Where Can You Fly Remote Control Planes and Drones in the Uk?


where can i fly my rc plane or drone in the UK?

If you’re in the US, see where you can fly by clicking here (another article on RC Hub)

I’m always on the lookout for new places to fly my rc plane and drone. Apart from my local club flying field can I go further afield? I set out what I found below – read before you fly!

You can fly your rc plane or drone anywhere below 400 ft, so long as you’re not near an airport, a crowd of people or other sensitive areas, and you’re not infringing local laws. You can fly in some local and National Parks and on beaches, but you can’t fly on National Trust land. Get the landowner’s permission first!

So, where can you fly Remote Control Planes and Drones in the UK? Your best bet is to fly at a club site or on private land but the National rules and local laws may still take precedence. Read on below to keep the right side of the law.

National Rules

National rules on where you can fly your rc plane or drone are embodied in the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) “Drone & Model Aircraft Code”

The Code covers registering, licensing pilots, as well as where to fly. For a full run down on the Code, check out this article, here.

Aircraft covered by this Code are Drones, model aeroplanes, model gliders, and model helicopters. The law groups these as “small unmanned aircraft” (SUA’s).

The parts of the code which cover where you can fly you drone or RC plane are set out below:

  • You’re responsible for flying safely whenever you fly
  • Always keep your drone or model aircraft in direct sight and make sure you have a full view of the surrounding airspace. You must be able to see your drone or model aircraft without using:
    • binoculars
    • a telephoto lens
    • electronic viewing equipment, such as a smart phone, tablet or video goggles.
where can you fly your drone or RC Plane in the UK?
  • Never fly above 400ft (120m)
where can I fly my RC plane or drone?
  • Keep the right distance from people, property, vehicles and busy areas.
  • Never fly closer to people than 50m, which can be reduced to 30m on take off and landing.
  • These limits do not apply to you or people who are with you and are involved in what you’re doing, such as friends and family out flying with you.
  • These limits apply to drones and model aircraft fitted with cameras. Even if you don’t have a camera, you must still fly safely,
where can I fly my rc plane or drone?
  • Buildings, structures, vehicles, trains, boats and other types of transport – Never fly closer to these than 50m.
where can i fly my model aircraft or drone?
  • Never fly closer to built-up and busy areas than 150m.
  • Never fly above these areas at any height.
where can you fly an rc plane or drone?
  • Never fly closer to crowds of more than 1,000 people than 150m
  • Never fly above crowds at any height.
where can i fly my rc plane and drone?
  • Stay well away from airports, airfields and aircraft.
  • Most airports and airfields have a flight restriction zone (FRZ). You must never fly in this zone unless you have permission from the airport.
  • It is illegal to fly any drone at any time within these restricted zones unless you have permission from air traffic control at the airport or, if air traffic control is not operational, from the airport itself.
  • If you endanger the safety of an aircraft, you could go to prison for five years.
  • Since March 2019 the government has introduced a restriction using the airfield’s existing aerodrome traffic zone, which has a radius of either two or two and a half nautical miles and then five kilometres by one kilometre zones starting from the point known as the ‘threshold’ at the end of each of the airfield’s runways (see the diagram below).
  • Both zones extend upwards to a height of 2,000 feet above the airfield. 
  • A map of the UK showing each airfield’s restriction is available at the end of this article at Link 1.
where can you fly your drone or RC plane?

Mobile Apps

There are a number of free mobile apps which can help you determine where you can fly your rc plane or drone.

Drone Assist

Drone Assist is the drone safety app from NATS, the UK’s main air traffic control provider. Despite its name, it will guide an rc plane flyer where to fly too.

It presents users with an interactive map of airspace used by commercial air traffic so that you can see areas to avoid or in which extreme caution should be exercised, as well as ground hazards that may pose safety, security or privacy risks when you’re out flying your drone, rc plane or helicopter.

It also contains a ‘Fly Now’ feature that enables you to share your flight location with other app users and the wider rc community, helping to reduce the risk of an incident in the UK’s airspace.

Click the links below for either Apple or Android versions:

AirMap

This a highly rated free app, providing real time info about where you can legally, and safely fly. Amongst other services, it features:

  • Can I fly here? Get real-time feedback of airspace rules and conditions pertaining to your flight specifications, with national rulesets for 20 countries
  • Discover airspace rules and advisories by searching for a location or panning and zooming AirMap’s responsive vector maps
  • Get real-time traffic alerts for nearby manned aircraft

Click the links below for either Apple or Android versions:

where can i fly my drone in the UK?
where can i fly my rc plane in the uk?

