How to fly drones safely and legally


12 May 2016

By Keri Constantatou

Technology has become an increasingly important part of modern farming.

The latest innovation comes in the form of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), known as drones. Drones are enabling farmers to fine-tune chemical and fertiliser application plans, and the falling cost of components and the improvements in cameras and mapping systems have made them a must have.

But the Government has pledged to tighten up rules on flying drones after a British Airways plane was recently struck on its descent into Heathrow.

The current Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules on flying drones, called the Dronecode, sets out a number of restrictions on their use. Drones must:

  • be visible to the pilot at all times
  • be flown below 400ft (122m)
  • not be flown over crowds or congested areas
  • not allow any article to be dropped from the drone to endanger persons or property
  • not be flown in the vicinity of airports without air traffic control approval
  • where fitted with a camera, drones should not be flown within 50m of people, vehicles or buildings.
  • pilots of drones with cameras must be mindful of privacy when taking pictures.

Those using a drone on a commercial basis, for example for aerial photography, must get permission from the CAA and complete a training programme to demonstrate their competence.

Anyone found to be in breach of the CAA rules will be at risk of prosecution. The Government has not yet indicated what precise changes it will make to the Dronecode, but a change to the rules is expected to be brought into force later this year.

Gepp & Sons have possibly the most experienced and established Rural Services Legal Team in the region. If you have any legal questions relating to farming and businesses in the rural community please contact Edward Worthy on either 01245 493939 or

However should you fall foul of the legislation and you require assistance from Criminal Department please contact RogerBrice on 01206 369889 or

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.