness certifica-
tion process involves a whole host of factors; an unmanned aircraft will
only be certified once it has been proved to be as safe as an equivalent
manned aircraft.
In order to assist potential UAV operators or manufacturers, the CAA has
produced a guide to UAS operations in UK Airspace, Civil Aviation
Publication (CAP 722) Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK
Airspace - Guidance, which addresses all of the key issues associated
with UAS. The CAA, MOD and UK industry have all collaborated in the
publication of this document and, therefore, it is hoped that it will be of
benefit to all those involved with UAV activities both now and in the future.
Small Unmanned Aircraft (Model Aircraft)
The term small unmanned aircraft is used for an unmanned aircraft with a
mass of not more than 20kg. The Air Navigation Order (ANO) provides
the legal framework that covers all flying activity within the UK. Whilst
Article 253 of the ANO states that model aircraft are exempt from the vast
majority of the regulations applied to other aircraft, it also lists the Articles
that do apply to small unmanned aircraft.
Advice and recommendations detailing best practices for anyone
intending to fly a model aircraft are provided in CAP 658 Model Aircraft: A
Guide to Safe Flying. It should be noted that the recommendations
included in this document are not legal requirements and are therefore not
enforceable by the CAA.
Military Unmanned Aircraft
The CAA appreciates that model aircraft can be noisy, but it does not have
the legal power to place restrictions on specific aerial activity for environ-
mental reasons alone. Whilst the Department of the Environment
published a code of practise for the minimisation of noise from model
aircraft in 1982, it must be highlighted that there are no legally enforce-
able noise requirements for model aircraft. However, a Magistrate does
have the power to issue a Noise Nuisance Notice against model flyers
whom they consider are creating a statutory nuisance; such a notice
would stop any flying on a site immediately and permanently.
The British Model flying Association (BMFA) is the national governing
body for the sport of model flying and they regularly provide advise to the
CAA on model flying matters. A considerable amount of information on
the sport is published in the Members Handbook which is available on the
BMFA website.
Aerial Work
Articles 166 and 167 of the ANO, specify the requirement for operators of
small unmanned aircraft, to obtain a CAA permission when their aircraft
are being used for aerial work, and also in some cases for surveillance or
data acquisition purposes (now termed small unmanned surveillance
aircraft). This legislation is intended to ensure public safety by applying
appropriate operational constraints dependent on the flying operation
being conducted and the potential risks to third parties. Guidance on the
details to be provided within an application for permission is available in
CAP 722 Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace -
Guidance. Further information regarding the operation of unmanned
aircraft can be found on the CAA website:
www.caa.co.uk/unmannedaircraft