UAV Forecast

Another highly rated app is the UAV Forecast, which has the added benefit of providing weather forecasts for your location, as well as safe to fly zones and restrictions.

According to the features list, you can “See the weather forecast, GPS satellites, solar activity (Kp), No-Fly Zones and flight restrictions, all in one convenient tool.”

Click the links below for either Apple or Android versions:

where can i fly my drone in the UK?
where can i fly my rc plane in the uk?

Local Flying Considerations

Flying At a Club Site

Probably your best bet is to join a local club and fly at their site. They will have a site which is conducive to safe flying, and have a regulated management of flying operations which will be safe and legal.

In addition, if you sign up to the British Model Flying Association (BMFA), and join one of the over 800 clubs which are affiliated to the Association, you will be covered by third party insurance (if you damage property or harm others) up to £25m.

To find a BMFA associated club near you, click on Link 2 at the end of this article. To join the BMFA, click on Link 3. You will need to ensure your plane or drone is registered with the CAA, and you have passed the Competency Test; More detail on how to do this in an article here.

Flying Outside Club Sites

It’s very tempting to take your rc plane or drone to the local park, or a nearby field, and fly. However, not only should you be conversant with the national rules, outlined above, but also the local by-laws and ownership of the land over which you want to fly.

A general rule to observe is, if there are people around and under where you want to fly, don’t do it.

Since the drone incidents at Gatwick airport in 2019 the authorities have tightened up on unrestricted flying of drones and unmanned aircraft. (see the article on rules here.) This includes local councils, but their attitude varies greatly and the only sure way to be sure is to contact them directly.

The rules and regulations are different in each local authority area, so call your local council to check. As an example, here’s the situation in London:

Can I fly My Drone or RC Plane in London?

The situation is different in each Borough (check with each council):

  • Drone and RC Flying is NOT permitted in the 8 Royal Parks, Wimbledon Common, Putney Common, Clapham Common, Hampstead Heath, and Blackheath.
  • In Lewisham, Dagenham, Barking, Chelsea and Redbridge no flying is allowed.
  • Hackney, Bexley and Lambeth have restricted policies.
  • You may be able to fly in Ealing, Greenwich (not the Park though), Barnet, Hackney and Camden, subject to application.
  • At the time of writing, you can fly in Islington and Sutton.

Can I Fly My RC Plane or Drone in National Parks and Forests?

Each National Park has its own rules about flying drones or RC planes. The Lake District appears to allow unmanned aircraft flying under 20 kgs. However Dartmoor does not.

Bear in mind that much of the land will be in private ownership, and irrespective of the attitude of the National Park authority, you will need to get the landowner’s permission to land and take off from the land.

Here’s a summary of the situation in each of the 15 National Parks:

National ParkCan I fly my drone / RC Plane?
Brecon BeaconsNo mention in website. Contact https://www.breconbeacons.org/
BroadsYes. No contact required
CairngormsNo mention in website.
See https://cairngorms.co.uk/
DartmoorNo. See Link 5 below
ExmoorYes. Permission required.
See Link 6 below
Lake DistrictYes. Permission only required for commercial ops.
See Link 7 below.
Loch Lomond & The TrossachsNo mention in website.
New ForestYes.
But Drone flying by hobbyists or
commercial operators on Crown Land 
owned by the Forestry Commission is not allowed without permission. See Link 8 below.
NorthumberlandYes. See link 9 below.
North York MoorsNo, See Link 10 below.
Peak DistrictPossibly – need permission. See Link 11 below.
Pembrokeshire Coast No mention in website. See Link 12 below.
Snowdonia Yes
South DownsYes
Yorkshire DalesYes

Can I Fly Over National Trust Land?

No, you can’t fly over National Trust land – it is prohibited by the National Trust.

Can I Fly My RC Plane or Drone over Private Property?

The law on this is not clear. In general, you can fly over private property as long as you aren’t creating a nuisance, or taking photos and video which may infringe an individual’s privacy. There is no restriction on overflying at height.

However, if you wish to take or land on private property, you will need the owner’s permission.

Can I fly My Drone or RC Plane on the Beach?

Generally yes, but check with the local authority and their local by-laws, which may prohibit flying, even if the land is in private ownership.

The Crown Estate owns a lot of beaches and has jurisdiction between the high tide and low tide levels. They do permit flying over their beaches; to check which are theirs, they have an interactive map on their website (see Link 4 at the end of this article.

If you are sure that you won’t be infringing any local laws, be aware of other users on the beach, and stay at least 50 m away from them.

Links 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

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