Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA)/Drone Code of Practice


The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have tightened up UK legislation around the ownership and use of Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) or Drones. (This includes model aircraft). This includes a requirement for Operators to register with the CAA and for each Operator to undertake an online training course. (Unless exempt - Details of exemptions to these requirements are given in Appendix 1 below).

New Regulations Introduced in 2019

The UK’s new SUA/Drone and model aircraft registration and education scheme became live on the CAA’s website on 5 November 2019. Go to the following link for an overview of SUA/Drone laws etc; The scheme is mandatory unless the Operator holds certain CAA permissions or exemptions (e.g. a Commercial Operator holding an Operators Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO).

(Go to the: CAA website or ARPAS website for more information).

The scheme is managed by the CAA and it has two key elements;

  • Anyone Operator responsible for a SUA/Drone (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg will need to register as an Operator and to obtain an operator ID. The CAA will make an annual charge for the registration which is renewable annually. (To register as an Operator go to: SUA & Drone Operator registration).
  • Anyone flying a SUA/Drone (including model aircraft) weighing between 250g and 20kg need to take and pass an online education package. This is free and renewable every three years. Anyone who’ll fly must pass a theory test to get a flyer ID. The training is free and must be refreshed every 3 years

From 30 November 2019 SUA’s/Drones must be labelled with the Operator ID number. For more information on labelling go to the CAA Labelling your drone or model aircraft page.

In summary your Operator ID must be:

  • visible without needing a special tool to remove or open part of your aircraft
  • clear and in block capitals taller than 3mm
  • secure and safe from damage
  • on the main body of the aircraft
  • easy to read when the aircraft is on the ground
  • You should use a removable label as your operator ID may change when you renew. You’ll need to remove your label if you’re no longer responsible for the drone or model aircraft.
  • Always use your operator ID, not your flyer ID.
  • The Operator ID covers all of an operators SUA/Drones/Model Aircraft.

All these requirements become law on 30 November 2019.

From 5 November 2019 the CAA’s registration webpage will be available at; SUA & Drone Operator registration

Indoor flying is not covered by the requirements of the new Regulations. The safety of indoor events where SUA’s/Drone’s use is proposed of any weight will be managed by application of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and relevant statutory provisions. Contact the University Health an Safety Service on 222183 for further advice.

For more detailed guidance (e.g. the Drone Code) for all unmanned aircraft and specifically SUA/Drone laws, please go to the: CAA website.

The University requires the following information to be submitted to the University Health & Safety Service (UH&SS) prior to any SUA / Drone flight (including model aircraft) on campus (exemptions apply – see Appendix 1):

  • A flight plan and risk assessment for the proposed activity. It is expected that a dynamic risk assessment will be done on the day dealing with issues such as the surrounding environment, weather conditions etc. . However, the operator is required to provide the UH&SS with the basic details of the length of flight, date/times of flights, details of the devices used, whether spotters will be used to monitor pedestrian movements etc. Information should also include plans of the proposed flight paths.
  • If the SUA/Drone Operator is not satisfied that they can operate in a safe & legal manner they should not fly.
  • An Operators Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO). (Where applicable - If the activity is being undertaken for commercial purposes).
  • The Operators current Public Liability insurance certificate which must cover the activity to a minimum of £5m.
  • (Post 5 November 2019): Proof of an Operators ID registration (certificate or email).
  • (Post 5 November 2019): Evidence that all Operator(s) have taken and passed the CAA online training course.

General minimum safety requirements

  • The person responsible for the flight must at all times maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the SUA/drone.
  • Flights above 400ft (c.120m) are prohibited (unless prior CAA approval is obtained).
  • Operators must not fly within 50m (150ft) of a person, vehicle, building (unless the building is under their control), or structure.
  • Operators must not fly within 150m (500ft) of crowds and built up areas. The 400 feet maximum height applies in all cases.
  • During landing / take off the SUA/Drone must not fly within 30m (100ft) of any person, except those who are in charge of the aircraft.
  • Always comply with the manufacturer’s instructions for your SUA/Drone.

Use of SUA/Drones around Airports

Flight Restriction Zones (FRZ) around airports are now set at a minimum distance of 5km. Air Traffic Control (ATC) approval is required for any SUA / Drone flight within the FRZ. (A map showing the East Midlands Airport and Heathrow Airport FRZ’s can be obtained from the Dronesafe website.

All SUA/Drones are required to ask permission from the local airport’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) to fly within the Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ). The ATZ is a 4.6km radius circle centred at an Aerodrome Reference Point (ARP). The ARP is the geographical location of the aerodrome and the centre of its traffic zone where an ATZ is established.

UK SUA/Drone law enforcement

  • Police have powers to deal with offenders from 30 November 2019. These include powers to enter and search premises under a warrant where there’s a reasonable suspicion that there is a SUA/Drone which the Police reasonably believe to has been used in the commission of an offence. Police will be able to issue fixed penalties of up to £100 for minor SUA/Drone related offences. Such as failing to produce registration documents and / or proof of registration for SUA/Drones between 250g and up to and including 20kg in mass, failure to produce evidence of any other relevant permissions required by legislation (e.g. proof of an Operators PfCO or exemption issued by the CAA from the Air Navigation Order (ANO), and failing to comply with a Police officer’s instruction to land a SUA/Drone, and flying a SUA/Drone without a valid acknowledgement of competency or evidence of meeting that competency when requested.

For more SUA / Drone safety advice, go to CAA Drone Code

Appendix 1

For holders of current CAA permissions or exemptions for SUA/Drone operations (e.g. such as permission related to commercial operations as required by ANO Article 94(5)), and model flyers holding an achievement certificate issued by a UK model aircraft association with a CAA reviewed achievement scheme.

Remote pilots flying in accordance with a permission, exemption or operational authorisation (e.g. such as the permission related to commercial operations as required in ANO article 94(5)) that has been issued to a named UAS operator by the CAA will be exempt from having to undertake the online education training and test.

Similarly, where a UK model aircraft association already has an established and CAA reviewed ‘competency scheme’, members who hold an appropriate achievement certificate or award (such as the BMFA ‘A’ certificate) will also be exempt from having to undertake the online education training and test.

Any operators who are not covered under the conditions of a permission/exemption or do not hold a recognised association competency will need to complete the free online course.

To allow operators to demonstrate competence if challenged (for example by the police) the CAA will be issuing a formal exemption that can be used alongside existing permissions / achievements and any other relevant documents. This exemption will be in place until 30 June 2020, when new regulations are expected. We will be working with stakeholders in 2020 to put these into place.

For members of ARPAS-UK, British Model Flying Association (BMFA), Scottish Aeromodeller’s Association (SAA), Large Model Association (LMA) and FPV UK

Members will not need to register as an operator with the CAA system if they are a current member of these associations. With permission [of individual members], the associations will collect the registration fee from members directly and supply their data to the CAA. This will take place initially by 31 January 2020 and an exemption from the need to register will be put in place by 30 November to cover association members until then. The associations will issue further detailed guidance to their members in due course. Please see,,, or for further details.

Control line model aircraft flying

The CAA will be issuing an exemption meaning those flying control line model aircraft will not need to comply with the registration or education regulations